Can You Status-Match at the Top Tier in Airline Programs?

Sep 27, 2017

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On Tuesday, Delta announced that the amount of American Express co-branded card spend required to waive the Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) threshold for Diamond status would be raised ten-fold from $25,000 to $250,000. This had a lot of readers emailing us and commenting on social media that it was time to shift their loyalty, hopefully via a status match. The concern, therefore, is finding out if it’s even possible to match Delta Diamond, or other top-tier status, and receive the equivalent status at another airline. Today, I’ll present the options and possibilities for matching at the top-tier levels.

Straight Match

Status matches are certainly a possibility across many airline loyalty programs, but rarely have I seen or found a program that will give you the top tier in a program from simply submitting a screenshot of your account or membership card. Airlines have rightfully so become protective of their top-tier membership and want to ensure that their most loyal (i.e., biggest-spending) clients are the ones who enjoy the benefits. Take a look at Emirates’ own words to me when I requested a top-tier match based on my American Executive Platinum status:

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JetBlue and Alaska Airlines have been the notable exceptions to this policy. Twice in the last year JetBlue gave me Mosaic status to enjoy for short periods of time. In 2016 I politely asked via Twitter if I could have the status and sent a screenshot of my AA Executive Platinum status; to my amazement the response was yes, and I was instantly upgraded. This year, JetBlue had a Mosaic challenge requiring 3,750 base points earned in 90 days in order to keep the status through 2018. You do get to enjoy Mosaic status during the challenge.

Alaska also routinely gives matches to MVP Gold 75K status if you email a screenshot of your competing account to Earlier this year, I also confirmed Hawaiian Airlines would give a straight match to its top-tier Pualani Platinum status to those who have top-tier status with another US airlines.

Unpublished Challenges for Top-Tier Status

Because a straight status match from top tier to top tier is unlikely, your next best option is to hope for an unwritten challenge to an airline’s top-tier status. Delta, United and American (you must call 1-800-882-8880 and request the challenge for AA) all have published challenge criteria, but they don’t state that challenging to top tier is possible. In order to complete a status challenge, you typically have 90 days to fly and spend a certain amount in order to retain that status. Most of the programs offering challenges allow you to enjoy the status during the 90-day trial period (American often makes you pay for the privilege).

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United status challenge requirements.

Over the last few years, I’ve heard a few stories of frequent flyers with top-tier competing status submitting for a United Premier Platinum challenge and being given an unwritten Premier 1K challenge. This summer, Live and Let’s Fly confirmed the possibility when he was given Premier 1K status after submitting his American Executive Platinum statement. In order to maintain Premier 1K until January 31, 2019, he had 90 days to earn 35,000 Premier Qualifying Miles. If you have a frequent flyer account showing sizable spend and elite-qualifying dollars, it’s probably worth submitting your credentials and requesting a challenge to the top-tier level.

Corporate Matches

If you work for a large company that has millions of dollars in the travel budget, make sure you reach out to your corporate travel agent and see if any agreements for status have been negotiated. Earlier this year someone forwarded me a registration form for Deloitte that had the option to skip a Delta challenge and be matched for a one-year period straight away by showing a competitor’s status:

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While this particular form doesn’t offer Delta Diamond, I’ve seen forms like this in the past that do offer a match or challenge to top-tier status. Your email domain must match that of the qualifying employer in order to gain the status match.

American Airlines AirPass

If you spend a sizable amount on commercial flights each year, look at instantly qualifying for American Executive Platinum or even Concierge Key status by funding an American AirPass account. If you want to keep life simple and don’t want to worry about tracking your elite status progress or what fare class you’re booked in, this program is probably for you. The following chart shows your status level earned based on your prepaid Airpass account contribution:

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It’s not listed above, but if you fund an AirPass account with $50,000 you’ll earn Concierge Key status. That said, remember you only need $15,000 in MQDs for Delta Diamond, so if you’re upset about not being able to meet that or the new $250,000 waiver for co-branded card spend, AirPass probably is not a viable solution for you.

Bottom Line

Status-matching to a top tier amongst legacy carriers is tough, but you do have some shortcut options. If your home airport is served by Alaska or JetBlue — two of my favorite domestic airlines and flying experiences — consider a straight match to MVP Gold 75K or Mosaic status. If you don’t work for a large company or you can’t find any such corporate agreements for a match, your last resort is to show the legacy carriers significant spend and elite-qualifying miles in the hopes of receiving an unwritten challenge.

Remember to not let airline status dictate all your travel and booking decisions. It could very well be the best option to fly the cheaper fare or get home early, rather than hope for a high spot on the upgrade list and a few more inches of legroom.

Have you even been able to status match at the top tier? 

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