The Ultimate Guide to Airline Status Matches/Challenges

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What’s not to like about having elite status with an airline! Travel becomes less stressful when you can board the plane early, have priority seating, and be able to access dedicated service if things go wrong during your trip.

If you currently have an airline elite status, you’re familiar with these benefits and all the other perks that come with loyalty to a specific airline.  Chances are you’d also be disappointed if you had to give up all those perks if you switched airlines for any reason.

Fortunately for those who already have airline elite status (and even for some folks who don’t), you might not have to start over to secure elite status with a new airline — there’s a shortcut offered by many of them.

This shortcut is called a status match or status challenge, and airlines offer it to some frequent flyers in hopes that the traveler will continue flying with them.

In this guide to airline status matches/challenges, we’ll cover the following:

  • An overview of how status matches/challenges work
  • Why you’d want to status match, and who is eligible
  • Which airlines offer these matches/challenges
  • How and when to apply
  • How to complete status match/challenge requirements
  • Enhancing your new status
  • Everything else you need to know

Let’s get started learning all about status matches/challenges and how you can leverage your elite status to transition comfortably to a new airline.

What Is a Status Match/Challenge and How Does It Work?

A status match (or status challenge) is simply a shortcut opportunity to qualify for elite status with an airline you don’t currently have status on.

For example, you may have United Airlines MileagePlus Premier Gold status and plan to start flying Delta Air Lines. You might ask Delta to grant you their Gold Medallion status so you can try out Delta with the same benefits you’ve had with United.

Note that a status match does not result in your current elite status transferring to the new airline — you would continue to retain status with the current airline and get additional status with the new airline.

Airlines offer these elite status matches or challenges in order to gain the business of known frequent flyers. Each airline structures their offers differently and may or may not publish a formal request process.

We’ll cover some examples of airline status matches/challenges shortly, but first let’s look at the reasons you’d want to request a status match, the differences between a status match and a status challenge, and who is eligible.

Reasons You Would Want to Request a Status Match

If you currently have airline elite status, why would you want to ask another airline to grant you the same status? The reasons are many, and can include the following:

  • You’ve relocated to a different city that is not serviced sufficiently by your current airline
  • Your current airline has changed its elite program to include requirements you won’t be able to meet
  • Your current airline is not treating you as well as it once did
  • Your airline has gone out of business!
  • Your airline has merged with another airline, and you’re not happy with the changes
  • The new airline is now operating flights out of your home airport
  • You just want dual status!

Bottom Line: Fortunately, your reason for wanting to status match to a new airline can be quite simple: you want to try a new airline!

Delta status match form
Submitting a request for a status match with a new airline is a simple process. Image courtesy of Delta.com.

The Difference Between a Status Match and a Status Challenge

When you request a status match with a new airline, you may receive an instant match of elite status, a challenge that requires some additional action on your part, or a combination of the 2.

You may also receive a denial of your request.

Let’s take a look at the differences between a status match and a status challenge, and what you can expect when you apply.

  • Status Match – some airlines will give you immediate corresponding elite status valid for a specific period of time. There are no further flying or revenue requirements to keep the granted status for the specified time period.
  • Status Challenge – some airlines will not grant elite status until you have completed a specific number of miles flown. In addition, some airlines require you to generate a certain amount of revenue with them in order to receive status. However, these “status challenge” requirements are normally far less than the normal annual requirements for earning status.
  • Combination – some airlines will grant you immediate corresponding status, and then require you to complete additional challenge activities. These can include flying a certain amount of miles and meeting revenue requirements to extend the status period.
  • Denial – it is possible to get denied when you request a status match. Reasons for denial can include that your current airline is not eligible for the status match, the new airline is no longer offering a status match, or that your current status was obtained through a promotion or other status match.

Hot Tip: It is important to do your research before you request a status match. If an airline requires flying requirements, you’ll want to make sure you have flights planned in case your request is approved. 

Who Is Eligible for a Status Match/ Challenge?

Each airline has its own rules about who is eligible for a status match or challenge. Generally, anyone who has current airline elite status can apply, but there are circumstances where a frequent flyer may not be eligible.

You may not be eligible if:

  • Your current elite status was gained from a promotion (such as a credit card), or through another status match/challenge
  • Your elite status has expired
  • Your current elite status is with an airline that is not eligible
  • You do not reside in an eligible country

Hot Tip: If you have current elite status and want to secure a status match, you’ve got nothing to lose by submitting a request even if you don’t exactly meet the guidelines. The worst that can happen is that the new airline says no — but you’ve risked nothing in the process!

Hawaiian Airlines plane flying
Hawaiian Airlines is one airline that offers a status match to frequent flyers who have elite status with other airlines. Image courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines.

Airlines Offering Status Matches/Challenges

Let’s take a look at a sampling of airlines that offer status matches and/or status challenges. You’ll find that an airline could offer an immediate status match, a status match that then requires a challenge (combination), or a challenge that can ultimately result in a status match.

AirlineStatus Match, Status Challenge, or Combination
Alaska AirlinesStatus match
American AirlinesPay for status challenge and for status match
Delta Air LinesCombination
United AirlinesCombination
Cathay PacificStatus match
Hawaiian AirlinesStatus match
Air CanadaChallenge
Southwest AirlinesStatus match, then challenge to extend status
Turkish AirlinesStatus match, then challenge to extend status

Alaska Airlines

Status match

  • Alaska Airlines grants an elite status match to their corresponding elite status with no further challenge requirements. The status is usually good for the remainder of the current calendar year or for up to 15 months, depending on when your request is approved.

How to submit a request

  • Complete the online status request form here, or prepare an email asking to be granted status at the Alaska Airlines level that matches your current status. An email can be sent to elite.flyer@alaskaair.com.

For everything you need to know to complete a status match with Alaska Airlines, refer to our complete guide.

American Airlines Status Challenge

Paid status challenge and paid status match

  • American Airlines does not offer a status match, only a status challenge — and it requires you to pay a fee up front to participate.
  • You can also purchase immediate status so you’ll be able to complete the challenge with status benefits.
  • You do not need to have current elite status with another airline to purchase an American Airlines elite status challenge.

How to submit a request 

  • You can send an email to request a status challenge with American Airlines, but we recommend calling AAdvantage customer service at 888-697-5636.

Still have questions? Our comprehensive guide to completing an American Airlines status challenge will tell you everything you need to know.

Delta Air Lines

Combination of status match and challenge

  • Delta grants status immediately and then requires a challenge be completed to extend it. You will be required to fly a specific number of miles and spend a certain amount of money with Delta in order to complete the challenge.

How to submit a request

  • Complete Delta’s online status match form and attached copies of your elite membership card and flight history.

We’ve written an expert guide on Delta’s status match/challenge system that provides all the information you need to complete the process.

United Airlines

Combination of status match and challenge

  • United Airlines offers an immediate corresponding status match valid for 90 days, and then requires you to complete a challenge during that time by flying a certain amount of miles or flight segments. When you complete the challenge, your status will be extended.

How to submit a request

  • Submit a request by completing their status match form or sending an email to premiermatch@united.com
  • Include your MileagePlus account number, your full name, mailing address, and email address
  • Attach a copy of your current membership card (front and back) and a copy of your account statement

We walk you through the steps of securing a United MileagePlus status match/challenge in our complete guide.

Cathay Pacific

Status match with flight requirement

  • Status matches to Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo Club are usually granted to their Silver level regardless of your current elite status. They usually require you to have either flown on a Cathay Pacific flight recently and/or have an upcoming reservation.

How to submit a request

  • Send an email requesting the status match; include your Marco Polo Club membership number, a copy of a recent flight on Cathay Pacific, or an upcoming reservation. Also attach a copy of your current elite membership card and flight history. Send the email to theclub@cathaypacific.com.
Alaska Airlines plane interior
An elite status match allows you to continue with your current benefits while trying out a new airline. Image courtesy of Alaskaair.com.

Hawaiian Airlines

Status match

  • Hawaiian Airlines will status match to any of their elite status levels for a period of 12 months. No further action is required — but if you have an upcoming Hawaiian Airlines reservation, you should include that information in your request.

How to submit a request

  • Complete an online customer service form to request a status match with Hawaiian Airlines. Attach a copy of your elite membership card, flight history with your current airline, and include any upcoming Hawaiian Airlines reservation information.

Air Canada

Status challenge

  • When requesting a status match with Air Canada’s Aeroplan Altitude program, you will most likely receive a challenge that requires you to fly 18,500 miles (or 18 segments) within 90 days. In rare cases you may receive a status match. If you receive a challenge, you will be granted Air Canada Altitude Elite 50K level elite status at completion.

How to submit a request

  • Send an email with your request and a copy of your current membership card plus flight history to status.match@aircanada.com.

Southwest Airlines

Status match and status challenge

  • If you currently have valid elite status with a U.S. airline, Southwest will grant you a status match for a period of 90 days. To extend that status for another 12 months, you can complete a challenge of 3 round-trip flights within those 90 days.

How to submit a request

  • Send your request along with your Rapids Rewards number in an email with a copy of your current U.S. airline elite membership information to southwest.statusmatch@wnco.com.

Turkish Airlines

Status match and status challenge

  • The initial status match granted by Turkish Airlines is valid for 4 months. To extend this status to 1 year, you must complete at least 1 international flight during that period. Keep good records and be persistent, as the process can be tedious.

How to submit a request

  • Use the Turkish Airlines feedback form to submit your request. Select the Miles&Smiles program as the topic. Be sure to include a copy of your current elite membership card (front and back) and a copy of your current statement. You’ll also want to include your Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles membership number.

Hot Tip: For further information on which airlines offer a status match and a collection of real-life results from status match inquiries, the Status Matcher web site serves as a good resource. 

How and When to Submit a Status Match Request

How to Complete a Status Match Request

The new airline you’re soliciting will want to know you’re a frequent flyer who has attained your status from traveling a great deal with your current airline. They’ll also want to know that your elite membership is current.

When completing your request for a status match, you’ll want to include the following:

  • You name, address, and frequent flyer membership number of the airline program you’re requesting a status match in
  • A copy of the front and back of your current membership card clearly showing your elite status level and the expiration date
  • A copy of your current frequent flyer account statement.

This information can be submitted using the airline’s online status match form if they have one (the best option), sending an email, or submitting a request via their customer service inquiry form on the airline’s website.

Bottom Line: Sign up for the new airline’s frequent flyer program before submitting your request. Be sure to include this membership number plus the appropriate documents to expedite the processing of your request.

The Importance of Timing

If you have a lot of flights booked with an airline and want a status match, you should certainly go ahead and make your request regardless the time of year. If you are flexible, however, there may be an optimal time to submit your request.

  • Generally, status matches/challenges that are approved/completed in the first half of the year earn status through the end of the current status year, which is usually January 31 of the following year. (Status could also be granted just through the end of the current year.)
    • For example, if you completed a challenge in May 2019, your status may be granted through January 31, 2020.
  • If you complete a status challenge in the last half of the year, your status could be valid for the remainder of the year and throughout the next year.
    • For example, if you sign up and complete a challenge in July 2019, your status may be granted through January 31, 2021.

Some airlines have even later cut-off dates (Alaska Airlines is October 1, for example), so you’ll want to be sure to check with your desired airline before submitting a request.

Hot Tip: The timing of your status match request can determine how long your status match will be valid. Normally, submitting your request in the latter half of the year results in the longest period of granted elite status. 

Google flights map
Use the google flights explore map to find qualifying flights to meet the requirements of a status challenge. Image courtesy of Google.com/flights.

Completing the Flying and Revenue Requirements

In some instances, the airline will require you to complete a challenge prior to receiving elite status. For example, you may be required to fly a certain number of miles and even spend a certain amount on flights in order to obtain the status match and/or extend the period of your granted status.

Creating a Status Challenge Itinerary

One example of a status challenge that requires flying a certain number of miles would be Air Canada Aeroplan, where you are asked to fly 18,500 miles on flights operated by Air Canada to be granted Altitude Elite 50K.

In order to complete any challenge successfully, you’ll want to:

  • Review the flight requirements. Pay particular attention to which airlines must operate the qualifying flights, the amount of miles you will need, and the deadline for the miles to hit your account.
  • Check the fare class of your flight. Compare it to the airline’s fare chart to make sure you’ll receive at least 100% mileage credit for the flights
  • Be careful with timing. Be sure you allow enough time after the flights are completed for the miles to be credited to your account before the challenge deadline.
Air Canada fare class
For $697, I found a flight on Air Canada in fare class K for my status challenge. Image courtesy of Air Canada.

Let’s work through an example.

I found the above itinerary using Google Flights — a great site for finding status challenge flight options! I narrowed my selection to just Air Canada-operated flights, since this is the required airline for completing the challenge.

I then used a tool such as Great Circle Mapper or MileCalc.com to estimate the total mileage of the flights. In this case, the mileage flown would be 14,798, which would secure me the majority of the miles I need to complete my challenge.

Air Canada fare class chart
Check the airline’s fare class chart under their “earn miles” section to validate your earnings. Image courtesy of Air Canada.

Before booking, I accessed the earnings chart on Air Canada to make sure I’d be earning 100% qualifying miles.

Unfortunately, because this flight is in “K” class, the 14,798-mile trip would only earn me 7,399 towards the 18,500 miles I need to complete my challenge. I would need to purchase a M, U, H, Q, or V class to earn 100% qualifying miles.

Bottom Line: To complete a status challenge effectively, you’ll need to accurately calculate the total mileage you’ll receive, purchase the correct fare class that earns 100% or more qualifying miles, and complete the flights — ideally at least a week before the deadline. 

Meeting Status Challenge Revenue Requirements

An example of a status challenge that requires you to spend money on flights prior to receiving a status match would be American Airlines AAdvantage program.

To receive a status match to their AAdvantage Gold Elite level, for example, you first need to complete a challenge that requires generating $1,000 in revenue and 7,000 elite qualifying miles.

Note that airlines do not count the entire cost of the ticket you purchase toward the revenue requirements, since government taxes and fees are excluded.

To confuse the issue further, some airlines calculate the qualifying dollars for partner airline flights based on a percentage of distance flown.

Hot Tip: American Airlines and Delta Air Lines may require certain revenue levels in their status challenges, but we’ve taken the mystery out of generating the appropriate spending in our guides to status matching with both American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

Admirals club entrance
An airline-branded credit card can include complimentary lounge membership. Image courtesy of AA.com.

Enhancing Your New Elite Status

Your new elite status will deliver airline perks you can use — but to receive even more benefits, you may want to also consider the airline’s branded credit card.

An airline rewards-earning credit card enhances your current elite benefits, allows you to earn lots of frequent flyer miles, and gives you the ability to redeem miles for award tickets.

Most of these cards also earn a generous welcome bonus after you meet specific initial spending requirements. Airline-branded credit cards offer one of the fastest ways to earn frequent flyer miles.

If you have elite status with this airline:Consider this airline-branded credit card:For these benefits:
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card (Learn More)
  • Annual $99 companion fare, free checked bags +6 travelers, 3 miles/$1 on Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® (Learn More)
  • Delta Air Lines
  • United Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard®
  • Free checked bag, 50% off companion ticket, $100 flight discount, 3 miles/$1 on Hawaiian
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
  • Annual travel credit, 7,500 points at anniversary, 4 upgraded boardings/year, 2 pts/$1 on Southwest

Bottom Line: Having an airline-branded credit card gives you extra benefits not offered with elite status alone. 

Everything Else You Need to Know

Signing up for the new airline’s frequent flyer program before you submit a status match request will help expedite your request.

Some airlines limit status matches to once per lifetime of your account. Others limit requests to once every 3-5 years.

If you are approved for a status challenge and don’t meet the requirements within the specified period, your temporary status will expire.

Most airlines do not normally status match to their top level elite tiers. Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines are exceptions that will match status to their top level.

Expect a reply to your status match request no less than 2 weeks from the date of submission, though it could take as long as 4 weeks to receive a response.

Final Thoughts

If you currently have elite status with another airline and want (or need) to switch to a new airline, requesting a status match is the perfect vehicle to accomplish this.

You’ll want to build a strong case in your first request to avoid a delayed process where the new airline must request more information.

In addition, you’ll always need to join the new airline’s frequent flyer program, so include that membership number up front with your request. To validate that you’ve earned status by flying and that your status is current, you’ll also need to include documents that support this information.

And remember, you can request a status match from any airline! The worst case is that they say no, and it doesn’t cost you anything to ask.


*Featured Image Credit: news.aa.com

FAQ

How does a status match work?

You have elite status and you want/need to try a new airline. You simply request that the new airline match the status you have currently.

The new airline then grants immediate status so you can try out their airline, or they ask you to complete a certain number of flown miles and potentially spend a certain level on their airline in order to receive the status match.

A status match/challenge is a shortcut to elite status that requires far less than the normal annual requirements that need to be met to achieve elite status with an airline.

What is the difference between a status match and a status challenge?

A status match is when a new airline gives you immediate reciprocal status based on your elite status level with your current airline.

A status challenge is when there are additional requirements that need to be completed prior to you receiving the new status.

Airlines can either grant you immediate status (status match), require you to complete a challenge before receiving status (status challenge), or have a program that is a combination of both. You may also receive status immediately but be required to complete a challenge of flying or spending with the airline to extend the status beyond the initial trial period.

How much does a status match cost?

Normally there is no cost to securing an airline status match or participating in a status challenge. American Airlines does charge for both its status match and its status challenge programs.

One element that offsets the charge is that American Airlines does grant access to the status matches/challenges to flyers who do not currently have elite status.

How long does it take to get a status match approved?

Since each airline has a different process for requesting a status match, the length of time it takes to get an approval can vary as well.

Depending on the airline, you can generally plan on 2-4 weeks to receive a response to your request.

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