Current airline elite status match and challenge options you should know about
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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 — or the right credit card.
Most elite flyers 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 pandemic. However, there are ways to get around these requirements or leverage existing elite 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. In this guide, 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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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.
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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 Airlines and Delta Air Lines are notable exceptions, offering them once every five and three years, respectively.
- You generally can’t match status from another airline in the same alliance.
- 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 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 and challenge opportunities. Many phone calls and emails to generic “contact us” addresses are often necessary, as is checking sites like StatusMatcher. For programs where an official status match opportunity 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.
There once was a time when Alaska Airlines would outright match status from competing carriers, no questions asked. However, status matches now include a challenge component.
When you request a status match, you’ll receive a corresponding status level in Alaska’s Mileage Plan program for 90 days. To keep the 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 Air or SkyWest Airlines, depending on what tier you’re matching to:
- MVP: 5,000 miles.
- MVP Gold: 10,000 miles.
- MVP Gold 75K: 20,000 miles.
Unfortunately, there’s no status match opportunity to Alaska’s new MVP Gold 100K tier.
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 this year or miles flown the prior year to earn elite status.
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, 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.
American has historically offered a publicly available challenge for Gold or Platinum status. It required calling American to request to partake and did require paying an upfront fee.
However, the status challenges were put on hold shortly before the launch of American’s new elite status metric, Loyalty Points. Reports suggest that new challenges might launch in the spring, but unfortunately, the airline wasn’t able to confirm any details.
An American Airlines spokesperson shared, “Now that we have cared for the exciting new developments in our program, we look forward to creating additional opportunities to guide our members through our program. Stay tuned!”
Alternatively, you could get lucky and receive a targeted free status gift or challenge, with no upfront, out-of-pocket cost. These have (in the past) allowed flyers to snag up to Executive Platinum status.
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 Air Lines
For a limited time, Delta is offering an exclusive Medallion status upgrade opportunity for select American Express cardholders. The offer lets you match your existing airline status with another airline to one tier higher on Delta.
Those targeted must enroll in the status match by Aug. 15 and will get to keep their status through Aug. 31, so the sooner you enroll, the better. The status can be extended to Jan. 31, 2023, by earning one of the following elite status metrics by the time the promotional status expires:
|Gold Medallion||Platinum Medallion||Diamond Medallion|
|Medallion Qualification Miles||18,000.||28,000.||50,000.|
|Medallion Qualification Segments||12.||22.||55.|
Targeted members include select cardholders of The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express EveryDay Preferred Card.
The information for the American Express EveryDay Preferred 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.
Each status tier requires you to earn a set number of Medallion Qualification Miles or Medallion Qualification Segments and Medallion Qualification Dollars . 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.
Related: What is Delta elite status worth?
In the past, Frontier has even offered matches to those with hotel elite status.
While not publicly advertised, HawaiianMiles offers status matches up to top-tier Platinum status on a case-by-case basis via its online contact form.
Hawaiian Airlines requires two things:
- Proof of current elite status.
- Documentation of flights completed that earned the elite status, including flight activity to at least one of Hawaiian’s destinations.
Matches are good for one calendar year from the time of upgrade.
There are currently no status match or challenge options for JetBlue. However, you can earn Mosaic status by spending $50,000 annually on the JetBlue Plus or JetBlue Business Card. Alternatively, you can earn JetBlue’s new Mosaic+ tier by spending $150,000 on those cards.
The information for the JetBlue Plus and JetBlue Business cards 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?
The Southwest status match and challenge programs were previously difficult to find — it required calling in and finding an agent who knew the programs existed. But the airline has now brought the programs 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@.
. 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.
United is offering a Premier Status Match Challenge promotion through June 30. You can register for and undertake one if you have elite status with Delta, American, JetBlue, Alaska or Southwest.
After you enroll via the online form, you have 120 days to earn both a set number of Premier qualifying flights and Premier qualifying points to extend your elite status. You will hold temporary status during the challenge period.
Challenges are limited to once every five years per MileagePlus account.
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 Richard Kerr and Andrew Kunesh.
Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.
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