Copa Airlines has been a bit of an oddball in the world of aviation. Copa used to be 49% owned by Continental, and basically matched the look and feel of their big brother most of the time. Similar seats, similar branding, heck, even the clubs had similar furniture. At one point I actually thought that Copa was an abbreviation for Continental Panama! Perhaps the best indication that these two were bed-buddies, however, was that they shared the Continental OnePass frequent flyer program.
Well, that bed got a little crowded five years ago when Continental
merged with took over United. That resulted in OnePass being folded into MileagePlus, which forced Copa to follow suit.
That all changed this past July, however, when Copa apparently decided that any self respecting airline needs to have its own loyalty program. Riding along with big brother — only to watch her get married — just wasn’t cool anymore.
Thus was the dawn of Copa ConnectMiles. And they’re now offering status matches.
Why Status Match?
A status match is when you request one airline to match your status in another. There are a few reasons why you might want to do this, some more legitimate than others.
You Want To Change Your Allegiance
The reason that airlines offer to match your status elsewhere is that they want you to give them your business. When Delta and United instituted revenue requirements in order to earn elite status, and then switched to revenue based mileage earning, a lot of flyers successfully requested that American match their status. These people actually wanted to fly American.
Sure, they could have just started to fly American, credit their miles to AAdvantage, and work their way up from the bottom of the elite hierarchy, but that would have meant a lot of flying in the back of the bus. That could have been a tough pill to swallow.
But with a status match, it’s almost as easy as getting on a plane of a different color.
You Want Benefits
Another reason to request a status match is to take advantage of the benefits of another frequent flyer program, without actually flying that airline, or maybe even crediting flights to that program.
This alternative status may give you benefits like free checked bags anytime you fly in that alliance, priority check-in, or maybe even lounge access.
Copa Is Matching United Status
Typically you can’t match status from one airline to another in the same alliance. Poaching from your partners is evidently not kosher. But in this case, Copa is matching United premiers, despite still being in Star Alliance.
This actually kind of makes sense if you think about it. Since Copa previously used MileagePlus as its frequent flyer program, Copa’s best customers are now elites with United, not Copa.
The only logical way to migrate these folks over to ConnectMiles is to offer status matches.
How It Works
The process is actually really simple. First you need to have a ConnectMiles account. It will take you about two minutes to create one, and it currently comes with 1,000 free miles, which you may or may not care about.
Then you need to actually request the match. Supposedly you can do this either by emailing email@example.com or calling the Copa Service Center at 1-844-287-0304.
I did my status match this week. I sent an email to which I attached a scan of my MileagePlus card.
But then five minutes later I got antsy and decided to give Copa a call. I waited on hold for about 20 minutes for a very nice agent, then explained I wanted to match my United status to Copa. I expected him to not know what I was talking about, but he actually seemed very familiar with the process, indicating they’ve probably been doing a lot of these.
He asked me for was my ConnectMiles number and then my United MileagePlus number. Then told me he would pass this information along to the proper department and my account would reflect the new status within a couple of days.
Frankly, I wasn’t too sure if I believed him, as I’ve never really seen much of anything happen in a timely manner when it comes to Latin American airlines. Just ask Tiffany what she thinks of dealing with Avianca Lifemiles….
Same Day Status Matching
But holy cow, a few hours later I received an email informing me that I had achieved Platinum status in ConnectMiles. When I logged into the website, my account had indeed been upgraded.
I was ever so slightly disappointed, however, to see that they had only matched my United 1K status to Copa Platinum, when in fact Presidential Platinum would be the equivalent top tier.
But then I remembered that I was really only doing this to obtain free United Club access while traveling domestically, meaning that Gold or higher would really be all the same to me anyway.
The status appears to be good through February 2017, meaning that I have almost 18 months to use it.
Will A Copa Match Work For You?
I feel like I just did some awful science — I requested the status match via both email and phone, so I have no idea which one (or both) was actually effective! My graduate adviser would have had my head for doing science like this.
OK, my gut says that it was the phone call that got this through quickly.
I never saw an actual reply to my email, and there are some reports that email requests take quite a bit of time. So I think that I would recommend phoning it in, but again, I have no concrete empirical data to back that up because I botched the experiment.
It’s interesting to me that they don’t ask you to send in any credentials when you request the status match over the phone, at least in my case where I was matching from United. I’m guessing that this is because Copa was once part of MileagePlus and may still have some way of verifying your status in their system. Maybe they know a backdoor into SHARES? Who knows.
Or maybe they only verify credentials from other programs, as this supposedly works for Delta and American flyers as well. Shawn over at Miles To Memories even matched his Alaska status.
I suppose it’s possible that Copa checks to see how much you’ve actually flown Copa in the past, at least for those of us matching from United. But in my case, I flew them on one trip back in 2014, so I probably don’t look like one of their best customers. (Three of the four flights were great. The one that involved an eight hour redeye out of Uruguay followed by a six hour diversion in which they wouldn’t let us off the plane, not so much. 14 hours. 737. No joke.)
How Often Can You Match?
The general thinking is that a status match is a once per lifetime kind of thing.
That means you probably won’t be able to match your United status to Copa over and over, and as a result, you ought to make sure that you are going to get at least a little value out of it before you do it.
That said, there is no guarantee that they will continue to do status matches once ConnectMiles has been around for a while, so you might want to advantage of it while it’s available.
Free United Club Access!
I alluded to this earlier, but the whole point in my doing this match was to obtain free United Club while flying domestically. (I get United Club access while on international trips as a benefit of my United status already.) I doubt I’ll fly Copa anytime soon, and if I do, I’l most likely credit the miles to United anyway. So there’s really no other benefit here to me that I can see. Even so, I value United Club access at something between $100-$200 per year. Which probably explains why I’ve never bought a membership….
I’ve been Star Alliance Gold with both bmi (RIP!) and Turkish at various times over the past ten years and used those credentials to access United Clubs, mostly without issue. There is the occasional club matron, however, who will insist that the frequent flyer number on your boarding pass match that of the card that you use to enter the club, and when that happens, I just let them change it. Then once I’m inside, I go up to the inner desk and have them switch it back. Easy enough.
United Clubs are a decent place to wait for your flight and I would pay something for a membership. I just can’t justify paying what Jeff, er Oscar, thinks they’re worth, so getting access for free via Copa is a great deal for me.
The matching process with Copa is really easy and the status shows up quickly. If you end up at the Presidential Platinum level, you may even get some upgrades, though that would actually require flying Copa, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that again anyway. So maybe it’s just as well that I’m a lowly Platinum.
Are you planning to match your United status to Copa?