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A frequent flyer can mean a lot of revenue for an airline. Not only do frequent flyers often have the co-branded credit card, but they are often influential in bringing more business to the airline. What many frequent flyers don’t know, is that you can leverage your current elite status to get comped elite status on another airline. Airlines do this to attract the top customers, because they know most elite travelers don’t want to start from scratch to earn status all over again.

There are two main ways to go about transferring your elite status:

Status match: When an airline will automatically grant you elite status, just by proving to them that you have status on a competitor
Status challenge: When an airline will make you complete a set of requirements in a specific timeframe in order to achieve and maintain status with them

General rules:
1) Airlines will generally not accept a challenge from a partner/alliance airline. For example, if you have US Airways Gold status and want United status, they will generally reject the request because you are a Star Alliance partner. A workaround would be to match/challenge to Delta and then use your Delta status to challenge to United/Continental. But keep in mind  the following rule…
2) Each airline will only allow you to match/challenge once. A workaround would be to create a new frequent flyer account, though that is against the rules of many (but not all) programs, so read the rules before going this route.
3) While there are established match/challenge programs (listed below), it never hurts to ask for what you want. If you are a big spender and really want Diamond status on Delta (which they won’t let you challenge to), try reaching out to Delta and proving you will bring them a lot of business. Generally reservation agents won’t be empowered to do this, but I recommend getting in contact with their corporate sales teams or other executives who may be able to make these decisions. If you can prove you will bring the company a lot of business, they can make decisions accordingly. Also, if you work for a large corporation, your company may have a number of free elite statuses to give away. It never hurts to ask (nicely)!

The trend that I’m seeing, is that most airlines are moving away from outright matches and more towards challenges. It makes sense to me – if someone really wants to move their loyalty to your company, you want to see some evidence of commitment, right? Many people used to status match to an airline to get specific benefits for a few upcoming flights and then never actually shifted any revenue to the matched airline.

So, first assess whether you are happy or not with your current elite status. If not, then consider switching to another airline, but know the rules first. I’ve compiled a quick guide to status matching, mostly from experience and this master Flyertalk thread, but this information changes daily, so don’t assume an airline will accept your match/challenge until they’ve confirmed it directly with you. Please feel free to share your experiences or comments below!

Legacy US Airlines:
Allows challenges which require a co-pay and a certain number of Elite Qualifying Points (not miles) within a 3 month period: 5,000 for Gold and 10,000 for Platinum. American does not do challenges for Executive Platinum. Reading this site will give all the information you need in order to do a successful AA challenge.  Most recent costs: $150 for Gold and $240 for Platinum. Once you’ve done your research, enroll in a challenge by calling AAdvantage customer service at 1 800-882-8880.
You can challenge again if you lose your status, but it’s been reported that there is a maximum of 2 challenges per 5 year period.

Status Match Website
90 day challenge, Premier Executive:
You must then fly 17,500 miles or 22 segments Premier: 15,000 miles or 15 segments

Used to do direct matches, but now has a challenge program (details here). They only match up to Platinum – you will need to accrue 125,000 MQMs in a year to get Diamond status – regardless of a challenge. If you challenge and then complete 26,000 MQMs to achieve Platinum, you still need to accrue 99,000 more MQMs to get Diamond (top status).

“Customers who enroll in the Challenge and meet the flight requirement within a 90-day period from enrollment will retain their matched Medallion status through February 28, 2013, unless a higher Medallion level is earned by reaching published Medallion qualification thresholds. Medallion status must be earned in subsequent years by traveling the required amount of MQMs or MQSs.”

First, confirm your comparable status with the SkyMiles program:
Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status Silver Gold Platinum
American AAdvantage Status Gold Platinum Executive Platinum
Continental OnePass Status Silver Gold Platinum
United Mileage Plus Status Premier Premier Executive 1K
Then, determine the MQMs or MQMs needed to retain status:
Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status Silver Gold Platinum
Flight Requirements on Delta or Delta Connection 8,000 MQMs or 10 MQSs 16,000 MQMs or 20 MQSs 26,000 MQMs or 35 MQSs

US Airways:
Generally, US Airways likes to sell status outright. For example, if you’ve never stepped foot on their planes, you can buy Chainman’s Preferred (their top status) for $3,999 or Platinum for $2,999.

Buy status chart

They also have a trial program. $200 for silver, $400 for Gold and $600 for Platinum and you have to fly a certain amount to keep the status.

  • Silver: Fly 7,500 miles or 10 segments
  • Gold: Fly 15,000 miles or 20 segments
  • Platinum: Fly 22,500 miles or 30 segments
  • Chairmans: Fly 30,000 miles or 40 segments

“Call us at 800-428-1775 to try Preferred on for size today.”

US Airways also had a promo for 90 days of silver status for free. While it was supposed to end last year it allowed me to register so it might be worth a try if you see value in US Airway Silver Status (free bags, upgrades, etc).

Other airlines:
Alaska- Matches up to their mid-tier level, MVP Gold. However, I just emailed them and it looks like the match will only be good thru December 2011, which is a bummer. Per the email I just got: To verify and match your tier status with your current frequent flyer program
please email or fax a current copy of your member card or mileage statement,
along with your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account number to: Fax: 206-392-2782. (An elite status match can only
be extended once during the life of a Mileage Plan account and is valid through

1 800 452 1201

Cathay– Will match some programs to Silver Marco Polo Club status. Email:

El Al– They sometimes grant status matches to their lower tiers. Fax: # 011-972-3-760-4043

LAN- Matches to their mid-tier level. or fax: +562-5658983

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