“Status matches” — a loyalty program offering an existing elite member with a competitor status in their own program as a means of attracting high value business — is predominantly a U.S. phenomenon.
Very few international airlines offer status matches.
Briitsh Midland was known to status match in its day, and plenty of elite members of U.S. frequent flyer programs took advantage of that — as an elite member of a non-U.S. Star Alliance frequent flyer program, they would have access to United, Continental, and US Airways lounges when flying domestically.
What many folks who often grabbed bmi status found was that it was also an excellent frequent flyer program. Their award chart was reasonable, leveraged by cash and points, making their miles some of the most valuable out there. Calls routed over a poor connection to India could be frustrating, but as is often the case ill-informed call center agents can also mean accomplishing things well beyond a program’s intentions in terms of mileage cost of an award ticket or creative routings.
And it was also lucrative on the earning side, especially with premium cabin tickets. Stacking various bonuses a Gold elite member that had already re-qualified for Gold status for the year could earn 625% of flown miles when traveling in paid first class (even first class on 2-cabin domestic flights).
I often heard it said, “bmi is an airline, not just a frequent flyer program?” by many U.S. customers that never set foot on the airline but that maintained their top tier Gold status with bmi year in and year out. I used to credit my short hop US Airways flights, flights such as DC-LaGuardia or Charlotte-Asheville, to bmi, earning 600 mile minimums (plus elite bonus) and those more or less got me my Gold status requalification.
Needless to say, I was disappointed by British Airways’ acquisition of bmi, and I’ve written about that disappointment in some detail in the past. Though my bmi Gold status was matched by British Airways, will last 22 months, and should afford me access to American Airlines Flagship lounges when traveling domestically (it will also provide Admiral’s Club access, something I was previously getting via my American Express Platinum card).
Call me quirky, I realize I have both logical and emotional reasons to want status in a non-U.S. Star Alliance frequent flyer program. But which one?
Most non-U.S. Star Alliance programs don’t offer status matches. Air New Zealand has been known to in the past, but it’s quirky at best, sometimes requiring you to show them a slate of existing bookings with their airline in order for them to grant the request. Beyond that, and outside of working with an airline’s sales department and offering them demonstrated significant business, Star Alliance status matches don’t often happen. Occasionally they do alliance-wide, that’s rare, I recall a friend getting Asiana status in a Star Alliance promotion targeted at residents of Hong Kong. And there’s been a recent offer for Hong Kong and China residents with Scandinavian.
I had hopes that there would be a Star Alliance status match offer for disaffected members of bmi’s program, in order to retain bmi customers who would be otherwise be moving over to oneworld. No such offer materialized.
But Live from a Lounge posted that Turkish Airlines was doing status matches.
And bizarrely enough, there are reports that they are matching not just competitor alliance members but even members of Star Alliance. (Usually status matches will not be granted to elites of a program in the same alliance, the airlines consider it poor form to poach partners’ customers.) I have not verified this myself.
I registered for Turkish Miles&Smiles and sent a request to firstname.lastname@example.org on May 25, including a copy of my membership card and my online statements for American AAdvantage and british midland. I received a reply this morning granting me mid-tier elite, which is Star Gold.
Dear Gary Leff,
Referring to your e-mail message dated May 25,2012 , Elite card status match has been provided and your membership has been updated as ” Elite Card ” level.
We would like to be honoured to see you as an Elite member for your future flights by Turkish Airlines.
TURKISH AIRLINES INC.
CUSTOMER RELATIONS MANAGEMENT
The status lasts two years and they give you two years to re-qualify. Since I do not live in Turkey, the rules are 25,000 Status Miles in year one or 37,500 Status Miles in two years, and they will let you purchase 10,000 towards the 37,500 (either at 25 euros per thousand or 30 euros, the website separately lists both prices and I haven’t checked which one applies in practice).
An interesting feature of the program is a 50% discount on purchased business class tickets for a companion traveling with the member. I’m unlikely to use this benefit, but Turkish does serve my home market, so it’s something I’ll keep in mind.
Turkish offers 100% mileage earning on all United flights, with 500 mile minimums. Discount US Airways fares, though, don’t earn 100% or minimum miles.
Award ticket rules do have some quirks. Awards are roundtrip only, no one-ways. There’s an 8 segment maximum. Star Alliance awards may not be re-routed once issued. Awards may be issued for anyone you wish out of your own mileage account provided you pre-authorize it in writing in advance, and you have to designate them as a ‘loved one’.
One open jaw is permitted, and one stopover is permitted although stopover rules are more restrictive when awards are on US Airways (they really don’t like US Airways!).
There are some interesting values on the Star Alliance award chart, such as business class between North America and “Europe and Africa 1″ for 105,000 miles roundtrip, this includes for instance Russia, the Ukraine, Ethiopia, and Sudan.
Flying Turkish metal is often cheaper, e.g. from the US to the Middle East is 90,000 miles roundtrip in business. From the U.S. to domestic Turkish destinations is only 70,000 miles roundtrip business class. Not bad for Los Angeles – Istanbul and back, for instance. Flights on Turkish are available for redemption without capacity controls for additional miles.
Turkish isn’t as generous on the premium cabin mileage-earn side as bmi was, and isn’t as generous for my US Airways flights either. So I won’t use the program in the same way. But it’s a non-US Star Gold status that I’ll probably keep and at a minimum provides Star Alliance lounge access even flying domestically in the U.S., and that’s easy to re-earn.