US Airline Status Match and Challenge Information

by on July 10, 2012 · 40 comments

in Alaska, American, Delta, United, US Airways

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As I’ve written in the past, status matching and challenges can be the quickest, easiest way to achieve elite status on a new airline. For anyone unfamiliar, a status match is when an airline will comp you elite status if you have elite status on a competing airline. A status challenge is when they make you complete a set of short-cut requirements before giving you comped status.

Why do they do this? They know that elite customers may want to switch their loyalty, but won’t start from scratch since it’s rough going from elite on one airline to non-status on another. If you match after July 1st, your matched/challenged status is generally good until January 2014 – so 18 months of free status – pretty sweet. The thinking behind this is that with less than half a year to requalify it would be unfair to expect someone to hit the normal requalification requirements. Yet someone who matches in June would be expected to fully requalify or lose the status in January 2013 – a full year earlier. Thus, July is generally the best time to ask for a match or challenge.

The major thing to take into consideration is that you can generally only status match once per every 5 years at the minimum, and some programs only allow it once per “lifetime.” I’m actually going to status match to United (read below to find out how) so I have Platinum status until January 2014. Being based in Miami and not being a big fan of Newark, I doubt I’ll even fly United much, but the upgrades aren’t what I’m looking for. I’m actually looking for the flexibility to avoid fees when I redeem MileagePlus miles, which is where I redeem almost all of my Chase Ultimate Rewards points. I book a lot of last-minute awards and each time I’m dinged with a $75 fee, but if I was Platinum I’d avoid that fee. Plus, I could change awards for free instead of paying $150 to redeposit and rebook. These fee waivers alone are worth it for me to use my “once in a lifetime” match.

I compiled the current state of matches/challenges to the best of my knowledge, but if you have any other experience please feel free to share in the comments section so others can learn from your experience.

US Program Rundown:

Alaska (Status Match)
Matches up to their mid-tier level, MVP Gold. You can email [email protected] a statement of your recently activity along with a copy of your elite card. You can also fax them a current statement of your airline frequent flyer account showing your elite status level (and a copy of your card wouldn’t hurt either) to: Mileage Plan Customer Service, 206-433-3477.

American (Status Challenge)
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 generally do challenges for Executive Platinum. While the requirements to fly are less than Delta and United, they do have charge to sign-up for the challenge. The most recent costs were: $120 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. Earlier this year, American was doing status matches for United 1K to Executive Platinum’s but that offer is no longer valid (view the Flyertalk post for more information). Though it can’t hurt to ask.

Delta (Status Challenge)
Details on Delta’s current challenge program can be found here. However, Delta only matches up to their high/mid-tier Platinum level. To achieve it, you will need to accrue 26,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM’s) or 35 MQ segments within 90 days. However, if you hope to go for Diamond, you will still need to rack up the usual 125,000 MQMs in a year to get Diamond status – regardless of a challenge. So for instance, 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). Delta will match your current status and that is the level to which you can aspire during the challenge.

Here are the details from Delta: “If you register for the offer between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013 and you complete the flight requirements, your Medallion status will be maintained until February 28, 2014. That’s over 18 months of status. In order to extend your Medallion status after the 90-days, you’ll need to earn a specific number of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) within the 90-days of enrolling by flying Delta. The number of MQMs or MQSs required is based on your matched Medallion level.”

First, confirm your comparable status with the SkyMiles program:
Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status Silver Gold Platinum
American AAdvantage Status Gold Platinum Executive Platinum
United Mileage Plus Status Premier Silver Premier Gold Premier Platinum/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

United has a formal challenge program (below), but will also match certain American and Delta elites if you email and ask.
I’m American Executive Platinum and I emailed [email protected] asking to be matched to 1K (United’s top tier), but they only agreed to give me Platinum through January 2014 initially agreed to match me, but in the end it was a challenge program similar, the same as the special challenge program they currently have for Delta Medallion Members: Within 90 days, you will need to fly 10,000 qualifying flight miles or 15 flight segments to retain Premier Silver status, 17,500 qualifying flight miles or 22 flight segments to retain Premier Gold status, or 25,000 qualifying flight miles or 30 flight segments to retain Premier Platinum status. For customers who qualify for this promotion on or after July 1, 2012, benefits are valid through January 2014.

To be considered for the status challenge, you must either:
Email [email protected]
Fax: (605) 341-6140
Mail: Mileage Plus Service Center
Attn. Premier Status Match
PO Box 6121
Rapid City, SD 57709-6121

Include the following:

-Your MileagePlus account number. If you don’t have an account, join here.
-Your name, complete current mailing address and email address.
-A copy of your most recent mileage summary, or your 2012 membership card identifying your current elite level in Delta’s program.

US Airways (Buy Status):
Though it doesn’t offer status matches, US Airways is notorious for  selling status outright. For example, if you’ve never stepped foot on their planes, you can buy Chairman’s Preferred (their top status) for $3,999 (though that drops to only $2,999 as long as you have at least 1 Preferred Qualifying Mile) or Platinum for $2,999.($2,499 if you have at least 1 Preferred Qualifying Mile). However they do offer trial status challenges (which is basically a paid status challenge like American’s) – so you don’t need to already have status with a competitor. When you pay the fee and complete the flight requirements within 90 days, you get to keep your status for the rest of the year (in this case, just until February 2013, so only about 7 months longer).

The levels: $200 for Silver, $400 for Gold and $600 for Platinum and you have to fly:

  • 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

You can enroll for their trial Preferred offer online, and when you pay for your challenge and complete the flight requirements, you will be awarded the status level you have completed, though remember, for now it’s just good until February 2013. If I were doing it myself, I would wait until the date was pushed further into the future.

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  • Mark The Shark

    Thanks for this helpful post! Do you know if I status match to United as a silver (from Delta), I get free bags on domestic flights with United and/ or other Star Alliance carriers?

  • Mark

    If you can get an invite for an AMEX Centurion card it comes with US Air Platinum and Delta Platinum for a little less than the cost of the status match at US Air.

  • MDAccount

    It’s important to note that US Air will award you the status you earn during a challenge, not just the status you pay for. I paid $200 for Silver, for example, but flew enough miles to be awarded Chairman’s. The fee simply guarantees the baseline status you’ll have during the challenge, but even with that your status will be upgraded during the 90 days as you earn it. So I began as Silver but, during the 90 days, received the perks of gold, platinum and, eventually, Chairman’s. It was the best $200 I’ve spent all year, since I’m 100% on upgrades since earning Chairman’s.

  • Jeremy

    How long did it take you to hear back from United from your initial email regarding the match?

  • thepointsguy

    24 hrs

  • TPG Intern Ryan

    You would be able to challenge to Premier Silver which does include 1 checked bag for free.

  • Mark The Shark

    Thanks Ryan! Is that 1 bag just on United flights or on Star Alliance partners as well (such as USAirways)?

  • TPG Intern Ryan

    It does apply to Star Alliance partners such as U.S. Airways. Just make sure to have your United Mileage Plus # in the reservation to receive this benefit.

  • Jonathan Bigton

    Informative post, thanks TPG!

  • Aleks

    United’s page says the offer is not valid for those who have Star Alliance Silver or Gold. I got status-matched to TK Elite which gives me Star Alliance Gold, so it sounds this won’t work for me. :-( I wanted to status match to Gold for the same reason as you — to avoid fees with award redemptions.

  • thepointsguy

    You can still do it- you just can’t use your Turkish status to do the matching

  • Aleks

    Ah, that makes sense. They could still match me based on my DL Gold.

  • Zachary

    I am A list on southwest, will the legacy airline status match this program?

  • TF

    Useful post, bookmarked. Thanks. But your Delta table does not quite match the Delta status match page you linked to. Naming convention stuff, but unclear nevertheless. You’re becoming sloppy TPG! tsk tsk!

  • AC

    I just finished a UA match from DL Platinum, even though my status lapsed at DL (expired two months by then). I am tempted to turn around and rematch with DL, but that darn DL Reserve Card gave me Silver (barely), so now I cannot match to DL.
    Would be tempted to go after American, though. Can you fly partner airlines with AA and still get the qualifying points? That would be ideal. UA didn’t allow that, which made it hard at the end.

  • Phuucnguyen

    UA replied my status match requested to Platinum with a 90 day status and challenge. (I am an AA EXP). I emailed back asking why and they claimed that they don’t match status anymore, only challenge.

  • Elijah Nouvelage

    I’m curious about this too. That’s certainly how it sounded to me. As a DL Gold I was considering challenging AA, getting that (it doesn’t seem very hard at all), then having UA match AA, (since it definitely appears they’re challenging all DL elites). TPG, does this sound possible?

  • sfobuddy

    So a Delta Diamond would get what with United?

  • thepointsguy


  • sfobuddy

    I’d also love to see how your ‘request’ was written.

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  • Alex

    If you are referring to the AA challenge where you need points, it must be an AA coded flight ,but can be on partner airlines. Here is a link to more info :)

  • Anon

    @tpg Will anyone other than Frontier grant a status match to Southwest’s Companion Pass?

  • thepointsguy

    Theres a sad twist- they said they’d match, but when they confirmed, they sent challenge information. Very frustrating- writing a separate blog post on it

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  • thepointsguy

    Not that I’m aware of

  • thepointsguy

    Not to my knowledge, but it never hurts to ask

  • sfobuddy

    Are you also going to create a blog post for international status matches?

  • Anon

    @tpg Would the 10,000 preferred status miles from the US Airways credit card count toward these challenges? For example to qualify for the 15,000 gold trial status challenge could you get 10,000 from the US Airways credit card and only 5,000 from actually flying?

  • TPG Intern Ryan

    US Airways site states “Only elite qualifying flights earned on flights operated by US Airways and US Airways Express can be applied toward the Trial Preferred program.” so highly doubtful.

  • Anon

    @tpg if I start the AA 10k plat challenge on 10/4/12 and finish qualifying sometime between 1/1/13 and 1/4/13 would be AA plat status be good until 2/2014 (status based on challenge start) or 2/2015 (status based on challenge completion)?

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  • Nick Aster

    Does anyone know if the United Special Challenge for Delta members accepts Lufthansa as qualifying? I’m getting mixed reports in my googling…

  • John Crispino

    I am still sort of new to airline status. I have Gold with American Airlines and am interested in the Delta and United programs. Want to make sure I have this correct, this is basically matching status, so if I would not lose status with AA or any miles, they would just give me a ‘trial’ period of sorts to try out their program’s comparable tier? I am wondering if I should wait until I am platinum with AA, which I am hoping for at the end of the year.
    This is a very helpful blog btw :)

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  • Tk52680

    I am a chairman for US airways but unhappy with them. What airline should I switch too so that I get the best matching possible?

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  • JoelOjdana

    I just qualified for a United Premier Silver status match challenge through my Delta Silver Medallion, needing 7,000 PQMs in 90 days to keep the United status. I have an upcoming IAD-SFO flight and was thinking about using the Premier Accelerator option to ensure I qualify – can anyone confirm that the PQMs earned through Premier Accelerator count toward the status match challenge?

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