There are usually two ways to go about air travel: by price or by airline.
The appeal of the first method is obvious, but if you’re an airline loyalist, the promise of upgrades and fliers’ clubs is just as good. Airlines treat their frequent fliers well, rewarding their loyalty through memberships, upgrades and regular boosts to the front of the line.
Because, although you may doubt it when you get bumped from the last flight home, airlines aren’t competing with customers—they’re competing for them. And one of the newest tactics gaining popularity in the ongoing battle for loyal travelers is the “status match.”
What’s “Status Match”?
It works like this: If you’re a V.I.P. with one particular airline, you send one of its competitors a statement of that status, and the competitor grants you equivalent status on its own airline. You have 90 days to prove that you’ll be as lucrative a customer of this new airline by meeting a given amount of travel, you keep that status and its perks.
The Wall Street Journal reports that status match programs have been in place for a while, but only recently have airlines been upfront about the option. Travelers who have earned their status the hard way—that is, by being loyal to one carrier—are less than pleased about the influx of new passengers transferring their status and competing for hard-earned first class seats. Airlines, on the other hand, are seizing the opportunities—a spokesperson for U.S. Airways said that most people who take the 90-day trial stay with the airline.
Of course, status match might not be the best fit for you if you reserve your air travel for one trip to Orlando every year, but if you’re flying regularly—especially internationally—it’s a viable option to get credit with an airline that serves your destinations (and a way to leave an airline that no longer suits your needs).
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