If you’re a frequent flyer who always flies coach, you’re probably sick of being crammed into a coach seat, having a minimal choice of food, and getting the basic airline treatment. In this Forbes article, Jordan Bishop, the founder of Yore Oyster, How I Traveled, and STORIED, shares his take on how to climb to the top of the airline food chain:
“Status matches might just be the best-kept secret of frequent flyers, given that elite airline status, in a lot of ways, has become the holy grail. When you have it, the airport experience can be a dream, yet when you don’t, it can be downright horrific.
So the question becomes, how can you fast-track your way to elite status with as many airlines as possible? Many of our clients at Yore Oyster are frequent-traveling corporate executives, and they pose this question to us all the time. Our method of choice? The seldom-discussed process known as the status match.
A status match is just what it sounds like: you take your existing elite status with Airline A and match it to an equivalent elite status with Airline B. Why would Airline B want to give you elite status when you haven’t earned it? It comes down to the fundamental logic behind elite statuses: they harbor loyalty. In Airline B’s mind, if you can prove that you’ve been loyal enough to Airline A to gain an elite status with them, you seem like a customer they’d like to have. The status match is their way of bumping you up into a top-tier status in order to win over your business.
Here’s an extremely simple two-step method for making status matches work for you.
Step One: Earn Your First Elite Status
There’s no way around this: you need to earn one elite status to begin with so that you can match subsequent programs to it. Credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred for Americans or the American Express Platinum for Canadians will get you the basics of elite status—the premium lounge access—but normally won’t get you the full monty. Another alternative is flying around the world a few times to accumulate enough flown miles to meet a program’s entry requirements, but that’s both time-consuming and expensive. Instead, I recommend completing a challenge like the United Airlines MileagePlus Premier Status Match Challenge or the Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status Match Challenge.
These challenges work very simply: rather than earning elite status by flying a large number of miles over the course of a year, you can fly a smaller number of miles over the course of 90 days. For example, the American Airlines Platinum Challenge requires you to fly 12,000 miles within 90 days to be granted Platinum status. While 12,000 miles may sound like a lot, a single roundtrip from continental USA or Canada to an Asian destination like Hong Kong is more than enough. My recommendation: begin the challenge process by contacting the airline before your next intercontinental trip, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to jump straight into Platinum status.
Step Two: Match Your Elite Status To Other Airlines
Now that you’ve got your first elite status, you’re off to the races. At this point, it’s important to remember that most of the world’s major airlines are organized into three main alliances. This is extremely helpful from an elite status standpoint, since having elite status with a single airline in each of the three alliances has largely the same effect as having elite status with all of the airlines. You’ll receive lounge access, priority boarding, improved baggage limits and more, just as you would if you were an esteemed member of the airline itself. Conveniently, each of American, Delta and United are in separate alliances, which means that regardless of which of the three you choose for your status challenge in Step One, you’ll only need to match your status with two more airlines in the two other alliances.
We’re going to use the website StatusMatcher.com to find the most direct ways of gaining status. StatusMatcher’s Airlines page reports user-generated statistics on how frequently an airline matches a status request, and also gives instructions for how you can do it. For example, looking at Turkish Airlines you can see that requesting a status match is as simple as signing up for their program and filling out an online form (including screenshots or photographic proof of your current elite status will speed up the process).
Historically, the easiest airlines to match into each of the three major alliances are Air Berlin and Japan Airlines for oneworld, Turkish Airlines and Copa Airlines for Star Alliance, and Alitalia for SkyTeam. I personally used my British Airways status to match into both Turkish Airlines and Alitalia, giving me the trifecta of platinum-equivalent elite status in each of the big three alliances. I’d never flown with either of Turkish Airlines or Alitalia before, but my status with British Airways was enough for them to shell out elite status of their own to me, too.
Once you’ve submitted your requests to airlines in the two alliances that you don’t already have status with, you’ll have to wait. In my case, it only took a couple of days before I received both status matches, but other travelers have reported wait times of weeks or even months. To be safe, don’t delay requesting your status match—give yourself at least a month of leeway to ensure you get it before you fly.
You can use status matching to gain elite status with just about every airline in the world, though doing it is neither easy nor practical. Instead, focus on gaining one elite status within each of the three big alliances. The benefits you derive are nearly the same, and it can all be done within the confines of a couple of emails.”