American will not simply give you status because you have status on another airline. Rather, they have implemented a secret “challenge” program where you can earn status on American by flying a certain amount during a 90 day period. Here’s how it works:
American offers challenges for the opportunity to reach Gold and Platinum elite levels – until recently there has been no challenge to reach Executive Platinum, though there are reports this is changing.
American will occasionally grant Executive Platinum to frequent flyers who use a travel agent who gives American a large amount of business. If you will be flying American frequently, speak to your travel agent to find out if she can get you Executive Platinum status.
For the Gold challenge, you will need to reach 5,000 Qualifying Points within a 90 day period (remember that Qualifying Points were generally earned at 1 point per mile, though very discounted tickets were at .5 points per mile). Only people with no American elite status can partake in the Gold challenge.
For the Platinum challenge, you’ll need to reach 10,000 Qualifying Points within a 90 day period. For the Platinum challenge, however, you can already have Gold status and use the challenge to quickly get to the next level.
For the secret Executive Platinum challenge, you’ll need to reach 25,000 Qualifying points within a 90 day period. That’s a lot of flying.
Status matches begin either on the 1st or the 16th of the month, though we know that if you had a flight a few days before the challenge start date, American will generally include that flight if you ask for it.
More importantly, if you begin the challenge between January 1st and June 1st, your new Elite status will only go through the end of that year. For example, a May 1st, 2011, challenge will give you elite status through February, 2012. However, if you begin the challenge after June 1st, your elite status will continue through February 2013. If you can, it’s obviously best to wait until after June 1st to begin your match to maximize your Elite status.
Carefully read the information you receive from American about the challenge – there are significant restrictions as to which flights are eligible for inclusion in the level you are trying to reach (for example, TransAtlantic flights booked in ‘Q’ class don’t count).
To begin the AAdvantage challenge, call American at 1-800-882-8880 and ask for Customer Service. Remember, because this is a secret program your Customer Service Representative may be hazy on the details. Simply explain which challenge you would like to complete (Gold or Platinum) and they will be able to help.
Unfortunately, challenges aren’t free. It’ll cost you $80 for the Gold Challenge and $150 for the Platinum. You had better be sure that you’re going to actually make that challenge before plunking down the cash.
One final note: American has been known to match United Airlines elite flyers up to Platinum level without a challenge because the two airlines are so competitive on many business routes (they share a hub in Chicago, for example). If you have United elite status, call 1-800-882-8880 and ask them to match your status. If they agree, they will require a photocopy of your United Mileage Plus elite card plus several past statements. American has been inconsistent about matching United without a challenge, so you should definitely call before bothering with the challenge.