The New York Times had an article yesterday about frequent fliers who lost their premier status because they had a baby or stopped traveling to care for a family member. Before you say "whatever," realize that not having frequent flier mile status can mean allocating another hour in the morning to get through security. It means not being able to work on the airplane because your laptop won’t open in the back of the airplane so when you get home, you have to spend another hour answering emails. Having frequent flier status can help the whole work/life balance when you travel a lot for work.
I had a good experience getting my status back from United. I didn’t travel for six months last year – some time before and some time after I had Caleb. In order to get my status back from United I had to be persistent and I probably talked to four or five different representatives but finally one of them asked when my baby was born, checked how much I’d flown until then, projected out what it would have looked like over the year, and decided I would have earned premier executive status if I hadn’t left on maternity leave. She gave me premier executive status for the year and warned me I’d have to earn it the hard way this time. She did ask about the flights I had taken during maternity and I explained that I had taken Caleb to see my parents. So United was pretty good about giving frequent flier mile status back.