Airlines – particularly legacy US carriers — value their elite passengers. These passengers are widely viewed by the airlines to be some of their most profitable passengers, and as such, those passengers are extended numerous perks such as priority boarding, free checked bags, and first class upgrades. For quite some time, most airlines offer published and un-published opportunities for elite passengers of its competitors called status matches or status challenges. The basic premise of a status match is that an elite member of Airline A would request and be granted equal status with Airline B once their elite credentials were verified. A status challenge is where an elite member of Airline A is granted equal status with Airline B provided that the member flies X amount of miles/points/segments in Y amount of time (months).
What is an American Airlines Status Challenge?
American Airlines currently offers varying levels of status challenge opportunities for elite passengers of rival carriers – primarily United and Delta, though YMMV with other carriers. There are currently three levels of status challenges:
- United Silver / Delta Silver –> American Gold: $100-$120 fee + 5,000 Elite Qualifying Points in 3 months
- United Gold or Platinum / Delta Gold or Platinum –> American Platinum: $200-240 fee + 10,000 Elite Qualifying Points in 3 months
- United 1K / Delta Diamond –> American Executive Platinum: no fee + 25,000 Elite Qualifying Points in 3 months
If one completes the challenge in the stated time, that member will receive that level of status through the end of February, 2016*.
*Note: traditionally, if one completes the challenge after June 30th, they will have status for the rest of that calendar year AND the next calendar year. If the challenge is completed before June 30th, that member would have the status for the remainder of that calendar year only. As such, it is advantageous to do this challenge after June 30th, but before the end of the year to get you over a year of Executive Platinum membership.
These challenges are somewhat difficult because they require Elite Qualifying Points (EQP) instead of Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM).
What’s an EQP, and how is this different than EQM?
This offer is not easy to achieve — it’s actually a challenge — and I fly a lot. The key challenge here is that the qualification criteria is measured by Elite Qualifying Points (EQP) and not Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM). While one would earn ONE EQM for every mile flown, this is NOT the case with EQP on deep discount economy fares — generally the fares that most people would book their economy travel. These discount fares only earn .5 EQP, meaning that in order to hit 25,000 EQP for the Executive Platinum Challenge, one would need to fly 50,000 miles worth of deep discount economy flights in 3-months. And that’s a tad-bit aggressive for me.
Luckily with EQPs, discount economy and full-fare economy tickets earn 1.0 EQP for every mile flown, and even better — premium tickets (premium economy, business, and first class) earn 1.5 EQP for every mile flown, so one could fly considerably less distance and hit the challenge (in this case, 16,667 miles in a premium cabin would hit 25,000 EQP). Essentially, this challenge is designed to ensure that the recipient is actually spending money with American.
Why am I Doing the Status Challenge?
As a United 1K member, I haven’t shied away from criticizing the airline for its move to a revenue-based frequent flyer program, and the addition of a spend requirement for achieving preferred status. With this move, United requires customers to fly 100,000 miles or 100 segments AND spend at least $10,000 on United flights. Sure, this is probably a financially responsible move by United to rid themselves of low-value elites like me, but it really killed the value of flying United for me, as there’s just no way I would hit the $10,000 annual spend required in order to re-qualify for Premier 1K (I spent about 1/3 of that last year to fly 100,000 miles). This move essentially matches Delta’s addition of a financial aspect to its medallion qualification scheme. The only major legacy airline that has not (yet) invoked a spend requirement is American Airlines. American still has the old-fashioned qualifying metric of but-in-seat, elite qualifying miles — and I like that.
In addition to the qualification metrics, American is rejuvenating its fleet with a fantastic new business class on its international planes, and that really interests me for use with the systemwide upgrades that I will receive. Couple that with the fact that the recent American / US Airways merger has turned my home airport — Washington’s Reagan National Airport into a de-facto domestic hub for the airline, and we have a compelling argument for me to ponder the switch to American. Over the past year or so, I’ve read about the status challenge that I mentioned above, and figured it may be worth looking into. Since I clearly will not re-qualify with United this year, this potential status challenge seemed like a great opportunity to leverage my top-tier United status to obtain American top-tier status much more easily than I would otherwise be able to.
What will Executive Platinum Status on American get me?
The benefits of Executive Platinum status are enough to make American (and US Airways) my primary carrier(s) of choice. This is especially convenient considering the combined airline now has a hub at Washington-DCA, which is uber-convenient for me (I can see the terminal from my window as I write this). Though United has similar benefits, I will be losing that status next February… if I was able to maintain that status, then I probably would not be leaving them. The benefits of Executive Platinum that are particularly valuable to me are:
- 8 System wide upgrades that can be used to upgrade any economy fare to business class, anywhere in the world
- Complimentary domestic upgrades to first class
- Complimentary selection of Main Cabin Extra Seating (extra legroom)
- 100% mileage elite mileage bonus (I essentially would earn 2 miles for every mile flown, which is great!)
- Waived AAdvantage award change and reinstatement charges (I can speculatively book award tickets)
How to Request a Status Challenge
So, I called American at 1-800-882-8880 and requested a status match from United 1K to American Executive Platinum. The rep informed me that there was a possibility for a status challenge, and that they would e-mail me with details on how to proceed. I then received an e-mail from American requesting that I send a copy of my United 1K card and a copy of my 2013 year-end statement in order to determine eligibility for a status challenge. The next business day, I received correspondence from American offering the status challenge, along with the following details:
- During the 3 month period, the challenge is to earn 25,000 Elite Qualifying POINTS.
- One would be granted a trial of Executive Platinum for 3 months — status granted immediately if challenge accepted
- Start date is the day one requests and confirms the challenge (they called me to confirm that my challenge would start immediately)
- If one completes the challenge, they will be extended Executive Platinum status through the end of February, 2016.
- If one completes the challenge, the 8 Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) will be deposited into their account at that time — one will not receive the 8 SWUs during the challenge / trial period.
- For purposes of the challenge, the airlines that qualify are American, US Airways, British Airways, Iberian, Finnair, JAL, and Qantas, and their code-shares. All other Oneworld carriers do not count for this challenge.
- This appears is be a one-time offer.
Three days later, I accepted the challenge via e-mail. American called me the following day to confirm the start day for the challenge as that day.
And that was it — it couldn’t have been easier!
I view this status challenge as a great opportunity — it certainly is enough to drive my business from United to American!