Here's a shortcut to getting VIP treatment with some of the world's largest airlines – including Qantas, American Airlines, Airberlin, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, South American's LAN and TAM airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways.
These airlines and a handful of others belong to the Oneworld airline alliance, and as a rule of thumb, the top-but-one tier of these airline's frequent flyer schemes – which often come with a Gold membership card – all belong to the Oneworld Sapphire category.
This means you can enjoy many of the perks of business class – including access to airport lounges, priority checkin and boarding and a better chance of an upgrade – even if you're flying in economy on any Oneworld member airline.
You'd usually need to fly tens of thousands of miles with an airline from the Oneworld family to get a Sapphire-grade card, but a 'status match' deal currently run by Oneworld member Airberlin will give you free Gold status in Airberlin's TopBonus frequent flyer scheme and equivalent Gold-lined perks across all other Oneworld airlines.
What you need
To get in on this status match deal you'll require a Gold- or Platinum-grade frequent flyer card with an airline outside the Oneworld family – the theory being that these members would already enjoy enjoy many of the same perks with Airberlin, so there's no need to status match them.
Nor does Virgin Australia's Velocity Gold or Platinum status qualify for the status match, for similar reasons given the airlines' mutual partnership – although some Etihad Guest Gold and Platinum members have found their cards accepted by Airberlin (part-owned by Etihad), and others not.
What's left? Plenty of popular frequent flyer programs and their elite tiers such as Emirates Skywards Gold or Platinum, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Elite Gold or PPS Club, GarudaMiles Gold or Platinum, United MileagePlus Premier Gold, Platinum and 1K, or indeed similar status levels in other non-Oneworld and non-Virgin programs.
What you get
How to get your free Oneworld Sapphire status
First up, join the Airberlin Topbonus scheme – it's free.
(Handy hint: Decline the ‘Topbonus Service Card’ offered during the sign-up process for €119/year. This isn’t required to join the scheme and only provides benefits when travelling with Airberlin – not its web of partners.)
Then send an email to [email protected] with your Topbonus number and a scan, photo or copy of your current Silver, Gold or Platinum frequent flyer card.
Airberlin is usually rather quick to reply, and if you meet the criteria, your new Oneworld Sapphire/Topbonus Gold card will be sent out via 'snail mail' – slip it into your passport wallet and you'll be ready for your next domestic or international flight.
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