Status is everything when you are traveling. If you like free upgrades and VIP treatment, read on!
If you are a casual traveler you may not be aware of all the status programs and levels that exist with airlines, hotels, and rental car companies. For example, with airlines, status can score you free upgrades to preferred seating, sometimes you can even score free first class upgrades. Airline status will also get you free checked bags, priority boarding, VIP lounge access, and bonus miles when you fly.
How do I get status?
There are only a few ways to attain airline status. The quickest and most obvious way is to fly a whole bunch. Generally speaking, airlines will give you silver, gold, or platinum status for flying 25k, 50k, or 75k miles in a calendar year, respectively. Each airline has their own status names and required flown miles, but 25k, 50k, and 75k miles are an easy guideline to go off of.
Another way to get status is by signing up for and spending money on your airline credit card. You can get the Southwest credit cards to earn the Companion Pass status. Once you have earned 110k Southwest points (from flying or from SW credit cards), you will be granted Companion Pass for the remainder of the current calendar year as well as the following calendar year. The Companion Pass status doesn’t score you free seat upgrades or priority boarding but it does have one HUGE obvious perk, you can fly one person free with you whenever you fly on Southwest Airlines. Yes, every time I fly Southwest, whether I use points or cash for my ticket, my wife comes along for FREE (well, you do pay the $5.60 security fee)
Read more here on how to obtain the Companion Pass.
Okay, now that you have your Companion Pass status this is where you begin to leverage that status with other airlines. Airlines compete for your business, especially if you are a frequent flyer, which having any level of status would imply. You can take your Southwest Companion Pass status and “Status Match” to Alaska Airlines MVP 75k Status. That is the highest status of Alaska Airlines and will give you a ton of awesome perks. All you do is send a picture of your DL and your Companion Pass card to Alaska Air and they will automatically grant you the MVP 75k status for one year.
Check out statusmatcher.com to see user stories of successes and failures when trying to match their statuses with other loyalty programs. If you look on statusmatch.com you will see that Companion Pass is automatically matched by Alaska Airlines to MVP 75k. Some airlines won’t match your status and some will offer you a ‘Status Match Challenge’. A challenge is where the airline gives you the status to try for 90 days and you are required to fly a certain number of miles within those 90 days. They want to earn your business but also show you how ‘great’ the status benefits are while you are flying for those 90 days.
Here is an example of a status match I did which scored my wife and I free first class seats. I used my Companion Pass to match to Alaska MVP 75k. I then used my MVP 75k to do an United Airlines 90 day challenge match. They granted me United Platinum status to try for 90 days. (their second highest status). I had no intention of flying enough miles to retain the status after the 90 days but I did have an upcoming United flight from the East Coast so I figured it would be worth getting the status to “try” for that time period. Most airlines only let you status match once every 5 years or so, just keep that in mind. Flying home from Miami, my wife and I were upgraded to first class automatically when we waiting at the gate. I paid only $80 per ticket one-way (found a steal of a deal from Miami to Phoenix) and these first class seats would have cost over $550 each.
But wait, the status matching perks and fun just keep getting better. By getting my Alaska Air MVP 75k status they allow you to automatically nominate one other person to their lower tier, “MVP” status. That status still earns you preferred seats (more leg room), as well as free checked bags. MVP status also puts you on the first class upgrade waiting list, albeit you are on the wait-list behind higher tier status flyers.
On the return flight from Honolulu, my mother-in-law, who I nominated for MVP status, received a FREE first class upgrade. That is a five hour flight and that ticket would have cost over $500 one-way. First class scores you free meals, free alcohol, a big comfy seat, and free TV/movies. First class is as good as I imagined, if not better. They treat you like royalty and the food is actually decent. Here are a few snapshots of some of the food served on the free upgraded flight returning from Honolulu on Alaska Air:
Another airline I status matched to is Delta Airlines. I was granted Delta Platinum status for 90 days. This will give me automatic “Delta Comfort +” seating until December! We are flying Delta to Paris in November and Delta Comfort + would normally be $120 per person, each-way ($480). These seats have 5 extra inches of leg room, increased recline, front of the plane (helpful when you are on a jumbo jet), free adult beverages, and you get to board with first class. These are the auto, bare minimum perks of Platinum, first class upgrades are still available. You will be eligible for an upgrade to first class 5 days before your flight so long as all the seats have not been purchased. The Delta Platinum status also grants you free Hertz President’s Circle status. This earns you free vehicle upgrades, guaranteed availability, VIP line at the counter, and additional earned points each time you rent.
My next goal, take my complimentary Hertz President’s Circle status and get an automatic match to National Car Rental’s highest status, Executive Elite. According to statusmatcher.com I will get auto matched the same day, I can’t wait!
I hope you will use some of this information to leverage your existing statuses and fly/stay/drive in style!