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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!