If you’ve worked hard and earned elite status at one airline, you may be able to use that as leverage to quickly earn status with another carrier. Find out what status match and challenge offers are available from regional and low-cost carriers and how to take full advantage of them.
In a previous post we discussed status challenges at the three big U.S. legacy carriers, American, Delta and United . Below we’ll discuss what the rest of the major U.S. carriers offer. We’ll cover Alaska, Southwest, JetBlue and Virgin America, but exclude the ultra-budget carriers, such as Frontier and Spirit, since they don’t offer traditional elite status or matching offers.
The single best news you’ll find in this post is that Alaska Airlines offers straight status matching. No strings attached and no requirement to fly a certain number of miles or spend a certain amount of money. The bad news is that Alaska is the only U.S. airline that is currently offering a match without a challenge.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to get elite status with more airlines.
Alaska is the only major domestic carrier that still offers straight status matches to elite flyers from other airlines. To send a request for a match, email a photo of your current elite card and driver’s license, as well as a screenshot of your online account summary and your Mileage Plan number to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While some reports indicate that Alaska won’t status match all carriers (such as Virgin Australia), the airline appears to grant most requests.
If you don’t have status at another airline, you’re out of luck. There are no shortcuts to earning MVP status with Alaska. That’s because the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card card doesn’t offer cardholders a way to earn elite qualifying miles. You should still consider getting the card, though, if you fly on Alaska. It comes with some excellent benefits, such as the annual companion fare.\
Southwest is by some measures the second largest airline in the world. Unfortunately, it does not officially have a status match or challenge program. There are plenty of reports, though, of customers being both denied and offered a status match challenge after emailing Southwest at email@example.com.
If you want to give this one a try, be sure to include a photo of your current status with another airline and your driver’s license, along with your address, phone number and Rapid Rewards number.
According to most sources, Southwest’s status match challenge gives qualifying applicants 90 days to complete six one-way flights or earn 8,000 tier-qualifying points.
Unfortunately, the match is only good for six months. Also, it appears that Southwest will only match you to A-List, the lower of its two elite tiers, no matter what status you have with other airlines.
While not a great status match challenge, it’s worth giving it a try if you’re going to be flying on Southwest anyways. There isn’t a fee to apply.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card, which costs $99 a year, allows cardholders to earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 they make in purchases. You can get up 15,000 TQPs a year using the card. Considering that you’ll have to earn 35,000 TQPs to get status, this isn’t a great deal. But it could help push you over the top if you just need just a few more points.
When JetBlue first started flying, it promised to offer every customer the same in-flight experience. Everyone was supposed to get more leg room, better complimentary snacks and free seatback entertainment. JetBlue seems to have altered course, though, with the biggest changes coming last year.
Legroom has been reduced on some planes, and the airline has introduced a premium cabin on many transcontinental routes. It includes swanky lie-flat seats, which are a step above what you’ll find on most domestic flights.
The carrier also expanded its elite status benefits. Mosaic members can now purchase cheap upgrades to better seats with more legroom on any flight and they get free in-flight drinks. Other perks include waived change and cancellation fees, free checked bags and expedited security.
As part of its newly expanded elite status, JetBlue offered a status match challenge last year. Unfortunately it’s no longer available, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it came back again. If you’re interested, keep a look out for it in the coming months.
When the promotion was offered last year, you could get Mosiac status by earning 3,750 base points in 90 days. With JetBlue’s earning system, that worked out to about $1,200 in spending. After breaking up with American Express, JetBlue launched a new line of credit cards from Barclaycard. These cards are a notable improvement over the old Amex offering, particularly the JetBlue Plus. This $99-fee card includes a decent sign-up bonus and solid bonus earning categories, as well as an annual bonus, free checked bags, half off in-flight purchases and more.
One unique perk of the JetBlue Plus card is that you can earn full elite status just by reaching a minimum spend. The catch is that the spend is a huge $50,000 a year.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card, which costs $99 a year, allows cardholders to earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 they make in purchases. You can get up 15,000 TQPs a year using the card. Considering that you’ll have to earn 35,000 TQPs to get status, this isn’t a great deal. But it could help push you over if you just need just a few more points.
In the past, Virgin America would simply match your elite status from American, Delta, Southwest and United. Like Alaska, there was no challenge. Unfortunately, that offer is no longer on the table. It has come and gone in the past, so it’s worth periodically checking back with the airline. Virgin’s website promised that there will be “exciting changes” to the status match program in 2017. That would be no surprise considering their recent merger with Alaska.
The Virgin America Premium Visa Signature cardholders can earn 5,000 status points for every $10,000 spent. A maximum of 15,000 status points can be earned with the card per year. It takes 20,000 points to earn Silver status and 50,000 for Gold.
The card has some nice perks too. In addition to a 15,000-point sign-up bonus, you’ll get an annual $150 discount on a companion ticket, which covers the $149 annual fee. All change and cancellation fees are waived with the card, plus you’ll get the standard benefits of free checked bags and priority boarding.
Go For It
Whether you find a status match or challenge the works for you, or you have to do the hard way by flying, elite status can be very valuable. Status holders get discounts, upgrades, extra miles and more. Don’t forget about co-branded airline credit cards either. The right card can make you an elite fast, even if you don’t qualify for a status match or challenge.