We all know that airline frequent flyer programs grant customers extra perks such as upgrades, lounge access, priority boarding and free checked bags when they attain upper tier status. Elite status is in turn earned after one has accumulated plenty of miles and spent a substantial amount of money on air travel – at least that’s the conventional way of doing it. When a carrier offers its clients incentives to switch their loyalty from a competing airline’s reward program to their own this is known as a “Status Match”.
Status matching of upper tier frequent flyers has for years been a common practice in the airline industry.
The idea behind it is to gain high revenue clients from direct competitors. Flyers, on the other hand, request a status match for different reasons –moving to a new city or country, a change of jobs, or just the desire to try out a different carrier.
Sometimes carriers offer status matches temporarily as a way of targeting travellers in a new country, or travellers from an airline that has folded business, or merged with a new airline, like in the case of the American Airlines-US Airways merger.
How to Achieve a Status Match
There are two ways to do this: the conventional way or by participating in a status challenge.
When you apply for a status match, the matching airline will usually ask for proof of your current status. They’ll want to see a photo of your frequent flyer card and a mileage statement showing your recent flight activity.
Keep in mind that there are situations where you don’t qualify for a status match; these include:
- Applying for a status match with one of your airline’s alliance partners, as the three main alliances Star Alliance, Oneworld, and Skyteam have informal agreements not to “steal” each other’s elite passengers.
- Applying for a status match with an airline where you already hold a lower tier elite status.
A status challenge is an opportunity for you to show you will be loyal to the new airline. It specifies how many elite-qualifying miles you must earn within a given period to gain entry to a specific elite tier. Most challenges are set up in a way that allows you to earn elite status at different levels within the loyalty program.
You should be aware, though, that some carriers limit the number of challenges the same member can participate in within a certain period. Some airlines offer one status match per year, while others offer just one status match per lifetime membership. Make sure you find out what the rules are when participating in the challenge.
Some tips when applying for a status match
Completing a status match after June allows you to enjoy status for the remaining part of the calendar year; if you’re lucky, you even get to maintain your elite status going into the following calendar year.
Keep an eye out for airline mergers and acquisitions as they provide one of the best avenues to successfully complete a status match or challenge with the carrier that’s being absorbed.
Status matches aren’t always publicized by airlines so you must be proactive when looking out for such opportunities. That said, it is also wise to decide if a different airline will serve your interests better than your current one.
Here’s a look at some airlines and how to go about achieving status in their loyalty programs.
Alaska are among the few carriers that give you full-on status match (including matches to its MVP Gold 75K tier) to elite clients from other airlines. Simply submit a request via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and attach a photo of your current elite frequent flyer card (both front and back), driver’s license, account summary and Mileage Plan number. All major carriers qualify for this match.
You can enroll for Delta’s SkyMiles Medallion Status Challenge by visiting their website and uploading proof of your current status. You will receive comparative status upfront and then given 90 days to fly a minimum number of MQMs (Medallion Qualification Miles) or MQSs (Medallion Qualification Segments).
MQMs for different tiers are earned as follows:
|Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status||Silver||Gold||Platinum|
|Flight Requirements||6,250 MQMs or 8 MQSs||12,500 MQMs or 15 MQSs||18,750 MQMs or 25 MQSs|
United will match your current elite status to their Mileage Plus Premier Silver, Gold or Platinum tiers. Just like Delta, you receive status up-front and then your given 90 days to fly a specified number of Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) or Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS) with United Airlines:
PQMs for different tiers are earned as follows:
|United Mileage Plus Premier Status||Premier Silver||Premier Gold||Premier Platinum|
|Flight Requirements||7,000 PQMs or 8 PQSs||12,500 PQMs or 15 PQSs||18,000 PQMs or 22 PQSs|
If you complete the challenge before 1st July, you get status through January 2018, while completion after this date means status through January 2019. Please note that Star Alliance Gold and Silver members cannot take the United challenge.
WestJet offer status matches periodically. Last year they ran a promotion in September where they required you to show proof that you have a top tier status in another airline to enjoy Gold flight benefits until December 2017. It’s not clear when they’ll have another challenge.
Other airlines that offer status matches
Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Alitalia, and Virgin Atlantic are known for regularly offering status matches, while China Airlines and EVA Air (both of Star Alliance) and LAN (Oneworld) do status matching selectively. Air Berlin only offer status matches to German, Austrian and Swiss residents.
Airlines that don’t offer status matches
At the time of this post – Air Canada, British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France/KLM currently aren’t offering status matches, neither are Etihad.
Hotel Status Matches
American Express Platinum Card not only rewards you with 60,000 Amex Membership Rewards bonus points when you sign-up for the card, you’ll also get the following elite statuses and memberships:
- Complimentary Membership in Priority Pass: that lets you access to the world’s largest independent airport lounge services.
- Hilton HHonors Gold Status membership: which is offered in a specially selected list of elite tier hotel programs. To request your free Hilton Honors Gold you can use this link to log into your American Express account.
- Starwood Hotels: lets you enjoy the privileges of Gold Preferred membership in the Starwood Preferred Guest program without having to fulfil the minimum requirements. SPG Gold status can also be matched to Marriott Rewards Gold status since the two institutions have merged.
- Carlson Hotels: gives you access to Gold Elite status membership without having to fulfil 20 paid stays or 35 nights per year (i.e. 30 nights or 10 stays).
- Fairmont Hotels: you can qualify for Fairmont President’s Club Platinum Membership without going through minimum fulfilment requirements.
The Amex Platinum Card also allows you to enjoy rewards from car rentals as follows:
- Hertz: entitles you to a Complimentary Car Upgrade (when available), up to 15% discount on the most competitive rental rates, as well as fast-track service.
- Avis: you enjoy up to 25% discounts when renting in North America as well as 20% discounts internationally. You also benefit from faster rental and reservations.
Clearly, there are many benefits you can accrue from status matching so it’s well worth the effort. You should also keep an eye out for status challenges as a way of achieving elite status within a shorter period. What’s important is to ensure you fully understand all the terms and conditions you’re supposed to fulfill before applying.