The Trick to Achieving Airline Status (Without “Earning It”)

Airline status. How do you get it? For most people, you spend, you fly, you choose that airline every chance you get, and you get rewarded.

To sum it up? Loyalty.

As a marketer, I’m enthralled with the concept of loyalty. It’s a competitive world out there; consumers are not necessarily choosing the cheapest product or most convenient service. They are placing more and more value into how they are treated by the business… so much so that it influences the purchasing decision. That’s where loyalty comes into play. Businesses reward the people who do business with them the most. And here’s the psychology kicker: people like to get rewarded, so they’ll keep doing business to get more rewards.

Fair, right? You put in the dollars and the time in the air, and your airline gives you points. But did you know that by being loyal to one airline, you can ask for (and receive) status on a competing airline (without working for it)?

It’s called status match, and I did it. Let me explain.

Step #1: Earn status (being loyal helps)

Of the big 3 (American, Delta, and United), American Airlines is my preferred airline. I fly internationally; it has international partners. Phoenix, my home, is a hub. I can pick my seat, and given my status, I get the pick of the litter.

Call me spoiled, but I love to go first and get things for free. I’ve earned it, man. I fly so much that I get priority boarding, free checked bags, same-day standby, seat upgrades, and more. But it took a lot of flights (and a lot of spent moolah) to get to where I am.

Southwest is my second favorite. I love the flight-change flexibility, the availability of routes to some of my frequent destinations, and the rich (by comparison) rewards program. My biggest complaint and deterrent from flying Southwest used to be that when the clock struck 24 hours before, no matter how fast my fingers tapped “CHECK IN,” I could not get in the A group. (Did you know it’s reserved for A-Listers? I didn’t.) And so, I seldom got the great seat. (Window seat, front of the plane, preferably bulkhead. Spoiled and self-aware of it!)

So yes, this ticked me off. And because I didn’t fly Southwest often enough, I couldn’t earn A-List. Until now…

Step #2: Apply for status match

It was really simple, actually. All I had to do was prove I had status and upcoming reservations on another, competing airline. I simply emailed a screenshot from my American Airlines app, sent it to Southwest with my name, address, and Rapid Rewards number, and literally seconds later I received a confirmation email from Southwest confirming my newfound A-List status.


The stipulation? I would get A-List on a trial basis. I had to fly a mere 6 segments in the next 3 months to get it (for free, without “earning it”) for an entire year. Piece. Of. Cake. (For the record, it only took me 1 month.) And now, I’m always in the A boarding group. Score!!

Will I go ahead and apply for status on Delta and United? Maybe, but not immediately. I’ll wait until I have to book a Delta or United flight. Remember, I’ll have to prove certain requirements like pending reservations or flight history, and meet certain requirements in order to keep the status for a year.

So, what do you think? Will you give status match a try? If you do, let me know your experience in a comment!

Airline loyalty programs, compared

[Please note I’ve simplified these programs for ease of reading. Don’t take my word for it; read the fine print.]

American Airlines’ loyalty program is AAdvantage. Their first tier of elite status is AAdvantage Gold. To achieve Gold, you must spend $3,000 in a calendar year plus earn 25,000 miles (EQM) or fly 30 segments (EQSs). American’s Status Match Challenge is not published publicly, so you must contact customer service to check eligibility and enroll.

Southwest’s loyalty program is Rapid Rewards. Their first tier of elite status — “A-List” — takes flying 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year. Southwest Status Match»

Delta’s program is called Medallion Status. To achieve the first level of Medallion Status (Silver), like American, you must spend $3,000 MQDs (or have a spending waiver), plus fly 25,000 MQMs (miles) or 30 MQSs (segments). Delta Status Match Challenge»

As for United, it follows basically the same formula as the rest of its top 3 buddies with MileagePlusUnited Status Match Challenge»

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