Current airline elite status match and challenge options you should know about

Oct 21, 2021

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

We’re all looking for an avenue to make air travel more comfortable and affordable. Benefits like upgrades, lounge access, early boarding, free seat selection and waived baggage fees are universally desirable but only applicable to the small percentage of flyers who hold elite status — or the right credit card.

Most elites earn status via the traditional method of many days in the air and thousands of dollars spent with a single airline. For some travelers, that might not be an option right now due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, there are ways to get around these requirements or leverage a soon-to-be-expiring status to jump ship to another carrier.

This can be especially valuable if you realize you might not be able to requalify for the same elite status you currently hold. Today, I’ll highlight how you can shortcut your way to elite perks by completing a status challenge or (if you’re lucky) by utilizing a straight status match.

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In This Post

Preparation and precautions

To help you complete a status challenge or obtain a match successfully, let’s first cover both strategies’ basic principles.

With a status match, an airline will give you an equivalent or lower status tier based on the status you’ve already earned with a competing carrier’s program. The matching airline will ask for proof of your status, usually via a photo of your membership card and a mileage statement showing your recent activity.

WARNING: A Photoshopped or HTML code-altered credential only risks getting you in trouble with programs. It could lead to more severe consequences, like losing your account altogether. It’s not worth it, so don’t try it.

With a status challenge, an airline may or may not require you to have status already. The carrier will specify the number of elite-qualifying miles you must earn — and sometimes elite-qualifying dollars you must spend — in a given time frame to achieve a specific elite tier. Some challenges have different qualifying requirements for each status tier, and others even let you enjoy temporary status during the challenge period.

Related: How The Points Guy earns his elite status

Elite signs at Air Canada baggage
(Photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy)

It’s important to understand exactly how the status challenge you enroll in works. For example, you should always double-check which qualifying miles, dollars and segments count toward the challenge. For example, elite-qualifying miles earned from cobranded credit cards are often excluded from status challenges.

It’s also important to note that elite-qualifying miles are often calculated differently when flying partner airlines. Further, these tickets are not always eligible for status challenges. With the often complicated formulas required to decipher these earnings, make sure you double- and triple-check your research when planning your challenge strategy.

Sometimes status matches and challenges are targeted to specific members. Ensure your email preferences are set up to receive all offers available and follow TPG to know when the occasional non-targeted status match appears.

A few other things to keep in mind:

  • Most status challenges and matches are limited to once per lifetime, per account. United and Delta are notable exceptions, offering them once every five and three years, respectively.
  • Try to complete a match or challenge after June so you can enjoy status the rest of the year and hopefully have a chance to keep it through to the following calendar year (you should read the terms to be sure this works on the specific carrier).
  • Keep an eye on airline mergers and acquisitions so you can strategically complete a status match or challenge with the airline being absorbed. This will hopefully grandfather you into status with the new airline.

Airlines don’t always publicize their status match/challenge opportunities. Many phone calls and emails to generic “contact us” addresses are often necessary, as is checking sites like Status Matcher. For programs where an official status match program is not made publicly available, your experience may differ from other flyers  — since whether or not you get matched may depend on the agent who processes your request.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the current status match and challenge options across the major airlines.

Related: Credit cards that can help you earn airline elite status

Air Canada

Aeroplan has five different elite status levels, some of which you can earn without flying. You can earn 25K status with the Everyday Status program by earning 100,000 Aeroplan points from any eligible transaction, including points earned from travel, credit card spending and purchases through the Aeroplan shopping portal.

When the program relaunched in Nov. 2020, it temporarily discontinued both its status match and challenge programs. However, it recently teamed up with Destination Canada to offer a new, limited-time status match opportunity.

For a limited time, U.S. residents with elite status on eligible major U.S. airlines can match their status to Air Canada. If your match is approved, you’ll get full Aeroplan elite status through Dec. 31, 2021, and can extend status through 2022 by flying just one round-trip journey on Air Canada.

Most major U.S. carriers are eligible, with the only major exceptions being United and ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier. Here’s a breakdown of who is eligible for a status match:

Aeroplan Elite American AAdvantage Delta SkyMiles Alaska Mileage Plan JetBlue TrueBlue Southwest Rapid Rewards Hawaiian
25K Gold Silver MVP Mosaic A-List Gold/Platinum
35K Platinum Gold MVP Gold A-List Preferred
50K Platinum Pro Platinum MVP Gold 75K Companion Pass
75K Executive Platinum Diamond
Super Elite Concierge Key Delta 360

Related: Unlock United Club access and more with easy Air Canada status match offer

Alaska Airlines

In 2019, Alaska Airlines updated its status match policy to include a challenge. You’ll still be able to match from the same airline programs as before, but your Alaska Airlines status is only valid for a limited 90-day period. To keep Alaska status after this period, you’ll need to fly a certain number of miles on flights marketed by Alaska Airlines and operated by Alaska Airlines, Horizon or SkyWest, depending on what tier you’re matching to:

  • MVP: 5,000 miles
  • MVP Gold: 10,000 miles
  • MVP Gold 75K: 20,000 miles

To submit a request, head to the dedicated status match page and upload a screenshot of your current competing mileage statement with your name, current status and miles earned year to date.

If you’re matched to MVP Gold 75K, you’re not eligible for the 50,000 bonus miles associated with qualifying for MVP Gold 75K status. However, reports indicate that matches to Gold and Gold 75K do include the four Gold Guest Upgrades conferred when you reach those levels.

Note that if you make your request by the end of June and complete the requirements, you can keep your new status through the end of the calendar year. If you start your status match on or after July 1, your status will be valid through the end of the following year. Keep this in mind when deciding how to time your challenge.

Although Alaska Airlines has announced plans to debut a new top-tier status next year called MVP Gold 100K, there’s no status match or challenge info currently available.

Related: What is Alaska Airlines elite status worth?

American Airlines

A publicly available challenge for Gold or Platinum status is possible by calling American and requesting to partake, but it does require paying an upfront fee.

The standard cost of the Gold status challenge is $100 to $180, but if you want Gold status immediately, you can pay $280 to $340. Meanwhile, the standard Platinum status challenge costs $180 to $240. If you want Gold status immediately, it will cost $380 to $440, while if you want Platinum status immediately, it will cost $480 to $540.

Here are the requirements for the Gold and Platinum challenges, which require flying a certain amount (miles or segments) plus spending a certain amount:

  • Gold: 7,000  Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) + $1,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) OR 8 Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) + $1,000 EQDs
  • Platinum: 12,500  Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) + $2,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) OR 16 Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) + $2,000 EQDs

Alternatively, you could get lucky and receive a targeted free status gift or challenge, with no up-front, out-of-pocket cost. These have (in the past) allowed flyers to snag up to Executive Platinum status. One TPG reader recently received the following Platinum status challenge to be completed within 3 months:

  • 12,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) + $1,500 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs)
    OR
  • 14 Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) + $1,500 EQDs

Lastly, if you hold World of Hyatt Explorist or Globalist status, the program’s partnership with American may offer you a status challenge. Some Hyatt Globalist members have even been gifted American Airlines Executive Platinum elite status, a worthy reminder to always consider partnerships in your quest for elite status.

Delta

Delta has an official SkyMiles Medallion Status Challenge landing page where you can upload proof of your current status and request a challenge. There is a specific warning at the top about COVID travel restrictions and the impact on your travel, so be careful about undertaking a challenge right now if you’re not traveling enough to meet the extension requirements.

Speaking of which, each status tier requires you to earn a set number of Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) or Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQS) and Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQD). For example, those matching to Platinum Medallion status need to earn 18,750 MQMs or 25 MQSs and $2,250 MQDs during the 90-day status match period.

(Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com)

Related: What is Delta elite status worth?

Frontier Airlines

Frontier’s latest status match offer ended on Dec. 31, 2020, and no new offer has been announced. You can, however, fill out this registration form and get notified if that changes.

(Screenshot courtesy of Frontier.com)

Related: I was offered top-tier airline elite status for $499 — here’s why

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Miles is offering status matches all the way up to top-tier Platinum status and with as little as a 24-hour turnaround — but there’s a catch. If you submit documentation of status and activity with a partner airline, it needs to include flight activity to at least one of Hawaiian Airlines’ destinations.

For status match requests, Hawaiian requires two things:

  • Proof of current elite status
  • Documentation of flights completed that earned the elite status.

Matches are good for one calendar year from the time of upgrade.

JetBlue

There are currently no status match or challenge options for JetBlue. You can earn Mosaic status by spending $50,000 annually on the JetBlue Plus Card. But this year, JetBlue is letting cardholders fast-track Mosaic status by spending just $15,000 on the JetBlue Plus Card between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021.

The information for the JetBlue Plus card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: What is JetBlue elite status worth?

Southwest

The Southwest status match and challenge programs were previously difficult to find — it required calling in and finding an agent who knew the program existed. But the airline has now brought the program out of the shadows and has all the terms and conditions on its website.

You’ll need to have status with another domestic airline to be eligible to match to Southwest A-List status, but it appears any status will do. To start the process, email your full name, Rapid Rewards account number and proof of elite status to southwest.statusmatch@wnco.com.

Once the request is processed, you’ll receive promotional A-List status for 90 days. According to Southwest, this typically happens within 12 business days of submission.

To extend your A-List status for an additional 12 months, you must book and complete three qualifying round-trip flights (or six one-ways) within 90 days. Flights must be revenue fares, not award tickets. Current A-List members with expiring status are not eligible to status match.

Note that the terms and conditions state you must book and complete your flights during the 90-day period, so existing bookings theoretically won’t count. However, since Southwest makes it easy to cancel and rebook flights without penalty, you should be able to turn existing bookings into new ones without too much trouble as long as the fare hasn’t increased.

Do note that the Southwest status match is available to you if you haven’t received promotional A-List status in any program — including a status match and challenge — within the last 12 months.

Related: What is Southwest elite status worth?

United

United is offering a Premier Status Challenge Program through Dec. 20, 2021. You can register for and undertake one if you have elite status with Delta, American, JetBlue, Alaska or Southwest.

United status match
(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

After you enroll via the online form, you have 120 days to earn both a set number of Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) and Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) to extend your elite status. You will hold temporary status during the challenge period.

(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

Challenges are limited to once every five years per MileagePlus account.

Related: What is United Airlines elite status worth in 2021?

Bottom line

In addition to the above programs, I checked with Air France-KLM, Copa Airlines, Qantas and Etihad, all of which said they were not currently offering a status match or challenge. In the spring of 2020, Qatar Airways ran a status challenge for elite members of select airlines. Hopefully, we will see something similar in the future as travel picks back up.

Airlines typically utilize a match or challenge to lure elite customers (who represent a significant revenue source) away from the competition. However, that doesn’t mean we, the customers, can’t benefit from these opportunities as well. They provide a shortcut to great perks and cost-saving measures such as waived fees. It could even make sense to undertake a challenge to enjoy benefits for one specific (likely international) trip.

That said, make sure you understand all the terms and conditions of a status match or challenge before you apply, and be sure you can meet the requirements before submitting your request. Also, don’t forget to check for match or challenge opportunities with foreign carriers that could provide alliance elite status for lounge access or increased baggage capacity on domestic airlines.

Additional reporting by Benji Stawski and Andrew Kunesh.

Feature photo by HMBSoFL Photography/Shutterstock.com

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