I was debating on whether to write this post, as it will expose my total ignorance when it comes to benefits of (any) airline status. But I do my best to be honest, so here it goes. Plus, I never claimed to be an expert on earning elite status on airlines. My goal is to use miles as much as possible, and those tickets don’t earn you any future upgrades. My family flies a few times per year, and we are fortunate that my husband doesn’t have to fly for work. So, an elite status is not usually in the cards.
But about a month ago, I saw several major blogs write about a match opportunity, where Hyatt Explorist status would give a person four months of Platinum status on American Airlines. I believe this deal is no longer available, but I’ll do a post if it comes back.
To be honest, my initial reaction was a big yawn, and I was planning to skip it. But then I remembered that we have an AA flight from Orlando to DC coming up in a few months, redeemed via Asia Miles program. The miles were going to expire anyway, so I figured something is better than nothing.
I didn’t know if my husband would even get any benefits, since we didn’t use AA miles. But I figured I would do the match, and ask questions later. And then I totally forgot about it. Fast forward to the beginning of January. I’ve just redeemed AA miles for a flight from St. Maarten to Miami, and noticed an amazing thing. I was able to select Main Cabin Extra seats at no additional cost:
These seats provide more legroom and complimentary alcoholic drinks, and normally cost $100 extra per person. Now I won’t have to sneak in my booze in a Yeti cup. I’m kidding, y’all.
I’m still gonna bring it!
This is where I’m going to look like an idiot. I previously assumed that airline status works the same way as hotel status. As in, you have to have it at the time of your flight in order to take advantage of special perks.
Since our flight from St. Maarten to Miami would take place outside of four months status match window, I figured we would not be able to select these better seats. Wrong!
Apparently, my husband would not be eligible for business-class upgrades, which normally clear 24 hours before the flight. But we can still select superior economy seats right now. I’m assuming they will not move us to regular economy, right? Extra legroom may not seem like a big deal to some, but it sure matters to my 6 feet 3 inches tall husband. Obviously, I would not pay an extra $100 per person for this 3-hour flight. But I can totally see myself paying an extra $40 or so.
What about other AA flights booked via partner programs?
This is where it gets really interesting. We have a bunch of AA flights this year, but all, except the one mentioned above, were booked with Avios or Asia Miles. And unfortunately, you can’t get Platinum benefits because there is no way to change the frequent flyer numbers on the reservations. Well, not for me, anyway. No AA number=no elite benefits.
I contacted the AA team on Twitter via direct message and listed all of my husband’s AA reservations this year, booked via partner programs. I asked if it would be possible to add his AA number to all of them instead, and the answer was Yes! The Twitter rep took care of everything within five minutes. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to select Main Cabin Extra seats, but was hoping it would be the case. Indeed, it worked like a charm.
Not only was I able to get a better seat for my husband, but also for the rest of the travelers listed on the same reservation, including my MIL. I’m especially excited about our evening economy flight from Orlando to Los Angeles, which is five hours long. And who knows, my husband may even get upgraded to business class on our flight to DC, but since it’s relatively short, it’s not really that big of a deal. Oh, and I also added his AA number to our Jet Blue reservation for flight back to Orlando, because there is reciprocity when it comes to elite benefits. I’ll report on the outcome.
I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about AA Platinum status and can honestly say that it’s pretty darn useful. Then again, I never really claimed otherwise, especially if you can obtain it via a click of a mouse. I am skeptical about going out of your way to pay cash in order to fly one specific airline, but whatever floats your boat (or an airplane in that case).
As you can see, my flights on AA were booked without giving any consideration to this status. The stars aligned and I was able to take advantage of it, but it almost didn’t happen. If it wasn’t for that flight from St. Maarten, I would never even bother looking into it. Which is a shame, because my husband would definitely be far less comfortable in a regular economy seat.
I guess it’s a lesson for me to keep learning the ins and outs of miles and points hobby, and not to assume if I don’t know the answer to something. Also, I need to pay better attention to status match opportunities. Some may be more lucrative than it appears at first glance. Plus, if it’s free, why not?
I was a bit upset to “waste” my Asia Miles on the flight to DC, but it got the ball rolling on this whole status match. A silver (Platinum?) lining, indeed
How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.
Congrats! You’ll get free priority luggage and board in group 3. Seat upgrades on Alaska Airlines too.
If you fly on a Boeing 777 or 787 plane like Miami to New York or DFW, some of these free MCE seats you mention are international Premium economy (similar to Domestic First Class).
No upgrades to First Class on award flights (only Exec Plat get that if used AA miles).
As a Oneworld Sapphire, you’ll get into business lounges of airline members of the Oneworld alliance when overseas (sorry not in US) — even if flying economy. Like a BA flight from London to Santorini.
You get access to AA lounges (AC & FF) in US only if flying economy to Europe, Asia, South America or Mexico City (maybe others).
When booking AA flight with BA avios, blank out your frequent flier number. When ticketed, go to BA website to book seats and you’ll see your AA PNR booking number. Use that on AA website to add your AA frequent flier number and then choose your free MCE seats.
@Peter Thanks for clarifying some of the benefits! Like I said, this is NOT my area of expertise.
His status will run out in a few months, so I’m just hoping this Main Cabin Extra seats selection will stick around for flights later in the year. I didn’t really expect anything out of this match, so any benefit is a win.
Just booked trip to Costa Rica in November. Same thing, no cost main cabin extra on award tik. Tik is web saver at 20k rt
@JohnnieD Sweet! Very nice deal. Loved Costa Rica, and can’t wait to take the kids there later this year.
You will also get the free checked bags even if you status goes down, https://www.aa.com/i18n/aadvantage-program/aadvantage-status/aadvantage-status-benefits.jsp
@TJ Nice! This will come in handy on one of our flights. Thanks.
If you picked the aisle and Window seat on your flight to Miami hoping that no one will sit in the middle, that trick barely ever works for MCE seats. At check-in, Gold members get to pick the leftover seats in MCE, and it’s better to sit in the middle of MCE than a window/aisle in regular economy. If you both don’t mind sitting in the middle, then you’re ok
@Krystal I’m definitely not counting on the middle seat being left empty. I figure I will simply offer to give up my aisle seat. Most would consider it a win.