Jan 1, 1999 12:00 PM, DAN DALEY


Education Guide

Mix is gearing up to present its longstanding annual Audio Education Guide in its November 2014 issue. Want to have your school listed in the directory, or do you need to update your current directory listing? Add an image, program description, or a logo to your listing! Get your school in the Mix Education Guide 2014.

Well, maybe not. But there is a way to increase your odds of getting out of the zoo at the back of the plane. The key is to be flying a decent number of miles already. If you're racking up more than 25,000 miles per year, you can deal. That's the minimum amount set by most major airlines to achieve the first of several elite status levels.

The first thing you want to do is consolidate your flying. Choose one airline that best suits your usual destinations, enroll in their frequent flier program and concentrate your air travel with them. Once you hit 25,000 miles, you've qualified for elite status for the following year. At that point, contact the airline's elite desk (call the general reservations number and ask for it). Then request that you be awarded elite status for the remainder of the present year, as well. Indicate that you intend to keep flying this airline if they agree. There's a good chance they will. If not, ask for the name and number of the local marketing manager for the airline and talk to him or her about it.

Once you achieve elite status, you can start to upgrade yourself out of coach. This gets easier as you hit successive levels of elite-50,000, 75,000 and 100,000. Most airlines have a set number of miles for upgrades (and won't negotiate them or their annoying overnight delivery charge if you don't request them well in advance) or will use set amounts of "sticker" upgrades. However, frequent fliers can often negotiate a free upgrade at the gate. Airlines generally hold two "revenue seats" for paying passengers until two to four hours before departure. Get to the gate early and ask if you can be on the wait list for these.

I've found that reaching the highest level possible on one airline makes the most sense in terms of getting the perks. However, at that point, or at any time after reaching initial elite status, you could also start lining up a second airline. Being elite on a second carrier will allow frequent flyers to play them against each other to a degree.

One way to get a second carrier on your side faster is to fax or mail a copy of your most recent mileage statement from the airline you have elite status with, stating that, if they would grant you basic elite status for the remainder of the year, you'd start flying with them. The more active your statement and the more miles you've flown that year increases your chances of a second carrier saying yes. The quid pro quo is that they'll request that you fly at least the minimum miles necessary during the rest of the year to qualify for that same level of elite for the following year.

Again, the key here is to be flying at least 25,000 miles a year to start with. Anything less and your petitions will wind up in the round file. But if you do fly at least that much and follow the plan, you, too, can get free drinks to go with the free peanuts.

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