What are hotel and airline status matches and how do you get one?
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with additional information.
You travel regularly for work and your travel policy allows you to choose a preferred airline/alliance or hotel chain/group. You have finally earned elite status in the programme of your choice, which makes all those work trips a little easier with things like upgrades, priority check-in, bonus points and welcome gifts. Then your employer suddenly changes its travel policy and all travel is now with an airline or hotel programme with which you have no status.
Or, you might have been loyal to a programme for years but you’ve become fed up with how they treat you as an elite member so you’re looking for a brand new programme to move your business to.
That elite status you worked so hard to carefully build up now seems useless.
All is not lost. Enter the world of status matches.
Status matches are where one programme will match your status from another programme to the equivalent level in their own programme. For example, a Oneworld airline might match a Star Alliance Gold status from a competing airline. Why would they do this? Because they want your loyalty and your business. And why would you do this as a traveller? Because it allows you to enjoy some of the perks you have earned in another programme immediately, without starting from scratch. It can be a “try before you buy”.
Not all programmes will even consider a status match. Many airlines and hotel programmes have done so in the past — randomly from time to time. They may either publicly advertise the offer, or they may agree to match a status if you contact them anyway. There are all sorts of reasons why they may launch a status match offer. For example, Virgin Atlantic commenced flights to Tel Aviv last year, a new route for the carrier, and it may consider matching the status of some El Al passengers to entice them away from El Al to try the new airline on the route.
There are two types of status matches. There is a straight match where the second programme will match your status from the first programme for a specified amount of time (often 12 months). You can use the benefits of the elite status for the period you are matched for and if you earn enough in the second programme during your matched period, you will retain it — just like a member who earned the status the classic way.
There are also status challenges, which are becoming more common and are unfortunately much more restrictive. A challenge is where the programme will match your status for a much shorter period of time (like 90 days) and challenge you to complete a certain number of requirements during that shorter time, like a minimum number of flights if it’s an airline, or a minimum number of nights stayed in the case of a hotel programme. If you meet the requirements of the challenge, you will retain your status for a longer period (like one year).
Now, there are some very important factors for you to remember in the world of status matches:
- Most programmes will only award you a status match once per lifetime, so you should only attempt it when it is most advantageous to use it.
- Some programmes may not consider a status match without detailed history from the first programme about how you obtained that status (like your programme statement for the past six months). They want to ensure you earned the first status legitimately and aren’t just on a matching spree.
- You may be required to have and provide evidence of an upcoming booking with that airline or hotel before they will approve the match.
- Most programmes won’t match to a status from the same alliance — i.e. a Oneworld airline may refuse to match another Oneworld status.
- Some programmes will not match to the same level in the competing programme. They may insist on only providing a level lower. For example, matches to Oneworld Emerald status are very rare regardless of how high your status is in another programme.
- Programmes have the right to refuse status matches without giving a reason (and they regularly do). They are not guaranteed even if you plan of moving a lot of business their way.
So how to go about applying for a status match? Some airlines like United have a dedicated page, but these are usually for airlines offering status challenges only, which are not a lucrative as full matches.
If there’s a programme you’ve had your eye on to match, you can search to see if they have a similar page. If so, that will have all the instructions on what you will need to provide and how.
If not, there’s a great resource called StatusMatcher.com which regularly lists the best options to match to based on members’ successes or failures in doing so. This site will tell you what programmes are currently offering (or accepting) status matches and how to apply. Each programme may require slightly different submissions, but generally they will need:
- Your membership number in their own programme (i.e. make sure you’re already signed up).
- A photo or scan of the elite status you would like to match clearly showing the programme, status level, your name and expiry date. Some programmes may require a minimum period to remain on your current status (i.e. six months) and are unlikely to match if your status is about to expire.
- They may also ask for a copy of your recent transactions in the programme and future bookings in their programme, as mentioned above.
Status matches and challenges are usually offered at no cost, beyond any personal travel costs incurred meeting the challenge or requalification flight requirements. Star Alliance member TAP Portugal’s Miles&Go programme currently offers a status match to elite members of popular programs like British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Plus and Air France/KLM Flying Blue (among others) where its challenge requirement simply requires paying an amount of money to purchase extra miles for the match to be approved. While paying for a lowly Star Alliance Silver status would rarely make sense given the minimal benefits, if you could secure Star Alliance Gold for 12 months through this match offer you could easily recoup the cost of the small outlay.
Status matches and challenges can take anywhere from a few hours to a few months for the programme to approve and process. If approved, you will usually be sent a welcome pack in the (physical) mail for your matched or challenged status with a membership card and details of the benefits you can enjoy. You don’t need to wait for the post to starting using the status, though — check your account online regularly after making a request and see if the status level has changed. Once it does, you can start using the benefits immediately.
Even if the programme you want to match to does not appear to be offering status matches but a significant change in your travel plans warrants requesting one, you can still plead your case. If, for example, you stay 80 nights a year in Marriott properties and a change in travel policy or employer or client suddenly means you have to switch to 80 nights in Hyatt properties instead, you may wish to explain this to the new programme and say that you plan on bringing a significant amount of your business to the programme but don’t want to start from scratch when you enjoyed so many benefits in your previous programme.
You can attempt this by explaining your situation and pleading your case by email (honestly!), or through an online feedback form. It’s not advisable to call up for a status match as the person you speak to might not know what you’re talking about.
(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
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