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My husband’s travel schedule has recently ramped way, way up and he now finds himself on the road and in the skies far more than me. This is a new reality for our family in many ways, but one very pragmatic issue that we quickly faced was his lack of elite status. Not having elite status isn’t a big deal 98% of the time, especially for leisure travelers who travel once or twice a year, or for those who often travel with a partner who does have status. However, that other 2% of the time when you start traveling very regularly but without status, it can become a literal pain in the rear in a hurry.
After logging a few United flights to both coasts in regular old economy seats, the complaints from my 6 foot 3 inch husband really started to increase. To keep costs as low as possible, he had been sucking it up and sitting in the regular economy seats without paying the $50 – $100 extra to move up to E+, but it wasn’t exactly a pleasant way to spend a decent number of hours most weeks. At that rate he would eventually earn United Silver elite status and be granted the ability to upgrade to E+ seats for free at check-in, but it takes longer than you might guess to get there when you are pretty much starting from zero. From Houston to New York is roughly 1,400 flown miles, so it would take about nine of those round trips to earn even low tier Silver United status and potentially escape regular economy.
After a couple of his trips were in the books, I had a light bulb moment that he should try to get a fast-track, challenge, or match for elite status. This would help him escape the tiny regular economy seats a bit faster than waiting until he had flown the distance equivalent of 9 round trips to New York at the back of the plane. Before I lost my United Platinum status earlier this year I matched it to Alaska 75K MVP status which, among other things, granted me the ability to give someone Alaska MVP elite status. I gave that status to him, so because of my now defunct United status, he has low tier Alaska status. I didn’t know if he would need it at the time, but it turns out that gifted status was his ticket into United E+ seats much faster thanks to United’s status match program.
Most airlines offer some sort of elite status match or challenge for those who want elite status faster, and in the case of United, to get a status challenge you need to first prove you had elite status with another airline. United would then let you challenge for the equivalent United status level. Best of all, during your challenge you get the status level that you are challenging to keep. This meant that as soon as his status challenge was approved he was upgraded to Silver status! I know Silver status is bottom of the barrel, but it is way better than nothing, especially when you want most of all is just a single E+ seat.
Getting United to match your elite status with another airline is a simple enough process that is outlined here, but essentially you need to provide them your United MileagePlus account number and proof of status with another airline that includes that status level’s expiration date. This part is actually somewhat tricky as many online statements and cards don’t display that expiration date. We had to find his physical Alaska elite status card in a junk drawer as the online version didn’t display any dates. You also need to have not participated in a United status match in the last 5 years, which seems reasonable enough.
To keep your matched United status beyond the original 90 days you need to:
- Fly 7,000 PQM or 8 PQS on flights operated by United or United Express for Silver
- Fly 12,500 PQM or 15 PQS on flights operated by United or United Express for Gold
- Fly 18,000 PQM or 22 PQS on flights operated by United or United Express for Platinum
He will in all likelihood fly enough in those 90 days to meet the Platinum level match/challenge requirements, but since he doesn’t have an equivalent Platinum status in another program to challenge for that level, it won’t matter. That’s okay though because for him some status really is way better than none, and this was a quick and easy way to get the perks faster than he otherwise would. To earn a higher status level you have to wait until you do it the old fashioned way.
It is also worth mentioning that American Airlines has a very different model for their status challenges in that you don’t have to already hold status with another airline to qualify, but you do have to pay some money. They also have a minimum elite qualifying dollars spending requirement along with their status challenges, so you need to not only fly a certain amount in three months, you need to spend a certain amount. If you want to enjoy the American status level you are challenging for during the challenge there is yet another fee for that. You can read more about those details here.
Have you ever participated in an airline elite status match or challenge to enjoy elite status perks faster?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.