Everyone is aware of American Airlines and most other carriers elite status levels. These are the people who are invited to board the planes first, get free upgrades, and even get the best seats in the first few rows of the economy seating section (you might not have known that).
Normally in order to achieve elite status you would need to fly at least 25,000 qualifying miles in order to achieve the lowest level of Gold, or 50,000 to earn Platinum. However it is actually possible to get your upgrades with only 5,000 or 10,000 miles respectively.
American Airlines runs two unadvertised programs called “Gold Challenge” and “Platinum Challenge”. These programs are designed to woo frequent travelers to American by offering expedited elite status so that you don’t have to wait an entire year if you fly a lot.
Here is how the programs work:
- First, you call into the AAdvantage help desk (1-800-421-0600) and ask for the “Gold Challenge” (or Platinum if you think you can hit it).
- You must call and join in prior to taking any flights. You will not get credit for any past flights – even yesterday!
- Once you are placed on the Gold Challenge you will have a 90 day window to accumulate 5,000 qualifying “points”.
- Points are based on miles and vary by class of service. So if you purchase a deeply discounted web fare you get .5 points per mile, but full fare or first class gets 1.5 points per mile.
- As soon as you achieve the required number of points the system automatically upgrades you!
Once you are upgraded you are eligible for:
- Bonus Miles
- Complimentary Upgrades
- Pre-boarding and priority seating
- Exclusive hot-line number for reservations, seating and meal requests
Also of particular note, several other airlines will grant elite status to American Airlines Gold and Platinum members just by showing them proof of your status in the hopes of stealing your business from American. For example Continental did this for me. So in some cases it’s worth shifting a few flights to AA just to get status on another airline. Just call yours and ask if they do AAdvantage elite status matching.
So, to sum things up, basically you could take one international flight, or 2 or 3 flights in the US, and be upgraded to elite status on several airlines as a result. Heck, one round trip full fare between LA and NYC would get you the Gold!