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Using a Copa Airlines Status Match to Get Free United Club Access and Upgrades

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Earlier this year, United announced that it would be raising fees for lounge access beginning this summer. Annual membership fees for Premier 1K members jumped to $450, while general members (without status) are now expected to fork over $550 for the privilege of accessing a United Club on the day of travel. You can also get access with Chase’s MileagePlus Club Card, or by using the two annual passes you’ll receive with the MileagePlus Explorer Card or by earning Diamond elite status with Hyatt.

If you’ve visited a United Club, you’re probably well aware that an annual membership isn’t worth what the airline charges for it. And while you might assume that you can get access simply by holding a first-class ticket, that unfortunately isn’t the case. If you don’t have a membership, you’ll need to have United Gold status or above and be traveling (in any cabin) on an international flight, or you’ll need to be booked in BusinessFirst or Global First on an international itinerary or a transcon flight from JFK airport.

Copa ConnectMiles elite tiers.
Copa ConnectMiles elite tiers.

However, Star Alliance Gold members from an international airline get United Club access on any flight, whether it’s a 16-hour long-haul from Newark to Tokyo or a 30-minute hop from Austin to Houston. And that’s where Copa Airlines comes in. Until this year, Copa used United’s frequent-flyer program, MileagePlus. However, this March Panama’s flag carrier announced that it was creating its own program, ConnectMiles. And now that program is offering a status match opportunity.

It only takes a few minutes of work to have Copa match your status from another airline United. Last week, I emailed with a request to match to Presidential Platinum, including my Copa number (register here), my United 1K number, a screenshot of my United account and a copy of my membership card. I received a response a few hours later explaining that I couldn’t be matched to Copa’s Presidential Platinum status — the rep asked if I’d like to be matched to Platinum instead. I said sure, but never received a response.

Platinum status after a United 1K match.
Platinum status after a United 1K match.

When I saw that my account still hadn’t been upgraded as of this morning, I called Copa’s customer service line at 844-287-0304 (select option 2 for English, then 2 again, then 1 and then 2). I explained to the agent that I wanted to match to my United 1K status. I was surprised when he not only knew what I was asking to do, but was also equipped to process the request. He asked for my United 1K number, put me on hold to verify my current status and came back a minute later to let me know that my account had been upgraded to Platinum. My new status is valid through the end of 2016.

I also received three regional upgrades.
I also received three regional upgrades.

I also received three regional upgrades, which can currently only be applied to Copa flights, but, according to Copa, will soon be available for use on United flights as well! Interestingly, the upgrades can’t be used on flights booked in Z, P, S, T, K, L, G and N classes, according to Copa’s site, even though United’s own regional upgrades don’t have that restriction.

Now, for the hard part: Waiting 4-6 weeks to see if I’ll receive a membership card. The agent I spoke to said to make sure I had filled in my address information, which I had previously done to take advantage of Copa’s 3,000-point sign-up bonus. Generally, you need to have the physical card to access a United Club, although I have had luck simply providing my Turkish Miles & Smiles number from a past status match. Everything has worked as advertised so far, so I’m hopeful that the card will arrive before my MileagePlus Club Card annual fee becomes due at the end of the year.

H/T: One Mile at a Time

United MileagePlus® Explorer Card

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  • Start with 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Check your first bag for free - save up to $100 per roundtrip
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club with two one-time-use passes every year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn double miles on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Your miles don't expire as long as your credit card account is open, with no limit to the number of miles you can earn
  • Use your miles for any seat, any time, on any United flight
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit