Airline Elite Status Match 101

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As an elite qualifying year comes to an end (December 31, 2010), it’s a great time to decide whether to go for elite status if you haven’t already achieved the level that you desire. I’m currently 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles short of Delta’s top tier (Diamond Medallion, 125,000 MQMs), so I planned a weekend trip to Dublin, Ireland, leaving from Pittsburgh, so that I qualify for their double MQM promotion. This is also a good time of year to evaluate whether your preferred loyalty program is working for your needs. A little known secret about the travel industry is that many airlines and hotels will automatically match your elite status from a competitor. So if you are currently a Continental frequent flyer, but want to switch to Delta, you won’t have to start from scratch. This is known as “status matching” and it can generally only be done once per airline, so use your match wisely.

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In general, if you match in the last half of the year, the matching airline will give you elite status for the entire next year and up to February of the next. So if you get granted a status match today, November 15th, 2010 – your matched status will be valid until February 2012. In order to retain that status, you need to meet the elite status requirements during 2011.

Not every airline will match status, but below are the main airlines that do. Remember, make the airline want your business, so do you best in providing information. Most will want:

  • Subject: Status Match
  • Name
  • Frequent Flyer Number (with their program)
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • A copy of your most recent statement, that shows your elite status level. If you have a lot of paid premium class travel, it can’t hurt to show that information as well.
  • A copy of your current elite status card (can’t hurt to throw it in)

AlaskaMatches up to their mid-tier level, MVP Gold. 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– AA won’t match your status, but they will let anyone do a challenge, where you pay a fee and have to accrue a certain amount 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: $80 for Gold and $150 for Platinum. Once you’ve done your research, enroll in a challenge by calling AAdvantage customer service at +1 800-882-8880.

Cathay– Will match some programs to Silver Marco Polo Club status. Email: theclub@cathaypacific.com.

Continental– Things may change soon with the merger, but they generally have matched status, including their top Platinum status. Email onepass@coair.com

Delta-They have been very aggressively trying to “match” elite passengers, especially Continental’s. They used to only match up to Gold status, but they may match Platinum. I don’t believe they match to Diamond (their new uber-elite level), but please correct me if I am wrong. Fax: 404-773-1945

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

LAN- Matches to their mid-tier level. Gerlanpass@lanchile.cl or fax: +562-5658983

United- 90 day challenge to fly 15,000 miles. Unlike American, you get the status at the very beginning, but you higher fare classes don’t expedite the process- you must fly 15,000 miles in that time period. No fee.  premiermatch@united.com

While most other airlines don’t have official status match programs, it can never hurt to ask- especially if you purchase premium cabin fares. If you work for a corporation, ask your travel department or agency if they can help at all. Some companies get a certain number of elite statuses to gift to employees.

Happy “elite” flying!

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