Fly higher: how to get an airline status match

By David Flynn, December 17 2018

This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel.

So you've flown those many tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of miles and earned Gold, Platinum or some other shiny badge of elite status with the frequent flyer scheme of your favourite airline. Well done.

But how do you parlay that piece of plastic into status with another airline, especially a competing carrier? The answer is a status match or status challenge. Here's what you need to know.

Why airlines offer a status match

Many airlines rely on a status match (or status challenge – we'll get into the difference below) to provide high-value travellers with a shortcut to status its their own loyalty program.

Let's say that you hold Qantas Gold status. This entitles you to prized perks such as lounge access, checking in for your flight at the business class counter, and having priority boarding and priority luggage handling. In short,  even when you fly premium economy or economy you'll enjoy many of the benefits of business class.

That Gold status helps keep you flying with Qantas or at the very least its Oneworld partner airlines, as those same perks apply right across the Oneworld alliance.

So if a competitor to Qantas wants a shot at winning your business – and as a Gold-grade flyer, you'd be a good customer to land – it's in their best interest to let you sample their flights without having to forego those perks to which you've become accustomed.

That's when a status match kicks into gear: by dint of having Qantas Gold status, the airline will tempt you across with the equivalent status in its own frequent flyer plan.

For many travellers, a status match can also act as a kind of 'insurance policy' for when they're not flying with their regular airline or one of its alliance partners.

If you're jetting to and around Asia, for example, your Qantas status is useful only if you're flying with Qantas or fellow Oneworld member Cathay Pacific – but a status match for an airline which is part of the Star Alliance or SkyTeam families will cover you for trips on a dozen other airlines.

A status match can also be sparked by changes in the competitive landscape.

Virgin Australia ran a very popular status match against Qantas in September 2011 to capitalise on ongoing disruptions to Qantas flights due to union disputes as well as to promote its then-new Velocity Platinum tier.

United Airlines rolled out a selective status-match against Qantas to key staff at the Sydney offices of many technology companies when Qantas suspended Sydney-San Francisco flights in early 2011 as a way to encourage those regular Bay City travellers to use United's direct Sydney-San Fran service rather than fly with Qantas to LAX and then take a second connecting flight to San Francisco.

Who is eligible for a status match?

A status match is typically reserved for a top-tier frequent flyer – someone at levels approximating Gold or Platinum, in the parlance of many frequent flyer schemes – because their status is proof that they do a lot of travel, and quite likely in the premium cabins of business class or even first class.

This makes then far more valuable to airlines than travellers who sit lower down the food chain with the likes of Silver, Blue or Green status.

That said, some airlines will offer a status match to almost any grade of frequent flyer, and sometimes even the lowest status tiers still come with useful privileges such as priority check-in and boarding.

In many instances you'll need to provide a copy of a recent activity statement with your current frequent flyer scheme to show that you are a frequent flyer, and ideally do so at the pointy end of the plane.

Some airlines dangling shiny status match in your face may also want to see that you've already booked travel with them in the near future.

Status match vs status challenge

A status match is a very straightforward affair: your Gold or Platinum status with one airline will entitle you to a year of equivalent status with another airline. Show your shiny card from Airline A and receive an equally shiny card from Airline B – that's all there is to it.

That new status won't always be Gold or Platinum, of course, because not all airlines use the same branding.

Some set Silver and Gold as their two top tiers; others Gold and Diamond; still others might add Elite or Plus as a status suffix. All that counts is that you get the same set of benefits as in your original status, the one which you're matching against.

Also, not every status match works on a like-for-like basis – some airlines will take a more cautious approach and match you one rung down in their own frequent flyer scheme, as long as that lower level still delivers the basics of lounge access (although this might mean business class lounges rather than first class lounges), priority check-in and so on.

A status challenge is more rigourous than an outright status match, and is becoming more popular with airlines because it requires that you earn your status by flying with them.

Under the status challenge model, you'll typically be given only 90 days of status equivalent to your status with a competing airline. That's to get you started with those creature comforts of lounge access and the like.

You'll then need to earn a certain number of status credits (also known as tier miles or qualifying miles, depending on the airline) by flying with the airline within that 90 day period.

This is typically set at a much lower threshold than what a regular frequent flyer would need to reach, so it works like a fast-track to status.

Which airlines will offer you a status match?

Some airlines will widely promote a status match or status challenge, complete with online forms where you enter all your details plus a clear set of eligibility criteria and how you go about retaining that gratis status.

Two examples are United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

The United Airlines 2018 status challenge is open to a wide range of airlines including Qantas and Virgin Australia, and a single flight between Australia and the USA can be all it takes to get Gold status right across all Star Alliance airlines through to early 2020.

Read more: United's Star Alliance Gold status match for Qantas, Virgin Australia

Similarly, Delta Air Lines' SkyMiles Medallion status match challenge is open to Qantas frequent flyers – but not Virgin Australia, which is a Delta partner.

Successful 'challengers' can snare SkyMiles Gold, Platinum and Diamond SkyMiles status, which in turn equates to SkyTeam Elite Plus status across all SkyTeam Alliance member airlines, up to January 2020 by completing as little as one Delta or Virgin Australia flight to Los Angeles or even a Virgin Australia flight to Hong Kong.

Read more: Delta offers SkyTeam frequent flyer status match against Qantas

Other airlines prefer to keep their status match options under wraps and run them as invitation-only affair, extended to a high-value frequent flyer at the airline's discretion and on a case-by-case basis.

That's certainly the case with the Qantas Tier Accelerator and, to a lesser extent, Virgin Australia's Velocity Pilot Gold.

At Australian Business Traveller we hear many anecdotal reports of other airlines offering selective status matches or challenges – so if you're looking for an airline status match the simplest way is to approach that airline's frequent flyer program and ask.

How to ask for a status match 

First up, you'll want to make a persuasive case that as a frequent flyer you'd be a good catch.

This may be based not only on how often you travel and what your future travel plans are (if you can point to an emerging pattern of travel on that airline) but also if you make travel decisions for your company or clients.

Ring the airline's frequent flyer call centre and try to get a specific person or status match email address to send your request to. This makes follow-up easier than sending it to a generic email address.

If you get a "sorry, we don't do status matches" answer, try calling back later to catch a different operator – you may also get a different and more positive answer. (This is the "call centre bingo" approach, and it works for more than just status matching.)

It also helps to show that you're status-savvy by knowing that airline's equivalent tier to your current rating.

In your email, consider making the following points to underscore your prospective 'value':

  • how frequently do you travel – and how many high-tier loyalty cards do you have?
  • have you heard good things about the airline from colleagues?
  • has your company just won a contract taking you to this airline's hub airport and beyond?
  • what are your travel plans for the next year (and can you point them to an emerging pattern of travel on their own flights?)
  • do you make the travel decisions – and especially airline decisions – for your company or clients?

As a rule, you'll need to provide a scan of your card and a copy of your most recent account statement. Reiterate your usefulness and value to them as a customer when you send this in – it certainly can't hurt.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Lachlan72

Lachlan72

QF

24 Jan 2016

Total posts 27

Just wondering... with regards to the one flight to HKG required on Virgin to be status matched by Delta, would it apply to Hong Kong Airlines services with a VA flight number or does it have to be VA metal? It's possible to book VA flight numbers to HKG and return, but it's VA domestic to CNS and then HX from CNS-HKG. Yes, it's via CNS, however HX does offer a good J product, and the fare is about $800 cheaper than flying on VA's direct flights, so if this would possible it would be a good option for me.

Bob Burgess

Bob Burgess

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 184

Read the Delta status challenge article for more details but you would need to be on a VA flight and crediting your travel towards Delta SkyMiles as the nominated frequent flyer scheme. I don't believe you can do this on a Hong Kong Airlines flight.

Lachlan72

Lachlan72

QF

24 Jan 2016

Total posts 27

I'm not sure about that. I just checked Delta's mileage chart which says the following:


"Other Exclusions: Mileage earn is not eligible for the following VA-marketed flight ranges: VA3000-6399, VA7000-9499 and VA9560-9999"

The VA flight numbers operated by Hong Kong Airlines are in the "5000" range, so based on that I would say that these flight would have Delta mileage credit apply.

Lachlan72

Lachlan72

QF

24 Jan 2016

Total posts 27

Oops - my bad. 5000's included in the range above. So yes, Bob, you are correct. My error. Thanks for pointing it out.

Pallydou

Pallydou

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

02 Jul 2018

Total posts 35

I wonder whether "status match" works for Australians travelling overseas for business. With exception of Singapore and Thailand, there is at least one OneWord offer for most outward locations (from Australia). Emirates doesn't join any leagues unfortunately. You can easily built an OneWord RTP trip, but a bit hard for StarAlliance. (Forget SkyTeam)

morco

morco

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Dec 2011

Total posts 18

So with VA Gold, is there a chance to match with QF?

To whom should i write? Better to call?

samholmes

samholmes

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2014

Total posts 2

I just tried the UA links for status match as I am due to book a flight to the USA with them but seems to not be in existence any more

jch

jch

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Nov 2017

Total posts 52

Just google it, its still there, I did a status match with them this month.

MR1961

MR1961

17 Feb 2016

Total posts 24

Just wondering if there are status matches with Singapore Airlines ? As an American Express Platinum cardholder one of the benefits is Jade status with Shangri-la Hotel's Golden Circle program, and with that you can link to Singapore Airlines' Kris Flyer and obtain Silver status. Has anyone been successful in obtaining this with SQ ?

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2939

Hi MR1961, you can actually get KrisFlyer Gold (Star Alliance Gold) after just three Singapore Airlines flights using the method you describe: we've covered it in detail here. That's easily done in one return trip to Europe (which is four flights), or two return trips to Asia or New Zealand, such as on SQ's Melbourne-Wellington route.

MR1961

MR1961

17 Feb 2016

Total posts 24

Brilliant ! Thanks Chris for all your excellent articles - it is impossible to be across all the ins-and-outs of frequent flyer opportunities, and your published research is a great help to me. Now I'm off to book flights to Egypt with SQ !

jch

jch

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Nov 2017

Total posts 52

Can you book just the Sydney Canberra legs for the same effect? hehe

airADL

airADL

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Mar 2014

Total posts 205

Hi Chris

Great article hotel status match article would be great again in 2019 as we all start the slog again

airADL

airADL

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Mar 2014

Total posts 205

I am diamond golden circle and got gold sq for 3 months off memory but I dont fly SQ enough to maintain it unfortunately.

Sorry I didnt do via AMEX.

jared7825

jared7825

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Feb 2018

Total posts 6

Have called velocity three times about this and got no where.

QFF Platinum and fly every week, starting to use Virgin on some legs due to pricing so will just have to wait and build up the staus credits

UpUpAndAway

UpUpAndAway

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 288

I've found if you go higher up the ladder then just the call centre , maybe an email with proof they are happy to match. Someone on the management board for example or direct to the CEO.

jch

jch

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Nov 2017

Total posts 52

My Virgin Platinum was matched to United Premier Platinum in June 2018. Completed the status challenge this month. Anyone know how long United usually takes to post the physical card to Australia (they say 4-6 weeks)?

icarusol

icarusol

UA

30 Jun 2015

Total posts 12

Typically around 8 weeks.

Meanwhile, I'd suggest downloading the United app. It covers all the bases and UA will upload flight rebookings in the event of delays whilst you are enroute.

The only time I use the card is for scenarios like today - flying AC on a SQ ff number, but wanting the *A Gold privileges from my MP account.

Packetman21

Packetman21

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Jul 2016

Total posts 108

Just out of interest, sorry if this sounds like a stupid question but say if you had Virgin Australia offer a status match for Qantas Gold, would you lose Qantas Gold if you choose to take the status match or do you get both?

AsiaBizTraveller

AsiaBizTraveller

20 Nov 2015

Total posts 59

In your example you would keep your Qantas Gold status. Status matches never come at the expense of your current status, so you end up holding status with two airlines. That's why a lot of people do a status match, to hedge their bets.

Packetman21

Packetman21

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Jul 2016

Total posts 108

Thank you heaps, that makes sense.

ernzos

ernzos

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

31 Aug 2017

Total posts 2

I am an Air NZ Gold/Star Alliance status member but I also reside in Guangzhou, China hence I have to use China Southern frequently - Sky Team, and fly them 1 - 2 times per month on Asia regional plus domestic but for me to use my Star Alliance Gold Status for Sky Team equivalent, is this possible ? I have been Air NZ Gold for quite a few years. Thanks for your suggestions.

AsiaBizTraveller

AsiaBizTraveller

20 Nov 2015

Total posts 59

Yes, there is a SkyTeam status match available through Delta so you could use your Star Alliance status to qualify for that. AusBT has detailed this Delta SkyTeam status match here https://www.executivetraveller.com/delta-offers-skyteam-frequent-flyer-status-match-against-qantas

ernzos

ernzos

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

31 Aug 2017

Total posts 2

Thanks so much, AsiaBiz Traveller.

MELHughes

MELHughes

10 Sep 2019

Total posts 1

I am Air New Zealand Gold and Qantas Platinum.

Asked Emirates Skywards to status upgrade me from blue to silver (one level) based on Air New Zealand Gold as I have two business class return (Australia-Europe) fares booked and wanted to get the 25% points uplift on the first two flights.

Emirates originally asked for proof of Air New Zealand status to review (which I have given them) - now have refused to review and told me I need to fly one business class return flight or two economy return flights with them for them to review my status. As the first return gets to me silver and the second return flight to Gold basically told me to go away.

It is a matter of principal now - I would cancel the flights and fly Qatar Airways (my normal international airline) but I am sure the cancellation costs will make my eyes water.

Anyone got the email for the Vice President Customer Operations as I am getting bored with the customer service centre telling me that they don't status match without flights o alternately a hot tip on how to get some service out of the Customer Service Centre rather than a NO. Thank goodness their service in the air is not the same as their ground service.


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