Yes, you read that right: here's a status match promotion that can land you Star Alliance Gold frequent flyer status with just one flight.
That shiny Star Alliance Gold card is your key to primo perks like airport lounge access, priority treatment and extra baggage allowance with the likes of Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, United, ANA, Lufthansa, Swiss and many more.
What's more, that card and those perks can be yours through to January 2018: that's almost 18 months of VIP treatment, even when you're flying economy class.
Star Alliance Gold challenge: how it works
The key to this is a nifty new 'status challenge' promotion offered by Star Alliance member United Airlines.
It plays out in two parts.
Firstly, you apply to have your current Platinum or Gold status with the likes of Qantas or Virgin Australia matched to the same level of United's MileagePlus frequent flyer program: that's United Premier Gold for Qantas and Velocity Gold, and United Premier Platinum for Qantas and Velocity Platinum.
Both of those United tiers are equivalent to Star Alliance Gold, which in turn lines up against the top rankings of other Star Alliance members.
If your application is accepted you'll get an instant upgrade to United Premier Gold or Platinum that's valid for 90 days, no flying required!
(This alone could prove timely if you've got travel with any Star Alliance airlines coming up in the next few months.)
Most travellers will want to keep their Gold card even longer, of course, and that's the second part of this 'challenge': you need only to complete a certain number of United Airlines flights within that 90 day window to qualify for up to 18 months of gratis status.
Star Alliance Gold challenge: what you’ll need
You have to be a Gold-grade or Platinum-grade frequent flyer with any airline that's not part of the Star Alliance family.
For instance, Gold and Platinum flyers with Qantas and Virgin Australia can apply – as can top-tier travellers with British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, Emirates and some 40 other airlines... it's a fairly long and generous eligibility list!
However, if you’ve previously taken up a MileagePlus or OnePass status match offer in the last five years, even if that matched status has since expired, you’re not able to sign up this time around.
Star Alliance Gold challenge: registration
Head to this promotional page on the United Airlines website and login to your MileagePlus frequent flyer account.
If you’re not already a MileagePlus member, sign up – it's free – and then return to the promo page.
Then just confirm your email address, postal address and mobile number, enter the details of your current Gold or Platinum frequent flyer status with another airline and offer proof of that status, such as by a photo of your current membership card which shows a clear expiry date.
You can also select a preferred start date for your 90-day 'instant Gold status' period, but choose wisely.
If you take your qualifying flight/s on or before June 30 2016, your Star Alliance Gold status will be valid only through January 2017.
But if you take those flights on or after July 1 2016, your Gold-grade status will extend through to January 2018 – that's an extra year of elite goodness!
Star Alliance Gold challenge: set your targets
If your application is accepted and your 90 days as a United Premium Gold or Premium Platinum flyer begin, the 'status challenge' clock starts ticking.
Premier Gold members need to earn at least 12,500 of what United calls 'Premier-qualifying miles' (PQMs) on United Airlines flights within that 90 day period to keep their elite membership.
For Premier Platinum members the bar is set a little higher, at 18,000 PQMs.
Here's where this challenge is a perfect fit for Australian business travellers: the sheer length of United's flights from Sydney to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Melbourne to Los Angeles, puts both of those targets within easy reach – regardless of whether you fly in business class or economy.
A one-way business class flight or a return trip in economy on any of those Australia-US routes earns over 14,000 PQMs – enough to trigger Premier Gold, and thus Star Alliance Gold, through to January 2018 if you fly on or after July 1 2016.
Unfortunately, if you’re a Platinum flyer and matched to United Premier Platinum status you’ll need to meet the higher Platinum target of 18,000 PQMs – but just one return trip in business class or two return trips in economy gets you over the line.
Once you've met your target, your United Premier / Star Alliance Gold membership expiry date will be updated within five to seven business days and a proper United membership card will arrive at your doorstep shortly after.
(Note that United's Gold and Platinum-grade frequent flyers don't enjoy access to United Airlines lounges on domestic trips within the USA even though other Star Alliance Gold members get through the door... but if you followed AusBT's advice last November and snared a Star Alliance Gold card via Avianca Brazil, the lounge awaits.)
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