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Those with elite status on an airline’s loyalty program have come to rely on valuable perks that upgrade their travel experience, including automatic seat upgrades, priority check-in and boarding, free checked bags and airport lounge access.
But if you’re not feeling the love for your airline of choice anymore, you may wonder if you can transfer your hard-earned status to another loyalty program. Your reason for wanting to make a switch may be as simple as having moved, for example, from American Airlines’ Dallas/Fort Worth hub to Delta Air Lines’ Atlanta hub, making the former much less convenient for your travel needs. Whatever the reason, it can be really hard to walk away from all the perks that come with being a top-tier airline loyalty program member.
Since the first modern loyalty program was created by American Airlines in 1981, airlines have been locked in mortal battle to attract and retain the flyers who spend big bucks for premium flights. And it’s good to know that they have programs in place to help those flyers make the switch and keep their benefits, for the most part, intact.
But that prized elite status won’t be served to you on a silver platter. You’ll have to take concrete steps to prove that you deserve access to another airline’s elite status and commit to do the flying needed to keep it. Below we look at elite perks, along with what it takes to do a status match at the top six U.S. airlines. Some of these offers and/or promotions listed below may have since changed, expired, or are no longer available. Terms and conditions may apply.
The Seattle-based carrier makes it simple to transfer your gold and above status from nine North American carriers: Aeromexico, Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. You’ll need to send your loyalty program number, along with a screenshot of the account page from your airline that includes your name, current status level and miles earned year-to-date, to Alaska Airlines.
It takes up to four weeks to verify your status. Once it’s been confirmed, Alaska will give you to equal status in its Mileage Plan™ loyalty program for a full year. But you do need to fly the required number of miles between January and December in order to keep your status the following year, outlined below:
Travel on regional partners PenAir and Ravn do not count toward elite status qualification.
Alaska Airlines has two elite tiers under its Mileage Plan loyalty program:
- MVP Gold: 100% bonus on base miles earned; express security line at more than 70 airports worldwide; unlimited first-class upgrades for the member and a companion; and a dedicated reservation phone line.
- MVP Gold 75: All of the above, plus a 125% bonus on base miles earned; top priority for upgrades, standby lists and waitlists; a free in-flight entertainment player; and waivers that cover service charge or ticket change fees.
Mileage Plan members who fly a million miles on Alaska Airlines receive MVP Gold status for life.
You can only receive one status match during the lifetime of your Alaska Airlines account. A status match is only offered to those who achieve elite status through actual flight miles or segments flown under another airline loyalty program.
American currently doesn’t have a formal status match program. “If a customer is interested in participating in a status match, we ask them to call our AAdvantage® customer service team and they’ll work with them directly,” said a company spokeswoman via email. The phone number is 800-882-8880.
Although American doesn’t have a formal program like its competitors, it does reach out to premium travelers loyal to other carriers with offers to switch them, including status match challenges and limited-time premium status. According to Henry Harteveldt, a San Francisco-based travel analyst for Atmosphere Research, he received an email from American Airlines in January offering him platinum status — with no strings attached.
Harteveldt currently has Delta Air Lines Diamond Medallion and lifetime United Airlines MileagePlus® Platinum status and suspects he was offered American platinum based on this, although the carrier never asked him for his credentials. He previously had gold status on American, but cut back flying on the carrier and didn’t get that status in 2018.
“At the time, American sent me an offer to preserve my gold status for $600, but to be honest, gold doesn’t really get you anything,” said Harteveldt.
But the platinum offer he received from American for travel through May 19, 2019, was more compelling, said Harteveldt. “I do still fly Delta primarily, but the schedules out of San Francisco have been cut for the winter and its fares have become noticeable more expensive than a year ago to the cities I travel to,” he said. “So I took American up on its offer.”
Image Source: AA.com
The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier offers four tiers of elite status:
- AAdvantage® Gold: free auto-requested upgrades, on flights 500 miles or less*; 24-hour upgrade window; 40% elite mileage bonus; free Main Cabin Extra Seats at check-in; free preferred seats*; and one free checked bag.
- AAdvantage® Platinum: free auto-requested upgrades, on flights 500 miles or less*; 48-hour upgrade window, 60% elite mileage bonus; free Main Cabin Extra and preferred seats*; and two free checked bags.
- AAdvantage® Platinum Pro: free auto-requested upgrades*; 72-hour upgrade window and 80% elite mileage bonus; free Main Cabin Extra and preferred seats*; and two free checked bags.
- AAdvantage® Executive Platinum: four one-way systemwide upgrades*; free auto-requested upgrades*; a 100-hour upgrade window; 120% elite mileage bonus; free Main Cabin Extra and preferred seats*; three free checked bags; and additional rewards starting at 150,000 EQMs.
*Benefit may not be available on all flights.
Qualify for American Airlines AAdvantage® elite status by flying the following:
Image Source: AA.com
Elite Qualifying Segments are earned on eligible purchased tickets for flights on American or partner airlines. Elite Qualifying Dollars are awarded based on ticket prices on American Airlines-marketed flight — the price includes base fare plus carrier-imposed fees, but not include government-imposed taxes and fees.
Delta Air Lines
In order to get Delta SkyMiles Medallion® status, you have start by checking your eligibility for its Medallion Status Match Challenge in three steps. You can determine if you’re eligible under the following criteria:
- You haven’t received a status match or free Medallion status in the past three years, unless that Medallion status was through your Million Miler Status.
- You currently have elite status with a qualifying airline that was earned through that airline’s published requirements.
- You can show both a valid, current elite credential and a statement showing your earned elite status.
Requests are typically reviewed within five business days, but can take up to two weeks.
If you meet these criteria, you can enroll in Delta’s Medallion Status Match Challenge. Once approved, you’ll be automatically enrolled and matched to silver, gold or platinum Medallion status — based on your current elite status with another airline — for three months.
In order to extend your Medallion status, you’ll need to earn, within three months, the required amount of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs). U.S.-based members must also earn the required Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs).
MQMs are on based on distance flown and your fare class. Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) are based on the number of flights you take. And Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) are based on your annual spending on flights on Delta and its partners.
Below is a chart to see what Medallion Tier you qualify for.
MQMs / MQSs / MQDs needed to extend status past 3 months
Image Source: Delta.com
Atlanta’s hometown airline offers four levels of SkyMiles Medallion status:
- Silver Medallion: Unlimited free upgrades, priority check-in and boarding, a free checked bag, priority waitlist, SkyTeam elite status and customer service phone line priority.
- Gold Medallion: Unlimited free upgrades; a free checked bag for you and up to eight travel companions; waived same-day confirmed and stand-by fees; a dedicated check-in area at the airport; exclusive security lines at select airports; early boarding; expedited baggage service; waived same-day change fees; priority waitlist; SkyTeam elite plus status; and a dedicated customer service phone line.
- Platinum Medallion: Unlimited free upgrades; waived award ticket change fees; your pick of one Choice Benefit (including four regional upgrade certificates, a gift silver Medallion status for a friend or family member, 20,000 bonus miles, a $200 Delta travel voucher or a $200 Tiffany & Co. gift card); a free checked bag for you and up to eight travel companions; waived same-day change fees; priority waitlist; SkyTeam elite plus status; and a dedicated customer service phone line.
- Diamond Medallion: Free upgrade priority; highest priority boarding; free CLEAR® trusted traveler membership; your pick of three Choice Benefits (including global and regional upgrade certificates, a gift gold Medallion status to a friend or family member, 25,000 bonus miles, a $200 Delta travel voucher or a $200 Tiffany & Co. gift card); priority check-in and security line access; expedited baggage service; a free checked bag for you and up to eight travel companions; waived change fees for award travel; waived same-day change fees; priority waitlist; SkyTeam elite plus status; and a dedicated customer service phone line.
Image Source: Delta.com
All statuses allow SkyMiles members who earn MQMs above their tier qualification to roll them over to the next qualification year.
JetBlue occasionally offers Mosaic status matching opportunities, but doesn’t currently have any program at the moment, said spokeswoman Amy Wang via email. In its last Mosaic Status Match between July 14 and Aug. 14, 2017, travelers could submit proof of membership in a qualifying loyalty program and their status in it. Once they were accepted into JetBlue’s TrueBlue loyalty program, they had 90 days to earn 3,750 base flight TrueBlue loyalty program points.
Normally TrueBlue members must fly 30 JetBlue flight segments plus earn 12,000 base flight points, or earn 15,000 base flight points within a calendar year. If they successfully completed the status match, they qualified for Mosaic status through Dec. 31, 2018.
You start the status match by enrolling in the airline’s Rapid Rewards® loyalty program. Then email Southwest with proof of current elite status with a U.S. domestic airline, your name and Rapid Rewards account number. Once it’s verified, you’ll have A-List status for 90 days.
A-List status comes with priority boarding; Fly By® priority check-in and security lane access where available; a dedicated customer service phone line; free same-day standby on flights; and a 25% points bonus for every flight. If you fly three round-trip or six one-way flights within 90 days, Southwest will extend your A-List status for another 12 months. It will take up to 15 business days after qualifying for the extended A-List status to receive your A-List card.
This deal is only available to those who haven’t received promotional A-List status in any other promotion or participated in any other status match promotion in the last 12 months.
The carrier’s Premier® Status Match Challenge promotion offers the top-tier flyers of other airlines a comparable status in its MileagePlus program for requests received between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2019.
To be considered for Premier status, you must complete MileagePlus Premier Status Match Challenge form. Required information includes your MileagePlus account number (join if you’re not already a member); name, mailing address and email address; a copy of your most recent mileage summary or 2019 membership card for the frequent flyer program you are matching from with your current elite status and status expiration date. It takes between seven and 14 days for a response.
If you’re accepted, your account will be upgraded for 90 days to either Premier silver, Premier gold or Premier platinum status, based on the level you hold in your current frequent flyer program (see chart below).
Image Source: United.com
To keep your matched Premier status for the rest of 2019, you’ll need to earn Premier qualifying miles (PQM) (based on the number of paid flight miles you travel and the fare you paid) or Premier qualifying segments (PQS) (based on the number of paid segments you fly each year) on flights operated by United or United Express® within the 90-day offer period. The number of PQM or PQS you must earn depends on the Premier status level you are matched to in MileagePlus, outlined in the chart below.
Image Source: United.com
The Premier Status Match Challenge isn’t valid for those who have participated in a MileagePlus status match program within the last five years. You won’t receive Premier credentials during the challenge’s 90-day period, and you’ll need to provide your account number when making reservations or at check-in in order to get your Premier benefits.
Once you earn Premier status through the challenge, your account will be updated between five to seven business days. Your Premier membership materials will arrive within four to six weeks, and earned 2019 Premier status is valid through January 2020.
The four levels of Premier MileagePlus status come with some of the following perks:
- Premier Silver: Free upgrades for member and a companion to Economy Plus when available; priority check-in, security screening and baggage handling; priority boarding for you and up to eight travel companions; free premier upgrades for you and a travel companion when available; one free checked bag in economy and up to three in business/first class; access to most sold-out flights; and reduced or waived close-in award booking, redeposit and award change fees.
- Premier Gold: All of the above, plus lounge access when traveling internationally; two free checked bags in economy class; and discounted or waived same-day flight changes.
- Premier Platinum: All of the above, plus free upgrades for member and up to eight companions to Economy Plus when available; three free checked bags in economy class; discount on United Club membership; and discounted or waived phone service charge;
- Premier 1K: All of the above, plus eligibility for global Premier upgrades and a dedicated 1K phone line.
Image Source: United.com
The bottom line
If you’re willing to go through the application process, you could get temporary elite status on a competing airline. But the clock is ticking, because once you get that status, you need to take to the skies to earn the miles needed to keep it. Questions to ask include: does your new airline serve all the cities you need to visit; what benefits do you receive with your new elite status; and is there a credit card that helps you earn elite status?
So think carefully before going through the status match process, since most airlines limit the number of times you can make a jump. There are times where it may be more advantageous to accumulate miles and status on more than one airline if you live in a city that offers service on multiple carriers. So you may want to consider that option as an alternative to a full switch.