UPDATE II: According to very recent reports Turkish Airlines has accepted status match request made during January 2013. Response time has been weeks to months and several people have not received any response at all to status match request made during late 2012 and 2013.
UPDATE: It looks like Turkish Airlines has stopped status matching as of January 2013. There has been no official announcements but also no reports of successful status match requests in 2013.
During the spring Turkish Airlines (TK), a Star Alliance member, started offering status matching to not only frequent fliers from competing alliances but also to frequent fliers from Star Alliance partners. When Turkish Airlines first started offering this status match several blog and forum posts were published. Now that this offer has been going on for about six months I want to provide some information about the experiences with this offer. I will here sum up my own experiences and those I have come across mainly at the FlyerTalk Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles forum, especially in this thread. UPDATE: A new 2013 FlyerTalk thread has been started.
Status matched members will be upgraded to “Elite” level which is a mid tier level. The status is good for a whole two years, no questions asked. Status matched members have no restrictions at all as known from status challenges which often exclude benefits such as lounge access during the trial period. Probably the best feature about this status match is that it includes Star Alliance Gold status.
Star Alliance Gold card holders receive several benefits when flying any alliance member with the main benefits being worldwide lounge access and extra baggage allowance. You can get more information about the benefits provided to elite members at the Star Alliance benefits page.
For US Airways and United Airlines Star Alliance Gold holders, having a gold card from another airline is very handy as a non-US carrier gold card allows lounge access on any Star Alliance booking including US domestic trips in coach.
Overall this is an incredible offer for frequent fliers. Surprisingly there are no restrictions or requirements when you are first accepted. Not a single flight has to be posted to your account before the benefits kick in. One would think that this offer could easily be abused but it has now been going on for more than six months so seems like Turkish Airlines is benefiting.
The exact criteria for status matching are not completely clear but according to recent reports the minimum requirement is that you must hold one of the following alliance elite levels:
- Star Alliance Gold
- SkyTeam Elite Plus
- oneworld Emerald
Still it looks like that some sort of reviewing is done so holding one of the mentioned levels is not a guarantee for a status match. Getting accepted seems to be a somewhat hit or miss.
Requesting a status match is easy and straightforward:
- Sign up for the Miles&Smiles program at http://www.turkishairlines.com/ (only sign up if you do not already have an account.)
- Send a message through this web form. Include: a copy of your membership card (in PDF or common image format such as JPG etc.) from your current frequent flyer program, a statement of your flight activity (can often be downloaded in PDF), and your Miles&Smiles account number.
Be aware that signing up can be a hassle and you might get cryptic error messages during the process, so set a side some extra time and patience. If you get accepted for a status match it’s definitely worth it!
Responding time to a status match request has been reported as anything from a few hours (myself included) to several weeks or even no reply at all. Calling TK will not help, so looks like this e-mail address is the only option to get in contact with the staff involved with status matches. Several people have also reported that they never received a reply but that their account still got upgraded to Elite.
I hold Premier Gold status with United Airlines and after reading about the status match I decided to go for the it. After signing up for the Miles&Smiles program I e-mailed a copy of my United Premier Gold card and a PDF of my 2011 flight activity from United’s website. Only five hours after requesting a status match a welcome e-mail arrived in my inbox and I had been upgraded to the “Elite” status level which include Star Alliance Gold status. A welcome package with member card and bag tags arrived roughly four weeks later. I have credited a few flights to TK, but this is not a requirement to receive the welcome package including the physical member card.
Personally I have been quite satisfied with United’s MileagePlus program. The Miles&Smiles program is decent but definitely not the best out there. Miles will expire after three years, which for some will be a big disadvantage. So far I do not have any personal experience with Miles&Smiles but this blog post discuss the program and award travelling with Turkish in more detail.
Requalification requirements are: 25.000 miles during the first year (12 months from the time you received elite status) or 37.500 miles during two years (24 months from the time you received elite status). During (and only during) the second year it’s possible to buy up to 10.000 status miles making it relative easy to qualify. No matter in which of the two years you renew, your membership will be extended with two years from your current expiration date.
If you do not qualify after two years you are only downgraded to the “Classic Plus” level that still includes Star Alliance Silver status. In general silver benefits are not worth much with the exception that you will be allowed one free checked bag with US Airways and United Airlines.
Feel free to post your comments and experiences with the Miles&Smiles program and getting a status match!