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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.
Most elites earn status via the traditional method of many days in the air and thousands of dollars spent. Today, I’ll highlight how you can possibly shortcut your way by completing a status challenge or, if you’re lucky, a straight status match.
Preparation and Precautions
To help you successfully complete a status challenge or achieve a status match, let’s first cover the basic principles of both strategies. With a status match, an airline will give you an equivalent or lower status tier based on the status you’ve already earned with another carrier’s program. The matching airline will ask for proof of your status, usually via a photo of the front and back of your membership card and a mileage statement showing your recent activity. Be forewarned: A Photoshopped or HTML code-altered credential only risks getting yourself in trouble with programs and more severe consequences like losing your account altogether. It’s not worth it.
With a status challenge, an airline may or may not require you to already have status. 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 in order to achieve a specific elite tier. Many challenges are structured with the ability to earn different elite levels, and some even allow you to even enjoy status during the challenge period.
Where most status hopefuls run afoul during challenges is not understanding the formulas for earning elite-qualifying miles and elite-qualifying dollars and finding themselves short at the challenge deadline. For example, EQMs earned from co-branded credit cards do not count toward the required EQMs for a challenge. With the complicated formulas often required to decipher EQM and EQD earnings, make sure you double- and triple-check your research when planning your challenge strategy.
Many times, members receive targeted offers for status challenges. Ensure your email preferences are set up to receive all offers available, and follow TPG to know when the occasional opportunity of a non-targeted status match or challenge arises. A few other things to keep in mind:
- Most status challenges and matches are limited to once per lifetime per account (United is once per 5 years).
- Try to complete a match or challenge after June so you can enjoy status the rest of the calendar year and hopefully have a chance of keeping the status through to the following calendar year.
- Keep an eye on airline merger and acquisitions so you can strategically complete a status 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, so many phone calls and emails to generic “contact us” addresses are often necessary, as is reading sites like FlyerTalk and Status Matcher. For programs where an official status match program is not made publicly available, your experience may differ from what other flyers experience — since whether or not you get matched may depend on the agent who processes your request.
Based off successful reports I read on Status Matcher, I contacted Air Canada’s Aeroplan and Air Canada requesting any available status matches or challenges available. Neither phone agents nor the Air Canada Twitter team, could give me specifics but did confirm the program exists and an email with my credentials would be required.
Email your credentials to firstname.lastname@example.org for a 90-day challenge to a “comparable tier of Aeroplan’s Altitude elite status,” as the phone agents read from their screen. I looked around online and have not seen any reports of challenges offered to a status above Altitude Elite 50k. You do not receive status during the trial period. Here are the requirements to successfully complete a challenge:
Altitude Elite 50k: 18,500 AQM or 18 AQS
Altitude Elite 35k: 13,000 AQM or 13 AQS
Alaska is one of the few airlines that still grants full-on status matches to elites from other airlines. This even includes matches up to its top-tier MVP Gold 75K level. To submit a request, simply head to the dedicated website Alaska has created 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
With both elite-qualifying dollars and elite-qualifying miles now required to earn AAdvantage status, American also shifted its requirements for status challenges. 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 Platinum status challenge is $200, but if you want Gold status immediately, you can pay an additional $200 for a total of $400. If you want Platinum status immediately, it will cost an extra $300 for a total of $500. Here are the requirements for the Gold and Platinum challenge, which require either segment or EQM goals plus EQDs earned.
Alternatively, you could get lucky and receive a targeted challenge, with no upfront out-of-pocket cost, to earn all the way up to Executive Platinum status. This was the offer my wife received last year:
Delta has an official SkyMiles Medallion Status Challenge landing page where you can upload your proof of current status and request to begin a challenge. The page currently says registering for and completing a challenge will give you status until January 31, 2019.
The most common challenges offered seem to require earning 12,500 MQMs in 90 days for Gold status or earning 18,750 MQMs in 90 days for Platinum status. I’m currently completing a Delta Platinum Medallion status challenge. In January, I sent in copies of my expiring AA Executive Platinum status via the website and heard back 8 days later that my challenge had begun.
Reports online indicate that Emirates will give a straight match to Skywards Silver for almost any airline status shown. I filled out the generic “contact us” web form on Emirates.com and received an email 24 hours later offering Silver status in exchange for proof of my American status.
The email also specifically stated no other status would be given because, “To upgrade anyone into this (Gold) tier would devalue the support of some of our existing top flyers who have worked hard to achieve this status.” Silver status would be good until the end of 2018.
Topbonus (because it still exists even after Airberlin dissolved) and Miles & More tier members can match to Finnair Silver status. Topbonus Gold and Platinum members and Miles & More Senator and HON members can challenge for Finnair Gold status by earning 43,000 tier points or completing 23 flights by August 31, 2018.
Hawaiian Miles is offering straight matches all the way up to top-tier Platinum status, and with as little as a 24-hour turnaround. I specifically asked if my American Executive Platinum status would be matched to Hawaiian Platinum and was told yes.
Email email@example.com, attach proof of your current status and your 2017 and 2018 mileage summaries. Matches are good for one calendar year from the time of upgrade.
I got lucky last year and filled out the TrueBlue “contact us” web form with a screenshot of my AA Executive Platinum status. I was given Mosaic status from September to January with no challenge requirement. Repeat attempts of my effort have not yielded success, though JetBlue has offered challenges at least once a year for the last few years.
As long as you’ve flown a paid LATAM flight in the last 12 months, you can request a status match up to LATAM Black, which is equivalent to Oneworld Emerald status. Matching to LATAM is not straightforward and many people are denied for no reason.
FlyerTalk suggests using the contact form on the Chilean LATAM website with the following information: a photo of your other frequent-flyer program member card, a screenshot of recent transactions in you frequent flyer account and proof that you’ve flown LATAM in the last 12 months. It could take a while to hear back, and you may be denied with no reason given.
Top-tier status holders with other airlines are invited to submit credentials to Royal Jordanian for what is essentially a challenge for Royal Jordanian Gold Plus or Platinum Plus status. Once your request is approved, your status will be upgraded after a minimum of 5,000 award miles or one RJ round-trip ticket that must be “accumulated in the Royal Plus account.”
If you have an upcoming paid Royal Jordanian round-trip itinerary and hold Star Alliance or SkyTeam top-tier status, this could be an easy way to grab Oneworld Emerald status good for domestic lounge access.
I spoke with Rapid Rewards agents (1-800-435-9792) who did not believe any program was available. I then spoke to customer relations agents (1-855-234-4654, option 5) who said a challenge program is available. From the beginning of the challenge, you have 90 days to take 3 round-trip or 6 one-way revenue flights, or earn 8,000 tier points.
After completing the challenge, you will have A-List status for six months. If you have elite status with another domestic airline, send an email with “90 day tier challenge” in the subject line to rapidrewards@. The email should contain your name, Rapid Rewards account number and documentation of your elite status. It can take up to 30 days to process your request.
Turkish Miles & Smiles has been routinely offering status matches and challenges for the last few years. If you call and speak with phone agents or try and find a landing page on the Turkish site, you’d believe nothing is available. However according to this FlyerTalk thread, you can request a match via this web form.
The match is now reportedly only good for a four-month trial period, during which one international segment flown on Turkish metal is required to extend the match to a period of one year. Earning 15,000 status miles flying only Turkish flights during that year will extend the status match for an additional year. Lately, however, flyers are having a hard time getting Turkish to honor the challenge agreement after completing 15,000 status miles, and their accounts are not being updated.
The Turkish match has become a convoluted, complicated and unclear quagmire that could result in you crediting a lot of paid flights to Turkish and not earning the status you think. InsideFlyer has a great write-up of the process — undertake at your own risk.
American and Delta elites are specifically listed as eligible to complete a MileagePlus Premier status match challenge, but some other airline programs are also reportedly eligible. You’ll be given the equivalent status you’re pursuing the for the 90 days you have to complete the required PQM or PQS milestones.
While the option to match to Premier 1K is not on the official chart, it was possible to match to this level in 2018. Completing the challenge before July 1 will result in status through January 2019, and completing the challenge on or after July 1 will result in status through January 2020.
In addition to the above programs, I checked with Air France/KLM (about to undergo a large change to its program), Copa Airlines, Qantas, Etihad and Qatar Airways, all of which said they were not currently offering a match or challenge.
Airlines typically employ a match or challenge to lure elite customers, who represent significant revenue, away from the competition. 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.
Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions of a status match or challenge before you apply, and determine that you can meet the requirements before submitting your credentials to begin. Also, don’t forget to check for match or challenge opportunities with foreign carriers that could provide alliance elite status and earn you lounge access or increased baggage capacity. Please add your own status match/challenge experiences in the comments below!
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