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Ultimate Guide to Airline Frequent Flyer Status Matches & Challenges [2023]

Christine Krzyszton's image
Christine Krzyszton

Christine Krzyszton

Senior Finance Contributor

Countries Visited: 98U.S. States Visited: 45

Christine ran her own business developing and managing insurance and financial services. This stoked a passion for points and miles and she now has over 2 dozen credit cards and creates in-depth, deta...
Edited by: Juan Ruiz

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Juan has been involved in credit cards, loyalty, travel, and personal finance for more than 10 years. He has worked for several outlets including The Points Guy and Forbes and was previously Editor-in...
& Keri Stooksbury

Keri Stooksbury

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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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What’s not to like about having elite status with an airline? Travel becomes less stressful when you can board the plane early, have priority seating, and be able to access dedicated service if things go wrong during your trip.

If you currently have an airline elite status, you’re familiar with these benefits and all the other perks that come with loyalty to a specific airline. Chances are you’d also be disappointed if, for any reason, you had to give up all those perks if you switched airlines.

Fortunately for those who already have airline elite status (and even for some folks who don’t), you might not have to start over to secure elite status with a new airline — there’s a shortcut offered by many of them.

This shortcut is called a status match or status challenge, and airlines offer it to some frequent flyers in hopes that the traveler will continue flying with them.

In this guide, we’ll give you an overview of how status matches and challenges work, who is eligible, and why you’d want to embark on a status match or challenge. We’ll let you know which airlines offer this opportunity, how and when to apply, and some suggestions for completing the necessary requirements. We also have some recommendations to enhance your new status and everything else you need to know.

Let’s get started learning all about status matches/challenges and how you can leverage your elite status to transition comfortably to a new airline.

What Is a Status Match or Challenge and How Does It Work?

A status match (or status challenge) is simply a shortcut opportunity to qualify for elite status with an airline you don’t currently have status on.

For example, you may have United Airlines MileagePlus Premier Gold status and plan to start flying Delta Air Lines. You might ask Delta to grant you its Gold Medallion status so you can try out Delta with the same benefits you’ve had with United.

Note that a status match does not result in your current elite status transferring to the new airline — you would continue to retain status with the current airline and get additional status with the new airline.

Airlines offer these elite status matches or challenges in order to gain the business of known frequent flyers. Each airline structures its offers differently and may or may not publish a formal request process or list of requirements.

We’ll cover some examples of airline status matches/challenges shortly, but first, let’s look at the reasons you’d want to request a status match, the differences between a status match and a status challenge, and who is eligible.

Reasons You Would Want To Request a Status Match

If you currently have airline elite status, why would you want to ask another airline to grant you the same status? The reasons are many, and can include the following:

  • You’ve relocated to a different city that is not serviced sufficiently by your current airline
  • Your current airline has changed its elite program to include requirements you won’t be able to meet
  • Your current airline is not treating you as well as it once did
  • Your airline has gone out of business
  • Your airline has merged with another airline, and you’re not happy with the changes
  • The new airline is now operating flights out of your home airport
  • You just want dual status!
Bottom Line:

Fortunately, you can request an airline elite status match for any reason, including if you simply want to try a new airline.

The Difference Between a Status Match and a Status Challenge

When you request a status match with a new airline, you may receive an instant match of elite status, a challenge that requires some additional action on your part, or a combination of the 2.

You may also receive a denial of your request.

Let’s take a look at the differences between a status match and a status challenge, and what you can expect when you apply.

  • Status Match — Some airlines will give you immediate corresponding elite status valid for a specific period of time. There are no further flying or revenue requirements to keep the granted status for the specified time period.
  • Status Challenge — Some airlines will not grant elite status until you have completed a specific number of miles flown. In addition, some airlines require you to generate a certain amount of revenue with them in order to receive status. However, these “status challenge” requirements are normally far less than the normal annual requirements for earning status.
  • Combination — Some airlines will grant you immediate corresponding status and then require you to complete additional challenge activities to extend that status beyond the trial period. These can include flying a certain amount of miles and meeting revenue requirements within a specified period of time.
  • Denial — It is possible to get denied when you request a status match. Reasons for denial can include that your current airline is not eligible for the status match, the new airline is no longer offering a status match, or that your current status was obtained through a promotion or other granted (versus earned) status.
Hot Tip:

It’s important to do your research before you request a status match. If an airline requires flying requirements, you’ll want to make sure you have flights planned that can be completed during any associated challenge period.

Who Is Eligible for a Status Match/Challenge?

Each airline has its own rules about who is eligible for a status match or challenge. Generally, anyone who has current airline elite status can apply, but there are circumstances where a frequent flyer may not be eligible.

You may not be eligible if:

  • Your current elite status was obtained via a promotion (for example, a credit card that comes with airline elite status) or another status match/challenge
  • Your elite status has expired
  • Your current elite status is with an airline that is not eligible
  • You do not reside in an eligible country
Hot Tip:

If you have current elite status and want to secure a status match, you’ve got nothing to lose by submitting a request, even if you don’t exactly meet the guidelines. The worst that can happen is that the new airline says no — but you’ve risked nothing in the process!

Airlines Offering Status Matches/Challenges

Let’s take a look at a sampling of airlines that offer status matches and/or status challenges. You’ll find that an airline could offer an immediate status match, a status match that then requires a challenge (combination), or a challenge that can ultimately result in a status match.

Here’s a snapshot of the most likely outcome of a status match or challenge request. Keep in mind that airlines can withdraw or enhance their programs at any time.

AirlineStatus Match, Status Challenge, or Combination
Air CanadaStatus matches and challenges are currently paused
Alaska AirlinesCombination
American AirlinesPay for an Instant Status Pass and challenge
Cathay PacificStatus match program is currently paused
Delta Air LinesCombination
Hawaiian AirlinesStatus match but difficult to get approved
Southwest AirlinesCombination
Spirit AirlinesCombination
Turkish AirlinesCombination
United AirlinesCombination
Virgin AtlanticStatus match with qualifying flight requirement

Air Canada

Note that Air Canada has currently paused its match/challenge program for its Aeroplan frequent flyer program. We’ll leave this information here for informational purposes and update you when a new program is announced.

Status Challenge

When requesting a status match with Air Canada’s Aeroplan program, you will most likely receive a challenge that requires you to fly 18,500 miles (or 18 segments) within 90 days. Sometimes it launches status matches as well, so you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled. If you receive a challenge, you will be granted Aeroplan 50K level elite status at completion. Having elite status with Air Canada may help you get upgrades to business or first class!

How To Submit a Request

Send an email with your request and a copy of your current membership card plus flight history to status.match@aircanada.com.

Alaska Airlines

An elite status match allows you to continue with your current benefits while trying out a new airline. Image Credit: James Larounis

Status Match

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan grants an elite status match to your current corresponding airline elite status and then a challenge that needs to be completed to retain the temporary granted status. The temporary status is good for 90 days and you will have the same 90 days to complete the challenge.

To retain your granted temporary status, you will need to complete different requirements in the 90-day period based on the level of the corresponding status granted:

  • MVP — Fly 5,000 miles
  • MVP Gold — Fly 10,000 miles
  • MVP Gold 75K — Fly 20,000 miles

If you start the status match/challenge by the end of June, you will retain status through the end of that calendar year. If you start the status match/challenge in July through December, you will retain status through the end of the following year.

How To Submit a Request

Complete the online status request form here or prepare an email asking to be granted status at the Alaska Airlines level that matches your current status. An email can be sent to elite.flyer@alaskaair.com. You’ll need to provide documentation of your current earned status and a screenshot of your current account information.

The status match/challenge is a one-time offer per account. For everything you need to know to complete a status match with Alaska Airlines, refer to our complete guide.

American Airlines

Paid Instant Status Pass With Challenge

American Airlines does not offer a complimentary status match or challenge. You will be required to pay a fee upfront for the combination of having status during the challenge.

You do not need to have current elite status with another airline to purchase an American Airlines Instant Status Pass challenge.

Challenge requirements are divided into 4-month periods with Loyalty Point earning requirements for each period in order to keep status. Requirements will differ by granted status. Once 3 phases of the Instant Status Pass challenge are completed, your status will be extended through the status year following the year you registered.

It’s worth noting that American AAdvantage Loyalty Points can be earned without flying. Combining credit card spending with airline activity makes this status match/challenge unique and potentially easier to accomplish than most airline challenges.

It’s a bit complicated but we’ve spelled it all out for you in our article on how to status match with American Airlines.

How To Submit a Request

To request a status challenge with American Airlines, we recommend calling AAdvantage customer service at 800-882-8880. You can also check to see if the offer is available in your American AAdvantage mobile app.

Hot Tip:

World of Hyatt elite members should link their accounts with their American AAdvantage accounts to earn bonus points and miles. World of Hyatt members may also receive offers that, in the past, have included a special status match/challenge with American Airlines. Here’s how to link your Hyatt and American Airlines accounts.

Cathay Pacific

Status Match With Flight Requirement

Cathay Pacific has paused its status match program and is not accepting requests currently. We’ll leave the information here for informational purposes and update it when requests open up again.

Status matches to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles are usually granted to its Silver level regardless of your current elite status. You are usually required to have either flown on a Cathay Pacific flight recently and/or have an upcoming reservation.

How To Submit a Request

Send an email to theclub@cathaypacific.com requesting the status match; include your Cathay membership number (formerly a Marco Polo Club number), a copy of a recent flight on Cathay Pacific, or an upcoming reservation. Also, attach a copy of your current elite membership card and flight history.

Delta Air Lines

Requesting a status match with Delta is a simple process. Image Credit: Delta Air Lines

Combination of Status Match and Challenge

Delta grants status immediately and then requires a challenge to be completed to extend it. You will be required to fly a specific number of miles and spend a certain amount of money (Medallion Qualifying Dollars) with Delta in order to complete the challenge.

How To Submit a Request

Complete Delta’s online status match form and attach copies of your elite membership card and flight history.

We’ve written an expert guide on Delta’s status match/challenge system that provides all the information you need to complete the process.

Hot Tip:

Check your email and be on the lookout for temporary status matches or challenges offered by the airlines. As an example, Delta Air Lines recently offered a short-term status match and challenge that would allow other airline elites to qualify for up to its top Diamond Medallion status. Even hotel loyalty programs occasionally have reciprocal status matches/challenges such as the (expired) World of Hyatt and American Airlines agreement or Marriott Bonvoy and United Airlines elite status matching.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines is one airline that offers a status match to frequent flyers who have elite status with other airlines. Image Credit: James Larounis

Status Match

Hawaiian Airlines has recently been denying status match requests, but if you do receive a match, it can be to any of its elite status levels for a period of up to 12 months.

How To Submit a Request

Complete an online customer service form to request a status match with Hawaiian Airlines. Attach a copy of your elite membership card, and your flight history with your current airline, plus include any upcoming Hawaiian Airlines reservation information.

According to reports from StatusMatcher, those who have been approved in the past have stated that they included their history of flying routes on their current airline that matched those operated by Hawaiian Airlines.

Southwest Airlines

Status Match and Status Challenge

If you currently have valid elite status with a U.S. airline, Southwest will grant you a status match for a period of 90 days. To extend that status for another 12 months, you can complete a challenge of 3 round-trip flights within those 90 days.

How To Submit a Request

Send your request along with your Rapids Rewards number in an email with a copy of your current U.S. airline elite membership information to southwest.statusmatch@wnco.com.

For more information, check out our guide to Southwest status matches.

Spirit Airlines

Status Match and Status Challenge

Spirit will match your current elite status in another airline with the equivalent Free Spirit status for 90 days for free. You will have the opportunity to keep that Free Spirit Silver or Gold status based on reduced earning criteria.

Spirit will also match elite status in hotel loyalty programs!

How To Submit a Request

Complete the status match request form and submit the required documents or call 833-728-3359.

Turkish Airlines

Status Match and Status Challenge

The initial status match granted by Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles is normally valid for 4 months. To extend this status to 1 year, you must complete at least 1 international flight during that period. Keep good records and be persistent, as the process can be tedious.

How To Submit a Request

Use the Turkish Airlines feedback form to submit your request. Select the Miles&Smiles program as the topic. Be sure to include a copy of your current elite membership card (front and back) and a copy of your current statement. You’ll also want to include your Miles&Smiles membership number.

United Airlines

Combination of Status Match and Challenge

United Airlines MileagePlus offers an immediate corresponding status match valid for 90 days and then requires you to complete a challenge during that time by flying a certain amount of miles or flight segments. When you complete the challenge, your status will be extended.

How To Submit a Request

Submit a request by completing a status match form or sending an email to premiermatch@united.com. Include your MileagePlus account number, your full name, mailing address, and email address. Attach a copy of your current membership card (front and back) and a copy of your account statement.

We walk you through the steps of securing a United MileagePlus status match/challenge in our complete guide.

Virgin Atlantic

Status Match With Qualifying Flight Requirement

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club offers a status match to its Flying Club Silver and Flying Club Gold elite status levels. After approval, your corresponding status will be valid for 12 months. You will then be required to book and fly a flight on Virgin Atlantic in order to keep your granted status.

If you are status-matching to Flying Club Silver, your qualifying Virgin Atlantic flight can be any fare class. If you are status-matching to Flying Club Gold, your qualifying flight must be booked in Premium or Upper Class.

Eligible flights must be operated by Virgin Atlantic or have a VS flight number if operated by Delta or Air France.

How To Submit a Request

Submit a request by completing this status match form. You will need to provide your Flying Club membership number, proof of your current airline status, a copy of your membership card showing your current status, and the booking reference for an upcoming Virgin Atlantic flight.

Hot Tip:

For further information on which airlines offer a status match and a collection of real-life results from status match inquiries, the Status Matcher website serves as a good resource. 

How and When To Submit a Status Match Request

How To Complete a Status Match Request

The new airline you’re soliciting will want to know you’re a frequent flyer who has attained your status from traveling a great deal with your current airline. They’ll also want to know that your elite membership is current.

When completing your request for a status match, you’ll want to include the following:

  • Your name, address, and frequent flyer membership number of the airline program you’re requesting a status match in
  • A copy of the front and back of your current membership card clearly showing your elite status level and the expiration date
  • A copy of your current frequent flyer account statement

This information can be submitted using the airline’s online status match form if they have one (the best option), sending an email, or submitting a request via a customer service inquiry form on the airline’s website.

Bottom Line:

Sign up for the new airline’s frequent flyer program before submitting your request. Be sure to include this membership number plus the appropriate documents to expedite the processing of your request.

The Importance of Timing

If you have a lot of flights booked with an airline and want a status match, you should certainly go ahead and make your request regardless of the time of year. If you are flexible, however, there may be an optimal time to submit your request.

  • Generally, status matches/challenges that are approved/completed in the first half of the year earn status through the end of the current status year, which is normally at the end of January or February of the following year (the status could also be granted just through the end of the current year)
    • For example, if you completed a challenge in May 2023, your status may be granted through January 31, 2024
  • If you complete a status challenge in the last half of the year, your status could be valid for the remainder of the year and throughout the next year
    • For example, if you sign up and complete a challenge in July 2023, your status may be granted through January 31, 2025

Some airlines have even later cut-off dates, so you’ll want to be sure to check with your desired airline before submitting a request.

Hot Tip:

The timing of your status match request can determine how long your extended status will be valid once you’ve successfully completed a challenge. Normally, submitting your request in the latter half of the year results in the longest period of granted elite status.

Completing the Flying and Revenue Requirements

You can find flights that match your status challenge requirements on Google Flights. Image Credit: Google Flights

In some instances, the airline will require you to complete a challenge prior to receiving elite status. For example, you may be required to fly a certain number of miles and even spend a certain amount on flights in order to obtain the status match and/or extend the period of your granted status.

It’s important to note that some airlines will only count flights that were booked after being approved for a challenge and others will include flights that were booked prior to approval.

Creating a Status Challenge Itinerary

One example of a status challenge that requires flying a certain number of miles would be Air Canada Aeroplan, where you were asked to fly 18,500 miles on flights operated by Air Canada to be granted Aeroplan 50K status.

In order to complete any challenge successfully, you’ll want to:

  • Review the flight requirements. Pay particular attention to which airlines must operate the qualifying flights, the number of miles you will need, and the deadline for the miles to hit your account.
  • Check the fare class of your flight. Compare it to the airline’s fare chart to make sure you’ll receive at least 100% mileage credit for the flights
  • Be careful with timing. Be sure you allow enough time after the flights are completed for the miles to be credited to your account before the challenge deadline.
Finding a flight that meets your challenge requirements is critical. Image Credit: Air Canada

Let’s work through an example.

We found the above itinerary using Google Flights — a great site for finding status challenge flight options! We narrowed our selection to just Air Canada-operated flights since this is the required airline for completing the challenge.

We then used a tool such as Great Circle Mapper or MileCalc.com to estimate the total mileage of the flights. In this case, the mileage flown would be 9,840, which would secure more than half of the miles we need to complete the challenge.

Compare the class of ticket you’re considering with the airline’s mileage-earning chart. Image Credit: Air Canada

Before booking, we accessed the earnings chart on Air Canada to make sure we’d be earning 100% of the miles flown.

Unfortunately, because this flight is an economy standard ticket, the 9,840-mile trip would only earn 4,920 towards the 18,500 miles needed to complete the challenge. We would need to purchase a higher-class ticket in Economy Flex or above to earn at least 100% qualifying miles.

Always be sure to double-check that your calculations are correct before booking any flights and use this process to check any existing flights.

While we’re using an Air Canada example, the same process holds true for other airlines’ status challenges.

Bottom Line:

To complete a status challenge effectively, you’ll need to accurately calculate the total mileage you’ll receive, purchase the correct fare class if you want to earn 100% or more qualifying miles and complete the flights — ideally at least a week before the deadline.

Meeting Status Challenge Revenue Requirements

In addition to flying a certain number of miles on an airline to meet challenge requirements, there may also be a required level of spending you must meet.

It’s important to realize that airlines do not count the entire cost of the ticket you purchase toward these revenue requirements, since some government taxes and fees are excluded.

Additionally, some airlines calculate the qualifying dollars for eligible partner airline flights based on a percentage of the distance flown.

Some airlines, like American Airlines, count qualifying credit card spending toward the Loyalty Point requirements for a status match/challenge.

Hot Tip:

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines may require certain revenue levels in their status challenges, but we’ve taken the mystery out of generating the appropriate spending in our guides to status matching with both American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

Enhancing Your New Elite Status

An airline-branded credit card can include complimentary lounge membership. Admirals Club GIG. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Your new elite status will deliver airline perks you can use — but to receive even more benefits, you may want to also consider the airline’s branded credit card.

An airline rewards-earning credit card enhances your current elite benefits, allows you to earn a higher level of frequent flyer miles, and gives you the ability to redeem those miles for award tickets.

Most of these cards also earn a generous welcome bonus after you meet specific initial spending requirements. Airline-branded credit cards offer one of the fastest ways to earn frequent flyer miles.

Here are some examples of airline-branded credit cards and the types of associated airline benefits you can expect to receive.

If You Have Elite Status With This Airline:Consider This Airline-Branded Credit Card:For These Benefits:
Alaska AirlinesAnnual $99 companion fare, free checked bags +6 travelers, 3 miles per $1 on Alaska Airlines
American AirlinesAdmirals Club lounge access, free checked bags + 8 travelers, 4 miles per $1 on American
Delta Air LinesDelta Club lounge access, Centurion Lounge access, free checked bag on Delta flights, priority boarding, 3 miles per $1 on Delta
Hawaiian AirlinesHawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®Free checked bag, 50% off companion ticket, $100 flight discount, 3 miles per $1 on Hawaiian
Southwest AirlinesAnnual travel credit, 7,500 points at card anniversary, 4 Upgraded Boardings per year, 3 points per $1 on Southwest purchases
United AirlinesUnited Club lounge access; free checked bags; priority boarding, seating, screening, and check-in; 4 miles per $1 on United
Bottom Line:

Having an airline-branded credit card gives you extra benefits not offered with elite status alone. 

Everything Else You Need To Know

Signing up for the new airline’s frequent flyer program before you submit a status match request will help expedite your request.

Some airlines limit status matches to once per lifetime of your account. Others limit requests to once every 3 to 5 years.

If you are approved for a status challenge and don’t meet the requirements within the specified period, your temporary status will expire.

Most airlines do not normally status match to their top-level elite tiers. Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines are exceptions that may match status to their top level.

It’s possible you could receive a prompt reply to your request but normally you should expect to wait no less than 2 weeks from the date of submission. It could take as long as 4 weeks to receive a response from some of the foreign airlines.

If you receive a status match/challenge when speaking with an airline representative, always request a follow-up written confirmation.

Final Thoughts

If you currently have elite status with another airline and want (or need) to switch to a new airline, requesting a status match is a perfect vehicle to accomplish this.

You’ll want to build a strong case in your first request to avoid a delayed process where the new airline must request more information.

In addition, you’ll always need to join the new airline’s frequent flyer program, so include that membership number upfront with your request. To validate that you’ve earned status by flying and that your status is current, you’ll also need to include documents that support this information.

While we’ve made every effort to provide a current snapshot of status match/challenge offers, changes occur constantly. The email confirmation you receive from the airline will dictate the actual terms and conditions of your status match/challenge.

And remember, you can request a status match from any airline! The worst case is that they say no, and it doesn’t cost you anything to ask.

The information regarding the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

You have elite status with an airline and you want/need to try a new airline. You simply request that the new airline match the status you have currently. The new airline then grants immediate status so you can try out their airline, or they ask you to complete a certain number of flown miles and potentially spend a certain level on their airline in order to receive the status match. A status match/challenge is a shortcut to elite status that requires far less than the normal annual requirements that need to be met to achieve elite status with an airline.

A status match is when a new airline gives you immediate reciprocal status based on your elite status level with your current airline. A status challenge is when there are additional requirements that need to be completed prior to you receiving the new status. Airlines can either grant you immediate status (status match), require you to complete a challenge before receiving status (status challenge), or have a program that is a combination of both. You may also receive status immediately but be required to complete a challenge of flying or spending with the airline to extend the status beyond the initial trial period.

Normally there is no cost to securing an airline status match or participating in a status challenge. American Airlines does charge for both its status match and its status challenge programs. One element that offsets the charge is that American Airlines does grant access to the status matches/challenges to flyers who do not currently have elite status with another airline.

Since each airline has a different process for requesting a status match, the length of time it takes to receive an approval can vary as well. Depending on the airline, you can generally plan on 2 to 4 weeks to receive a response to your request.

About Christine Krzyszton

Christine ran her own business developing and managing insurance and financial services. This stoked a passion for points and miles and she now has over 2 dozen credit cards and creates in-depth, detailed content for UP.

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