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Airline elite status is a very hot topic at TPG — especially when it comes to American Airlines, Delta and United. Now, while it’s a bit late to qualify for 2016 status based on your travel in 2015, you can opt to participate in a status challenge. Among the US carriers, American is perhaps best known for consistently offering a status challenge program, although this did disappear briefly at the end of 2015. Fortunately, it’s back, and this year you’ll be earning status based on elite-qualifying miles (EQMs), rather than AA’s now-defunct elite-qualifying-point system.

Hear are the two 2016 challenge options:

  • Gold: Earn 7,000 EQMs in 90 days; $120 fee
  • Platinum: Earn 12,500 EQMs in 90 days; $200 fee

Update: The fee for the Gold challenge has increased from $120 to $140, and the fee for the Platinum challenge has increased from $200 to $240. Status is now also valid until the end of January 2018.

British Airways A380
EQMs earned with some AA partners are eligible, including BA.

EQMs must be earned within 90 days of registering. Only flights marketed and operated by AA, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines or Qantas will count toward status earned through a challenge. You don’t earn status right away — you’ll need to meet the requirements of your selected tier before you can take advantage of elite benefits. Note that it’ll be easier for premium-cabin travelers to meet the requirements than it has in the past, since you now earn 3 EQMs per mile flown for full-fare first and business, 2 EQMs for discount first and business, 1.5 EQMs for full-fare economy and 1 EQM for discount economy.

Simply call AA at 888-697-5636 to sign up. I’ve called multiple times and the wait was only a minute or two, so you should be able to complete the registration process quickly. You can’t register if you currently have elite status, however AA reps expect that it will be possible to register as soon as your status drops off, if you haven’t requalified for 2016. Unfortunately AA isn’t currently offering a challenge for Executive Platinum status, but Gold and Platinum benefits are valuable enough to make this opportunity worthwhile.

H/T: Flyertalk

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