Category

Virgin Atlantic

The Art Of The Status Match

So as I alluded to in the previous post, my lowly United Premier (Star Alliance Silver) status is set to expire in February 2012. Although in terms of cool perks like lounge access and system-wide upgrades, my Premier status got me nothing, I did enjoy the free baggage allowance, priority check in, Economy Plus, and occasional upgrade to domestic First Class.

While I am kind of bummed that my status is expiring, at the same time I am kind of happy because as I also alluded to earlier, I will have free OneWorld Ruby status in a few weeks compliments of Kingfisher.

While there are many in the frequent flying community who fly hundreds of thousands of miles for either work or for fun, unless I purely did mileage runs there would be no way I could hit top-tier status. Even hitting 25k miles a year in Elite Qualify Miles I think is tough for most people unless you frequently vacation on the other side of the world or travel for work.

In my case, just to achieve my lowly United Premier status, I had to fly round-trip Chicago -> Sydney and then Chicago -> Paris to hit 25k miles.

While that is doable, say you only primarily vacation in the U.S and Mexico, then you probably wouldn’t hit the minimum 25k EQM to achieve status unless you zigzagged across the country.

That is where these free statuses like Kingfisher, come into play.

Although these free statuses may be on airlines that you may never step foot on in your life, I always sign up for any free status offers regardless if I plan to ever use it.

Why you may ask?

In the case of Kingfisher, they just happen to be joining the OneWorld Alliance which is extremely convenient. I may never fly on a Kingfisher plane but with OneWorld Ruby, I can get free checked bags on BA and AA. Additionally, with these free statuses, you can sometimes parlay them into status matches on airlines you actually care to fly.

How?

As I said earlier, I “achieved” United Premier status in 2010 and it carried over to 2011 and is set to expire in February of 2012. What I didn’t say was that prior to me stepping foot on my United flight to Australia, United had already given me Premier status for free which allowed my girlfriend and I to get “bumped” to Economy Plus for both legs of the flight. (According to the United check-in screens that were trying to up-sell passengers to Economy Plus, it was a $300+ value per a person, per a leg, so $1200 in “free upgrades” in total for both of us. Not bad!).

I achieved status on United by getting a status match to a free Virgin Atlantic Silver status that I had received for free in a 2009 promo. After Virgin mailed me my physical Silver status card, I booked my ticket on United and visited Status Matcher where I found the email / fax number to request a status match. While airlines typically want to see a statement for a status match, I simply scanned my Virgin Silver card and emailed it to them with a simple message along the lines that I was a Virgin Silver member but I had heard great things about United and recently booked a flight to Australia. I also enclosed my ticket number and if they could status match me. While other people may have different experiences with status matches, without a question, United matched my Virgin Silver “status” to United Premier and if I wanted to keep my United status past 2010, I had to fly 25k miles by the end of the year. Since I was already logging 18k miles for the Australia trip, that wasn’t a problem.

What is cool is that this same strategy can be applied to hotels. As with my free Virgin Silver status, I also had Starwood Gold status from an earlier promo in 2009. However when looking for lodging in Sydney, I couldn’t find any reasonably priced SPG hotels, so we settled on Marriott. After I had booked the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay for 10 days, I simply visited Status Matcher and scanned my SPG Gold Card. In my email to Marriott, I wrote something along the lines of, I had already booked 10 nights at Sydney Marriott and have been a loyal SPG Gold member but am looking to switch, could you match me. Again without a question I was matched, however this time it was to Marriott Platinum status which actually was a tier higher than what I had with Starwood. To keep my status for the year, I just needed to stay 15 nights at Marriott which wasn’t difficult since I already would be getting credit for the 10 nights in Sydney.

The point of these 2 stories is that even if you don’t fly regularly you can still achieve elite status by using some easy tricks. Just remember that typically airlines only allow 1 status match in a lifetime, so only do status matches when absolutely necessary (like flying direct to Australia in Economy for 16 hours!)

Just in 2011, I achieved the following free elite statuses:

Kingfisher – Silver (Soon to be OneWorld Ruby)

A|Club Rewards – Platinum

Marriott Rewards – Silver

Hilton HHonors – Gold

Hyatt Gold Passport – Gold (Just Kidding)

Have you ever done a status match? What have been your experiences?

-Parag