American offering status matches to United customers!

Per this FlyerTalk thread, it appears as if American is offering United customers “no strings attached” status matches. The email people are getting after requesting the status match reads as follows:

Thanks for speaking with me about a special opportunity to obtain American Airlines AAdvantage® elite status without meeting the standard qualification requirements. In order to proceed, please provide us with documentation reflecting the Premier level that you hold with United Airlines.
Please send us the following documentation. Simply “Reply” to this message, and for prompt service, do not change the subject line:
• A copy of your dated elite membership card reflecting your name and Premier status level for the 2012 Membership Year (.pdf, .tif, .jpeg, .bmp formats, not to exceed 1MB)
• Alternatively, you could send a copy or screen shot of your most recent account summary, reflecting your name and Premier status level (.pdf, .tif, .jpeg, .bmp formats, not to exceed 1MB)
• Your AAdvantage number and phone number
Alternatively, you may FAX copies of your documentation to (817)963-7882. Be sure to include your AAdvantage number and phone number and the Subject Line: Requesting AAdvantage Elite Status. Please do not send both an email and a FAX.
Once your documentation is accepted, you will receive an email within10 days confirming your new AAdvantage elite status, which will be valid through February 28, 2013. Your credentials will follow in 3-5 weeks. Please note the following status equivalents:
• AAdvantage Gold® membership for Premier Silver
• AAdvantage Platinum® membership for Premier Gold or Premier Platinum
• AAdvantage Executive Platinum® membership for Premier 1K
We look forward to welcoming you aboard your next American Airlines flight and await your reply.

Regards,

AAdvantage Customer Service

As you can see, they’re offering status matches all the way up to Executive Platinum status with no fees or “challenges” (whereby you have to fly a certain amount in a specified period of time). In the past American protected their “top tier” status level more than just about any airline, and didn’t even offer any sort of challenges or matches. Then last January they offered an Executive Platinum challenge for a short period of time whereby United 1Ks received Platinum status upfront and had to earn 25,000 elite qualifying points within 90 days to earn and maintain Executive Platinum.

But this is the first time I’ve ever seen them offer a public “no strings attached” match. To request your status match you just have to call AAdvantage customer service, which is open between 7:30AM and 9PM CT on weekdays (with more limited hours over the weekend), at (800) 882-8880.

But before you make the decision to status match, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, if you get a status match now it will be valid through February 2013. That means that you’d have until December 31 of this year to earn either 100,000 elite qualifying miles, 100,000 elite qualifying points, or 100 segments. It’s nothing impossible, but it’s just worth keeping in mind. Typically matched/challenged status is only valid for the entire following year if it’s done in June or later. I highly doubt the promo will still be around in June, so keep that in mind when making your decision.

Second, keep in mind that status matching now would likely preclude you from doing so in the future if they ran a similar promotion. There’s no guarantee they will, but it’s not completely a case of “well, there’s nothing to lose.”

Lastly, it’s not entirely clear to me whether you get eight systemwide upgrades for the status match. Typically when “earning” Executive Platinum status you get eight, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they automatically post, though at the same time that would be far too generous. So I certainly wouldn’t count on them, unless we hear otherwise from people that have matched (if anyone calls and asks about systemwide upgrades, please let us know what they say!).

With that out of the way, I figured I’d provide a quick rundown of Executive Platinum status, since I’ve been really pleased with American, their frequent flyer program, and how they treat their customers.

Qualifying for Executive Platinum status

American Executive Platinum status is actually among the toughest top tier status levels to achieve, since they have three qualifying metrics — segments, points, and miles. You can qualify for Executive Platinum status on either 100,000 miles, 100,000 points, or 100 segments.

While the segments threshold is lower than at United, the miles and points distinction is an important one to make. For every revenue mile you fly on American you earn one elite qualifying mile, though you earn anywhere from 0.5 to 1.5 elite qualifying points per revenue mile flown, based on the following chart:

What this means is that if you fly a mix of “premium” fares and “discounted” fares it’ll be tougher to qualify for top tier status with American than with United.

For those of you that have no clue what I’m talking about, let me put it in terms of an example. With United you need 100,00 elite qualifying miles to achieve Premier 1K status. If you flew ~34,000 miles in paid first class that would earn you ~50,000 elite qualifying miles (since you earn 150% of base miles). Then you could fly another 50,000 miles in coach and qualify for Premier 1K.

With American those paid first class segments would earn you a 50% bonus of elite qualifying points, but not a 50% bonus on elite qualifying miles. So with the same amount of travel as above you’d be sitting at 34,000 elite qualifying miles and ~50,000 elite qualifying points. To achieve Executive Platinum status from there you’d either need to earn another 66,000 elite qualifying miles (actual paid, butt-in-seat miles) or 50,000 elite qualifying points (as little as 34,000 flown miles in paid first class or as much as 100,000 flown miles in discounted coach). Hopefully that makes sense…

Domestic upgrades

American offers Executive Platinum members unlimited domestic upgrades, which start clearing at the 100 hour window. Upgrades clear by status level and are prioritized by the time added to the waitlist. The only exception is that within each status level those on full fare tickets clear before those on discounted tickets (but unlike at other airlines, lower elites on a full fare ticket don’t clear ahead of higher elites on a discounted ticket).

American’s first class cabins are large, with 16 first class seats on the 737 and MD-80, and 22-24 first class seats on the 757s. As a result, as an Executive Platinum you’ll almost always clear your upgrades, much more regularly than at United. I have missed a few transcon upgrades, but only because of booking last minute.

It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that American doesn’t offer complimentary companion upgrades. Instead you have to support your upgrade either with miles, eVIPs, or 500 mile upgrade certificates. 500 mile upgrade certificates (known as “stickers”) can be purchased for $30 each, so while you have to pay to upgrade companions, they do clear at your window.

International upgrades

Quite possibly the biggest selling point of Executive Platinum status for me are the international upgrades. As an Executive Platinum member you get eight systemwide upgrades per year, which can be used to confirm upgrades at the time of booking, upgrade availability permitting. But what sets American’s systemwide upgrades apart from United’s is that there are no fare restrictions. As long as you book a revenue ticket it can be upgraded.

Since I’ve been an Executive Platinum I’ve used 12 systemwide upgrades, all of which cleared. While American’s current business class product is still angled flat, you can’t beat the value of paying a discounted coach fare and upgrading to business class. Furthermore, keep in mind that American will be introducing a new business class product on their 777-300ERs later this year.

There are a couple of other things worth noting about American’s systemwide upgrades. First of all, they can also be used to upgrade from discounted business class fares to first class. For example, last year American had $1,600 business class fares to Europe, so I booked a business class ticket and upgraded to first class. That’s an incredible deal for international first class.

Second of all, what’s also interesting about American’s sytemwide upgrades (and mileage upgrades, for that matter) is that the upgrade “bucket” for domestic flights is actually the same as discounted first class. That means as long as American is selling discounted first class (the “A” bucket), you can immediately confirm an upgrade using miles or a systemwide upgrade. There’s no other airline that has such a liberal confirmable upgrade policy for domestic flights.

Take Miami to Los Angeles, for example, which has to be one of the toughest routes in the American system for upgrades:

Almost every flight has “7″ confirmable upgrade seats, which is the highest inventory American will ever show.

Lounge access

As an Executive Platinum member you get Emerald status in the OneWorld alliance, which gets you access to first class lounges when traveling internationally. This means that the lounge access policy is a step up from what the Star Alliance offers, since as an Executive Platinum in international coach or business class you can access the international first class lounges of American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, JAL, Qantas, etc.

Phone service

This is one area where American is literally the best in the industry. Period. Their Executive Platinum phone agents are actually empowered to apply logic to situations, which I can’t say about the phone agents at many other airlines.

Executive Platinum is top tier

At United, Premier 1K is basically a mid-tier status level, since there are so many Global Services members. You really don’t feel like you’re a top tier elite. At American that’s not the case, however. While they have an invitation only level (Concierge Key), I’ve not once felt like I’m “only an Executive Platinum member.”

Onboard product

While the in-flight entertainment on American is lagging behind the competition, American has wifi on all their 767-200s and a majority of their 737 and MD-80 fleet. After getting so used to in-flight wifi, I don’t know how I used to live without it…

But despite bankruptcy protection American’s service upfront, especially domestically, is a step up from the competition. For one, on transcon flights they have “real” duvets and pillows. But beyond that the meal service is also great, with menus, hot nuts, an appetizer, salad, a main course, and an ice cream sundae, and cookies prior to landing. See here for a review I wrote of American’s service between Miami and San Francisco.

American policies that frustrate me

For all the other ways in which American is ahead, there are two policies that really irk me. First, they don’t waive the confirmed same day change fee for Executive Platinum members, which virtually all other airlines do for their top tier elites. Second, when ticketing award reservations they waive the ticketing/change fee if you’re booking an award ticket for yourself out of your Executive Platinum account, but not if you’re booking an award for someone else out of your account, which virtually every other airlines does for their top tier elites. That being said, that’s a small price to pay for the otherwise great experiences I have with American.

Anyway, American rocks, and there’s never been a better promotion for switching over than this. That being said, I’d think twice before making the match just for one or two trips, since you could be giving up a similar opportunity in the future.

If anyone has any questions, please let me know! :)

Comments

  1. Ted F says

    Now that this has gone “viral” on the BA blogs, I’d say this opportunity gets shut down in a week or less. :) Get in while you can!

  2. lucky says

    @ Ted — A week of less? If I were a betting man I couldn’t expect to see it beyond Monday.

  3. beachfan says

    Re: upgrades, within status class, transfering passengers trump originating passengers – this is ahead of time of request in the prioritization process.

  4. lucky says

    @ beachfan — While I know that’s conventional wisdom, I haven’t found that to be the case. First, can we clarify what that actually means? If I’m flying TPA-ORD-LAX, do I clear my upgrade ahead someone flying just TPA-ORD AND ahead of someone just flying ORD-LAX, or does it apply just to the second segment? Is that the case at the window or under airport control? Because my experiences have contradicted that consistently…

  5. Mgd says

    The lounge policy about star is not entirely accurate

    While they don’t officially endorse first class lounge for top tier, I’ve have had no trouble getting into air china first class lounge at PEK with basic star gold card… YMMV

  6. Mgd says

    At UA, the new MP program gives hefty RDM bonuses to international F and J (up to 100% base + 150% bonus for 250% total when flying full fare international F) …. Something that has been conveniently left out of discussion of why UA 1K maybe more attractive at times

  7. 1KHI says

    I have been wanting to try AA product, but I don’t think I can make 100K miles by the end of the year. Very tempting though.

  8. UAPremierGuy says

    Ben,

    For all of the reasons you mentioned above, I have not yet done a status match. My biggest fear, of course, is that the status match would be a “once-in-a-lifetime” sort of thing. However, given the news about the possible takeover (and I recognize this is potentially still a ways away with many hurdles to clear) of AA by US, I’m thinking now might just be the time to do the once-in-a-lifetime status match to AA given that AA could become US in the future…thoughts on that from this perspective?

  9. lucky says

    @ UAPremierGuy — Yeah, the definition of “once in a lifetime” means less and less in the industry by the day. In your shoes I’d probably go for it, and if you like it, maybe you’ll have a new airline of choice.

  10. BrewerSEA says

    @lucky

    The benefit is not conferred at the first airport (TPA in your example), only connecting airports. I don’t know if it is only on the airport upgrade list, or also applied beforehand. Regardless, it certainly exists. I asked the Flagship Check-In Agent at LAX to show me the upgrade list when on the OW megado and she pointed out the T designators and explained the process to me in detail. Can you share what experiences you’ve had appear to contradict this?

  11. Zack says

    Where can I see availability for upgrades? I have bever seen the screenshot from above before today.

  12. lucky says

    @ BrewerSEA — I’ve on many occasions lost out on an upgrade to people originating in a city that I’m connecting in (not on a full fare ticket), especially for ORD-LAX/SFO.

    @ Zack — That was taken on ExpertFlyer. That being said, if you just make a “dummy” booking and look at first class availability, it should list if discounted first class is available. Click “show details,” and if “A” class is available you can confirm an upgrade using miles/SWUs.

  13. BrewerSEA says

    @lucky

    Wow, you’ve missed out on multiple non-transcontinental upgrades as an EXP? Poor luck, I’ve never missed one (though I avoided that whole DEQ11 mess ;)). Perhaps these people were not upgraded at the airport if the transit priority doesn’t apply beforehand. I assume you weren’t booking separate tickets or anything else unusual.

  14. Dan says

    @MgD, we all know that lucky prefers AA over UA, and there may be a bias.

    Who wants to tackle the differences between UA Gold (I’m MM), and AA Platinum. As a MM, I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to jump ship ever since UA reduced the mileage bonus, and ever since they took away the two CR1 upgrades.

  15. FBKSan says

    Nice post, Lucky. My main takeaway is that if one typically flies solo, AA could trump others. But if one often flies with another person, it’s much less clear. You’re pretty quick to dismiss the change fee on awards booked for others, but that has consistently been one of the biggest perks for me with United–an change fees could really add up on AA. Similar story with upgrades, to a lesser extent.

    I was surprised not to see more discussion of using miles, however. I get that the post is primarily about AA and its policies, but the ability to use miles is pretty central. I continue to be underwhelmed by the thought of what my AA miles could do. I realize *A availability has waned somewhat lately, but the sheer number of star partners still really appeals to me. Moreover, BA’s prominent position in OneWorld makes me gun-shy (those surcharges!) I’ve seen you and Gary comment positively about AA award availability and flight experiences, but their hard product in C is a real drag. I’ve come to really value the seat, especially when I’m flying a domestic carrier, so for me UA trumps AA.

    Now that you’ve been flying AA seriously for half a year at least, how about a post reviewing your experience with them compared to UA? We’ve gotten bits and pieces of that already, including in this post, but I’d like a bit more. This status match is tempting, but retaining EXP would be an uphill slog for me this year, and I’m not convinced it would be the best move, as much as I’m dismayed by the direction UA is headed.

  16. Gene says

    “when ticketing award reservations they waive the ticketing/change fee if you’re booking an award ticket for yourself out of your Executive Platinum account, but not if you’re booking an award for someone else out of your account”

    Really? My EXP partner redeposited an award ticket to his account for his mother last month and there was no fee. Maybe he got “lucky”!

  17. lucky says

    @ Gene — I should have been more clear, because you’re absolutely right. The rules say:
    “Charges associated with reinstating a fully unused award ticket that has not expired are waived for AAdvantage Executive Platinum® members. In addition, confirmed changes to an eligible origin or destination on a MileSAAver award are waived for AAdvantage Executive Platinum® members when the miles are claimed from their account. Changes to an eligible origin or destination on AAnytime awards are allowed at no charge for all members.”

    So I believe the redeposit fee is waived as long as miles come out of the EXP’s account, while the change fee is only waived if it’s the EXP traveling.

  18. Nick says

    I’ve already done 50K with United this year and while this is tempting I want a full year to switch, as having gold level in 2 programs is useless. I’m not going to do 100K in 8 months. So I would only consider it after July (or now) if I can get all of 2013 at Executive Platinum.

  19. lucky says

    @ FBKSan — The thing to keep in mind is that American does waive the redeposit fee, but just doesn’t waive the change fee. Furthermore, anyone can make routing changes, but there’s just a fee if you change the origin/destination.

    I didn’t focus on miles in this post because that would’ve been a whole new can of worms.

    In the past I would have agreed with you in saying that United miles open up a LOT more options than American miles. Though with the trends we’ve seen in the past year, I’d say American miles have become almost as valuable as United miles for premium redemptions.

    Lufthansa first class is no longer bookable more than a week or so out. That means the only transatlantic airline with first class award space is United. With American you have award space on American, and if you want to pay the surcharges you have access to BA, which has excellent availability.

    To Asia OneWorld wins by a long shot with Cathay Pacific and JAL, both of which are great about releasing award space.

    To South America OneWorld wins with LAN and American.

    To Australia OneWorld wins with Qantas (which actually releases A380 first class award space regularly).

    To the Middle East American has a slight advantage with Etihad and Royal Jordanian, both of which release a good amount of award space.

    Which leaves Africa, where Star Alliance wins by a long shot.

    So I’d say that United miles really aren’t what they used to be, and American miles are a lot more than they used to be.

  20. Nick says

    It will be very disappointing if we see United bringing out the same offer, as that would be a complete dismissal on the reasons for this promo… (But sadly it would be typical) What they need to restore elite benefits.

    - No TOD’s unless every elite has cleared.
    - No selling upgrades before GPU’s go through.
    - No auto upgrades on Y fares before higher elites clear.
    - Restore companion upgrade benefits.
    - Get a better attitude towards your best customers.

  21. mike says

    it would seem pretty easy to edit a screen shot or photoshop a .pdf file to get AA status even if you don’t have it anywhere else

    it would seem that AA cannot prove either way

  22. theblakefish says

    Just called, got the email,a nd sent back the documentation. I am not frustrated with UA at all (ymmv) because I was ready for the recent issues that they have had…but I am booked to 1K already and I need an airline to take me through the rest of the year. I might not get to ExecPlat but this will build a nice mileage balance for me and get me some upgrades to boot!! Thanks, Luckster!

  23. Li says

    I just called them and verified that this offer DOES include the 8 systemwide upgrades. at least the agent thinks so…

  24. NB says

    Thank you for such a useful comparison. I’ve been considering switching for a while and came to the conclusion that the AA program was the way to go apart from the lack of E+ – which is slowly being eroded at UA because they are nibbling away at the amount of extra legroom.

    In any event I’m 18 months off the million mile marker at UA, so the timing’s not right for me – plus I’ve just booked a further 30,000 miles to take me to 70,000 miles on UA this year. I’ll only have another 40,000 on AA, which will leave me in a mess next year. Shame.

  25. Aaron says

    Lucky,
    Great summary on AA, but I’m waiting to hear if you’re going to do a little head-to-head of AA/UA. You’ve flown them both extensively (especially UA) and held top tier status for both. What are your personal views on them? Have you been flying UA this year? Do you intend to attain 1K again?

  26. Phil says

    Apparently SWUs have become the new 500 mile sticker…. Might as well stop flying AA, switch to UA, and then get status on both.

  27. says

    Took me a while to get through, but the agent was nice and I had sent in my info within a minute of her picking up the phone. I hope Platinum will get me a targeted offer for the Citibank card with like a 50K mile bonus (never looked into it, so I don’t know if they do that) so I can fly Cathay J to Asia and then return on UA.

  28. DiscoPapa says

    So are you giving up on maintaining 1K and just working for EXP? You haven’t taken many revenue UA/*A flights this year, have you?

  29. Jack says

    Ben,

    I jumped on this this morning. Got a nice, helpful agent immediately (<15 seconds). She knew exactly what I was asking about and sent the email to me immediately. I had it within 2 minutes.

    I took a pic of my 1K card and sent it back to AA via email within 15 minutes.

    My bet is that this offer is pulled within a few days.

    A couple of other items / observations.

    1) The AA csr asked at the end of the call if I was interested in a Citibank visa offer. I said that I would listen to it and was transferred in seconds to a Citibank rep.

    The Citibank rep offered a "Platinum Select Visa" with the following features.
    - 35,000 AA miles contingent upon $1,500 spend within 3 months;
    - 1 free checked bag for up to four passengers on the same record;
    - $95 annual fee waived for first year
    - Several other features of limited value to me.

    Note that the AA website had a link to a 30,000 bonus mile offer which I did not explore.

    2) I haven't checked the AA forum on Flyertalk. However, I have to believe that the AA Executive Platinum folks who earned their status through flying AA have to be really upset about this offer to UA flyers. I know that I would be torqued!

    So this will probably be a two-edged sword for AA and will be pulled quickly. But I am hoping that so many UA 1Ks and other UA FFers will jump ship that somebody who cares and has some power (Haven't a clue who that might be) will start beating SMI/J over the head about his trashing of UA.

    Jack

  30. Mark says

    As someone with a lot of experience booking awards for others as an EXP, I can say with certainty that change and redeposit fees are waived for *all* tickets booked from my account. Ticketing fees, on the other hand are not.

  31. Consultant says

    Anybody know if they have any way to check to see if the UA status is valid? I heard the hotel chains have some sort of information validation program in place.

  32. lucky says

    @ M Mackiernan — As of late last year Lufthansa only releases first class award availability to Star Alliance partners within a couple of weeks of departure at most, unfortunately. Miles & More members can still claim the space as before, but it’s just not available to their partner airlines.

    @ DiscoPapa — I’m all AA nowadays.

    @ Jack — As someone that qualifies for Exec Plat “the hard way,” I support AA offering this, even if my upgrade percentage goes down. United has done a horrible job during the integration and American is struggling, so I can’t for a second blame them for offering something like this. If it means my upgrades clear with less frequency, so be it. What’s good for American is ultimately good for me.

  33. lucky says

    @ Consultant — I wouldn’t suggest trying to fake status, though I can’t imagine they do, given that the last thing United wants to do is give American information about their elites while they’re trying to “steal” them.

  34. Chas says

    Wow. Offer died sometime Friday afternoon EDT (guessing the FT/Blog effect sent them a flood of UA folks). I managed to call in the morning while the offer was still going, but someone fat-fingered my email address, so I never got the email. By the time I had a chance to call back and get it re-sent the offer was over, and the email could not be regenerated. Frustrating to say the least.

  35. dhammer says

    I got in before the lock. As a UA MM, there’s no pressure for me to fly them. It will be nice to fly AA with comped status, and enjoy the benefits that go with it. I’ll miss E+, but that’s the sacrifice for all those bonus miles I’ll earn again.

  36. Jesse says

    I submitted my paperwork on April 27 (7 days ago) and my account just got updated this morning.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The rub was that it was on Delta and as you can guess none of my family has status with them. Now under normal circumstances I would not care, but when traveling with three people including a kid, you’re just going to need to check luggage, and this could easily cost us $200 per trip. There is no way in hell I’m paying to check bags. So now I had some decisions to make, how do I get better seats and free baggage. The only option was to do a status match to Delta or to Alaska since they are a Delta partner too. Both options would get me both perks. But since a status match is usually a once in a lifetime opportunity, I had to be wise in this decision. For those of you not familiar with a status match here’s a great write up on it from one of my favorite bloggers. […]

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