How To Get Free United Club Access

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.

Copa ConnectMiles

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.

Probably the only miles this account will ever see...
Probably the only miles this account will ever see…

Then you need to actually request the match. Supposedly you can do this either by emailing accounts@connectmiles.com or calling the Copa Service Center at 1-844-287-0304.

My Experience

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.

Copa Platinum Card
My virtual ConnectMiles Platinum card

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.

science experiment

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.)

I found Copa's business class seats to be better than the United domestic first seats
The footrests in Copa first put them a leg above the competition to Central America

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-Club-Boston
You won’t be seeing clubs this empty once all the United premiers get their status matched to Copa

Bottom Line

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?

Comments

  1. well, I flew Copa two weeks ago from GRU to LAS.
    during flights, they offer lots of times their Connect Miles program. I’m Mileage Plus Gold and asked if there were any upgrades for Star Alliance members – the FA said “only if you switch now for Connect Miles”.
    also they have zero respect for status members. I lost the connection (along with other 23 people flying from GRU to LAS on the same flight) and no priority rebooking (star alliance rules ignored) – just hotel and take the plane next day.

  2. Partner airlines can verify status–that’s how it gets printed on your boarding pass as a partner elite. So it’s no surprise that they don’t need documentation

  3. So just to clarify. I have Platinum Elite for Life in the Flying Blue Program. If i ask them to status match, they will give me the highest level for one year in their program?

  4. Just so I understand correctly. I have Flying Blue Platinum Elite for Life status. Would Copa status match me and give me their highest level for one year only?

  5. Great! Thanks for the useful tip. I’m United Gold and my United Club membership from my United Club card just expired (didn’t pay for that as I applied in a Chase branch and had the first year annual fee waived). I’ve been thinking of getting a status match outside of Star Alliance and then using that for a status match back into another Star Alliance carrier, like Air Canada or someone else. It looks like I don’t have to do that now, but I might try anyway as I’m curious to see if that would work.

  6. So, if anyone is trying to status match from an out of star alliance membership, you have to email them.
    I called them, and they told me that by phone, they can only process United status matches. Other airlines (I’m taking it as non star alliance ones), you have to email your request to accounts@connectmiles.com with a copy of your card. I did that, so I will let you know if it works.

  7. Is this status match only for united?

    Why don’t you have Star GOLD status with Premier 1k? Wouldn’t that grant you domestic lounge access?

  8. I have Star Alliance Gold through Air Canada, and United still denies lounge access every time in US lounges.. I am only granted access if I am on an International itinerary.

    Why would having *G through copa be any different than *G from Air Canada?

  9. Hello Travis,
    After reading your blog, I follow exactly what you said. I join and open a Copa account. I called immediately after my account was verified, a nice gentlemen answer my call after being on hold for about 5 minutes, he took my Copa account number, followed by inquiry how he can help me. I said I would like to have status match he took my United Mileage Plus member number and status and he asked if I have any future flights which I did and told him the itinerary. He told me that he will forward my request to authority and after 2 hours I received an e mail stating that my status match was approved and I was gold. I checked my account and behold I am gold until February 2017. Thank you very much for your help. Your the bomb dude!!!!!

  10. Tim — That’s bizarre. In theory, there should be no difference.

    I’ve had a few lounge agents over the years think that I’m trying to come into the club based on my UA credentials (because my UA FF number is on the BP), but when I point out that it’s a TK or BMI star gold card the issue goes away. I’m guessing that Copa will be similar.

  11. Ray, — awesome. So glad to hear that it worked for you.

    Just a suggestion — next time don’t use the four letter b word in the comments on a blog related to aviation! You’re gonna get us arrested dude! 😉

  12. Noah — Nope, United doesn’t give their own Star Gold’s lounge access on domestic itineraries. (And that’s pretty typical among US carriers.)

  13. Sorry you had a bad experience with Copa. I think they’re a fantastic airline, usually offering very good deals for business class. True, their biggest plane is a 737 so i might hesitate to fly them to Argentina/Chile/Brazil but for getting around Central America or Columbia/Venezuela/Ecuador they’re really the best option.

  14. If I’m MP Gold, will they match to gold? Or will they match to one level below like they did to you? Anyone have experience with that particular match? I will reach MP Platinum after Thanksgiving, so I could also wait to make sure. Hopefully they’ll still be matching then.

    I once matched from MP 1K to Flying Blue Platinum to Lufthansa Senator, which in addition to lounge access also got me some really nice red leather luggage tags. 🙂

  15. It is surprising that there are no comments on United (er, Oscar’s) latest email blast – is it that obvious that “First, we must focus on our customers” is not going to happen anytime soon?

  16. Alex — This wasn’t meant to be a review of Copa. I think they are a fine airline when the sun is shining — nice planes, better than domestic first seats / food, and a favorable schedule to SA for those who don’t like redeyes.

    But during IRROPS, they are abysmal. I mean horrible.

  17. Antonio — I would expect that if you are Gold, you’ll get matched to Gold. It’s not uncommon for airlines to not match to their top level no matter what you are — I generally wouldn’t have expected it, except for the fact that others have gotten the 1K->Presidential Plat match.

    But honestly, there’s no way to know for sure.

  18. Travis – Perhaps it does have something to do with if you have taken flights with them. I took four high-fare flights with them this year, so perhaps I’ll wait to make MP Platinum and see if I get equivalent. Some RPUs would be quite nice if the status match comes with certificates. If so, it may be worth your while to try and get bumped up to Presidential Platinum. Word on the street is that in 2016 you’ll be able to redeem them on UA flights.

  19. Antonio — That’s certainly interesting regarding the upgrades. I would have expected them to only be valid on CM metal. Frankly, I don’t quite understand why they would be valid on UA — if that turns out to be true, I guess this relationship isn’t quite as over as they claimed it was.

    I guess I’ll believe it when I see it.

  20. Antonio —

    Thanks for the link. That’s interesting. Again, I’ll believe it when I see it — as in, them actually working on UA metal. CO was never known for having a crack IT crew, and Copa basically learned from them. So we’ll see.

    I think some status matchers have received upgrades at this point. Guess I’ll call and see if I can get bumped up to PP.

  21. This is a very silly question, but, just to be clear, matching status with Copa would not mean we have to give up UA status, right?

  22. Just a clarifying question, sorry.
    UA 1K here (for many years).
    If I get status matched on CopaConnect (Gold or higher), then when I show up at a UA Club (flying UA domestic that day with a UA ticket on my MileagePlus account) I show my Copa card and am admitted in the Club even though I’m flying 100% UA domestic only?

  23. I wonder, who actually pays for my lounge access? Is it the carrier I’m flying on or the carrier that gave me the *Gold card?

  24. Hello! I called to status match my American Platinum status to Copa. They said I had to email them, so I included a simple email asking for the status match plus a screen shot of my American account. Three days later I’m Copa Platinum without ever having taken a Copa flight!

  25. Lior, the carrier on issued you the credentials got you into the lounge “pays”, though it’s been a long running debate about how much they pay.

  26. Dodson — yes, if you are on a UA domestic itinerary, and show your Copa *Gold card, you should be admitted.

    Expect to have to explain that you are entering on your Copa credentials, not your 1K card. About 50% of agents have trouble understanding this, but if you are persistent, you will prevail.

  27. I was successful in getting a Platinum status match, which is verified in “My Account”, but the online card still just shows regular membership with no *Gold. I need this for lounge access, no? Did anyone else have this issue? Will I have to wait until a physical card is mailed to me?

  28. Tom, I have the same issue. I was matched from my ExPlat AA status to Copa Platinum and I am seeing the “blue” card without the “Gold” verbiage below the star alliance symbol.

    Guess, we’ll have to wait and see, unless Travis knows why?

  29. I think this opportunity has passed. I emailed them on Oct 2 and a week later got this reply

    Greetings on behalf of ConnectMiles.
    We are developing a new product to assign PreferMember status in ConnectMiles.
    Please contact us at the end of the year in order review your request.

    We appreciate your interest in our loyalty program and invite you to include your ConnectMiles number when you book your travel on Copa Airlines and our partners to earn miles and enjoy benefits.

    Best Regards,
    ConnectMiles
    Copa Airlines

  30. I succeeded in getting the status match and put lounge access to the test this weekend. Mixed results, and every time I have had to try to “talk my way” in.

    This worked at ORD for me, but not LAX or IAD. So basically, it’s up to the agent at the desk. At IAD, she insisted I needed to show a Copa boarding pass with a Copa PNR to gain access using a Platinum ConnectMiles card. Oh well… Still, it is a nice perk, when it works.

  31. Michael —

    Your experience isn’t surprising at all. United agents love to make up their own rules.

    But the reality is that there are Star Alliance rules that govern admittance to the lounge. So next time, just stand your ground and insist they get a supervisor. Or SHOW you where it says whatever rule they are trying to make up.

    I know, it sucks, but it is what it is.

  32. I just tried it and got matched for Premier Silver (same as United) within minutes of calling (I also emailed as well but got anxious so I called as well! LOL ) June 1, 2016 at 10:49 am CST.

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