Reader l_C. asks “Have you published any commentary on matching statuses… For instance, [I..] fly 100+ a year, will any other airlines match status?”
What are Status Matches and Challenges?
Here’s an overview of status matches, asking a loyalty program to give you status based on the status you hold with another program.
Travel providers are interested in acquiring their competitors’ best customers, but elite status has a lock-in effect. Sure, you might want to defect from United to American or from Delta to Alaska, but it’s pretty tough to do that and start from scratch with a new airline. You’re well treated as an elite, and it’s rough out there often times flying without any status (although now the bottom tier of status can be approximated in many cases with the airline’s co-branded credit card).
So airlines came up first with status matches (you have elite status with a competitor, we will give you that status on our airline to make it easier to move your business over) and then status challenges (we’ll let you earn the status in an expedited way but do want you to prove you’re moving some business over, and get in the habit of flying our airline). Challenges came in two forms — we give you temporary status while you earn it with a reduced qualification requirement usually over about 90 days, or we give you the status after you’ve flown the reduced criteria in that 90 days.
Matches and challenges are usually once in a lifetime, so choose wisely when to request one.
US Airline Matches
American’s program is unpublished, and offered sporadically. They ended their formal status callenge program at the end of September, though of course it may return in some form. And they’ve offered matches and challenges at various times outside of the formal program — usually to United MileagePlus top tier elites.
Virgin America has a formal program and through the end of the year will give Gold status for transferring in 80,000 American Express Membership Rewards points.
Alaska Airlines has historically been an easy match, with an email request to elite.flyer -at- alaskaair.com including up to their MVP Gold 75K tier.
Non-US Airline Matches
You can frequently match to foreign airlines and use the status for benefits while crediting to a US airline program.
Say you have elite status with airberlin or with Turkish — a oneworld and a Star Alliance airline that offer status matches. You use the status with those programs to:
- Access American’s (airberlin) or United’s (Turkish) lounge, even on domestic trips. That’s pretty much no probably, agents will generally just accept your elite status card for access although the occasional agent will complain that you don’t have the number on your boarding pass.
- Get free checked bags. You need the elite status account in your reservation in order for the airline’s computers to waive checked bag fees.
Once you’ve checked in and had your bag fee waiver (or even once you’ve gotten into the lounge if the agent oddly so insists) you can have your account number switched to the program you want to credit to.
You already have your boarding pass that shows priority boarding due to your status, and you have a card to flash in any case. (Turkish says that they won’t mail credentials until you take a flight with them, but recent reports are that they will anyway or that requests for a replacement card will work.)
An Invaluable Source of Information
The best resource to see which airlines are matching status, what their requirements are, and what the experiences of frequent flyers are in obtaining the match is StatusMatcher.com. Look up the program you want to match to and see the experiences of other frequent flyers.