Star Alliance status match for Qantas, Virgin Australia

This status match is your shortcut to as many as 18 months of top-tier frequent flyer perks.

By Matt Lennon, March 23 2022
Star Alliance status match for Qantas, Virgin Australia

Frequent flyers with Qantas, Virgin Australia and dozens of other airlines – including Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Qatar Airways – can now fast-track their way to status across the global Star Alliance network, thanks to the United Airlines 2022 MileagePlus Premier Status Match Challenge now underway.

The limited-time opportunity begins with an appetising taste of United’s MileagePlus Premier Silver, Premier Gold and Premier Platinum status, but play your cards right and you can lock away as many as 18 months’ worth of Gold-plated perks across all Star Alliance carriers.

That’s an impressive roster which lists Air New Zealand, Air Canada, ANA, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss and many more.

The status drive coincides with the launch of United’s partnership with Virgin Australia, which takes off in April.

Holding Silver, Gold or Platinum membership in the Qantas or Velocity frequent flyer schemes – or the equivalent in the loyalty programs of any other contender – is all it takes to unlock an immediate 120 days of benefits such as priority check-in and boarding and a boosted baggage allowance, when travelling on any United or United Express flight.

And if you time your travels just right, it's possible to stretch your Star Alliance Gold status all the way through to January 2024.

Ready to pounce on those perks? Here's the drill.

How United’s 2022 Status Match Challenge works

As the name implies, there are two components to this:

  • the status match gives you an instant 120 days of status with United Airlines
  • the status challenge is an incentivised program to help you keep that status across not United but all Star Alliance member airlines until the end of January 2024

Here's how they work together.

You’ll begin with a status match. At United’s discretion – and depending on your status with Qantas, Virgin Australia or a number of other airline loyalty programs – you’ll be granted 120 days at its MileagePlus Premier Silver, Premier Gold or Premier Platinum frequent flyer tier.

Those 120 days are your window for completing the status challenge, during which you can potentially lock in the bestowed status to the end of January 2024 by taking a certain number of United Airlines flights (PQF) and earning a predetermined number of qualifying points (PQP).

Once you fulfill that challenge, your United Airlines status will extend across all Star Alliance airlines and include access to airport lounges, priority service and so much more.

United's MileagePlus Premier Gold status opens the door at hundreds of Star Alliance airline lounges around the world.
United's MileagePlus Premier Gold status opens the door at hundreds of Star Alliance airline lounges around the world.

Qualifying for the United Airlines status match

United Airlines has thrown its net wide to encompass a range of frequent flyer programs for the status match.

Headliners on the local front are Qantas Silver, Gold, Platinum and Platinum One; and Virgin Australia Velocity Silver, Gold and Platinum.

How do those line up against United’s MileagePlus tiers? It's pretty straightforward:

  • Qantas and Virgin Australia Silver = United MileagePlus Premier Silver
  • Qantas and Virgin Australia Gold = United MileagePlus Premier Gold
  • Qantas and Virgin Australia Platinum = United MileagePlus Premier Platinum

Also on the list are the following cards from overseas-based airlines that currently or will soon resume flying to Australia:

  • American Airlines (AAdvantage Platinum, Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey)
  • British Airways (Executive Club Silver, Gold, Premier)
  • Cathay Pacific (Marco Polo Club Gold, Diamond)
  • China Eastern (Eastern Miles Gold)
  • China Southern (Sky Pearl Gold)
  • Delta Air Lines (Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion)
  • Emirates (Skywards Gold, Platinum)
  • Etihad (Guest Gold, Platinum)
  • Hawaiian Airlines (Pualani Gold, Platinum)
  • Japan Airlines (Sapphire, Diamond, JGC Premier)
  • Korean Air (Morning Calm Premium)
  • LATAM (Platinum, Black, Black Signature)
  • Malaysia Airlines (Enrich Gold, Platinum)
  • Qatar Airways (Privilege Club Gold, Platinum)

Other carriers on the roster includes Air France, Alaska Airlines, Finnair and Virgin Atlantic; of course, United won't offer a status match to another Star Alliance airline such as Singapore Airlines or Air New Zealand.

And no, you won't lose your existing frequent flyer status in any airline by participating in the United Airlines status match program, so there's no harm in signing up if you have some United flights planned.

Also note that if you've taken advantage of a different United status match challenge in the past five years – even if that matched status has since expired – you won't be eligible to sign up this time around. But if your application was not accepted in previous attempts, you can certainly try again.

Signing up for the United Airlines status match

Got your shiny non-United frequent flyer card at the ready?

If you’re already a member of United’s MileagePlus scheme, get things moving by visiting this promotion page on the United Airlines website and logging into your account.

If you’re not already a MileagePlus member, you’ll first need to sign up (it’s fast and free) and then return to the promo page to register for the challenge.

This is where you’ll provide details of your current Gold or Platinum frequent flyer status, and proof of that status – either by attaching a photograph, scan or screenshot of your current membership card, or a copy of the most recent mileage summary from your airline which shows your status.

The final step asks you to nominate a start date for the 120-day status match – which must be no later than 30 June 2022 – and this also sets the clock ticking on the period of flying needed to meet the status challenge.

Once submitted, you’ll get an email confirmation promising a response within 7 to 14 business days.

Expert tip: Choose your start date wisely

If you’re serious about taking advantage of the challenge to pocket Star Alliance Gold or Platinum status beyond 120 days, it's important to make the right choice on your challenge start date.

If you have a lot of United flights coming up soon and manage to complete your challenge – that is, you take the last flight needed to hold onto your new status – on or before 30 June 2022, your Star Alliance Gold membership will be extended until 31 January 2023.

But, if you complete your challenge on or after 1 July 2022, that same status will be yours all the way through to 31 January 2024 – that’s an extra year of ‘priority everything'.

Plan ahead with your United status challenge, and you can rest easy...
Plan ahead with your United status challenge, and you can rest easy...

For this reason, savvy flyers might choose to delay their status challenge application until May or even June when taking eligible flights in July or beyond, to make the most of this deal.

It’s important to note that this 120-day status match and challenge period does not include reciprocal Star Alliance benefits, such as access to lounges of other airlines in this group.

Of course, if you hold relevant status with a Star Alliance airline but are applying for United’s status match using status from another carrier, your lounge access rights will be unaffected.

How United’s MileagePlus status perks stack up

As a reasonable entry level for your trans-Pacific journeys, United MileagePlus Premier Silver will get you on the plane during Group 2 boarding, early access to available Economy Plus seating and seven times the U.S. dollar value of your fare in extra miles to fatten up your MileagePlus balance.

United MileagePlus Premier Gold adds priority first-group boarding, up to three extra checked bags, complimentary Gold Elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and more.

But if you’re aiming for the top rung of the ladder, United MileagePlus Premier Platinum delivers discounted membership to United Club lounges, 40 'PlusPoints' which can be used for upgrades on future flights, better award seat availability and free Avis President's Club Elite status for your next car rental.

And while United Premier Gold and Premier Platinum offer different perks when flying with United Airlines, both are equivalent to Star Alliance Gold.

How to keep your new United Airlines Gold or Platinum status

As soon as you've been bumped up to United’s MileagePlus Premier Silver, Gold or Platinum status, that 120-day status challenge countdown clock starts ticking.

If you don’t meet the requirements of this challenge, you’ll drop to your previous status with United.

To stay among the high-flyers you’ll need to earn the necessary amount of what United calls 'Premier qualifying flights' (PQFs) and 'Premier qualifying points' (PQPs). Think of these as United’s version of status credits that you'd be familiar with on Qantas and Virgin Australia.

PQFs are earned per eligible flight, while PQPs are tied to the cash value of your fare (1 PQP per US$1) rather than the distance and class of travel specifically: they're both available on flights operated by United Airlines or its regional US offshoot United Express.

Here are United’s 2022 status challenge requirements:

United Premier Status Challenge requirements within 90 days
Premier Silver Fly 4 PQFs and earn 1,000 PQPs on flights operated by United or United Express
Premier Gold Fly 6 PQFs and earn 2,000 PQPs on flights operated by United or United Express
Premier Platinum Fly 10 PQFs and earn 3,000 PQPs on flights operated by United or United Express

For clarity, here are those specific PQP amounts in dollars spent on flights (before taxes and surcharges):

  • 1,000 PQPs is US$1,000 (A$1,351)
  • 2,000 PQPs is US$2,000 (A$2,705)
  • 3,000 PQPs is US$3,000 (A$4,056)

Not that flights taken with other Star Alliance partner airlines don’t contribute to your challenge.

Set your target: earning United PQFs and PQPs

Some years back, United raised its status challenge bar, setting a minimum number of flights to complete a status challenge as opposed to simply earning points.

It’s now no longer possible to meet the Premier Silver, Premier Gold or Premier Platinum challenges with a single return business class trip from Australia. You’ll need to take at least four and up to ten individual flights with United.

For example, one return Sydney to New York JFK in economy class will comprise four PQFs and earn you 753 PQPs, so you’ll meet the PQF criteria but fall short of the PQP levels needed to complete a Premier Silver status challenge.

However, a Sydney-New York business class return flight with United will also net you 4 PQFs but you’ll earn just over 5,000 PQPs.

It takes as little as four United flights to lock in your new status.
It takes as little as four United flights to lock in your new status.

While that will easily satisfy the PQPs requirement for Premier Gold or Platinum, it's short on the PQFs tally: you’ll still need two more PQFs for Premier Gold or six more PQFs for Premier Platinum.

That’s where extra domestic flights with United or United Express can come in handy, as you’ll eventually earn the required PQFs to meet the challenge criteria.

Of course, if work sees you jetting between Sydney and New York return twice in 90 days, then you'd easily meet the Premier Gold threshold without any problems or be just two PQFs short for Premier Platinum.

The United website will show you how many PQFs and PQPs you can earn for each flight and for the fare you've selected. Bear in mind that award travel (booked with miles) and Basic Economy fares don’t count to the challenge.

Meet your target and your United MileagePlus Premier 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.

United’s status match catch

There is one caveat in all this. As noted earlier, United chooses your MileagePlus Premier status based on the status you hold with a competing airline.

If you hold Platinum or Platinum One status with Qantas, for example, United will set you up with MileagePlus Premier Platinum – which means you’ll need to collect more PQPs and PQFs than if you were status-matched to MileagePlus Premier Gold.

If you don’t earn that full Platinum-qualifying serve of PQPs and PQFs (10 flights and 3,000 points) you won't automatically drop back to Premier Gold: you could land at a lower tier or bottom out completely, at United’s discretion.

One way around this is to not shoot for the highest status match. If you have Platinum with one airline and Gold with another, consider applying for United’s status match using your Gold card. If you hold Qantas Platinum as your yearly status but have also reached Lifetime Gold, use your Lifetime Gold to apply for the status match.

Inversely, you can't earn a United Premier status level higher than what you've been matched to through the challenge, except for meeting the normal published thresholds.

For example, someone matched to United Premier Gold who flies 11 PQFs and earns 3,500 PQPs – technically enough for Premier Platinum – will still only earn full Premier Gold status at the end of the challenge period.

However, once your challenge is over and you are granted another year or more at the status level achieved, you will certainly graduate to the next tier up if you reach the published threshold for that level beyond your 120 day challenge period.

Additional reporting by Brandon Loo


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