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Oct 22nd 2009 11:33AM 1. Yes, they offered to sell you an upgrade. But did they do so _before_ processing elite upgrades? I'd venture to say that you were probably offered that $500 upgrade after all elite upgrades had cleared.
2. I have heard reports that in the case of transpac and transatl flights, airlines occasionally hold inventory in order to offer paid upgrades at check in. They have a right to make money, after all, and if they can find someone to pay $800, that does a lot more for their bottom line (800 dollars more, to be exact) than the free upgrade to the elite. Furthermore, I've never heard of this happening on domestic flights. Airlines may offer inexpensive ($50 for a short hop, a few hundred dollars for a transcon) upgrades at check in to non elites, but they vritually NEVER do so before clearing elites. (That's because elite upgrades clear as many as 100 hours earlier... by the time the non-elite is offered that upgrade at the gate, the elites already have first class boarding passes.)
Again... Scott is right that airlines offer paid upgrades to non-elites. But elites almost always have access to those upgrades before non-elites.
3. Scott is absolutely bonkers to recommend to people that non-elites can routinely get upgrades at check-in. If you're someone who flies a lot and you want to be occasionally (or frequently!) upgraded, get yourself elite status.
Oct 19th 2009 9:24PM Scott says, "As for having no idea how popular it is, I'm not entirely sure where you got that idea, but the concept of matching is indeed more popular than it used to be - simply because more people know that it is possible."
Status matching may be more popular (though I have no way of knowing if it is), but less people are flying, which means there are fewer elites. And how can you possibly make a definitive statement about the popularity of status matching? Do you have access to internal documents at UA or AA or DL? Do you have any remote idea how many members are in each program, or how many are in each tier? You're making assumptions based on assumptions, and they don't necessarily add up, especially when you portray those assumptions as facts.
"I know someone who is on his seventh year of elite status, all based off a single year of real elite level status. It really isn't hard to match away from one airline and match back into them. Tricks like having an international address are not exactly reserved for the smartest people."
I'll repeat: Airline rules say that status matches are one-time-only one-year-only privileges offered to elites from other airlines. Sure there are tricks. But are there so many people utilizing elaborate status matching schemes (including constant international address changes) so as to break the airlines' rules and seriously devalue the elite program?
Oct 19th 2009 8:17PM Scott writes, "On some airlines, the upgrade systems prefer to sell the seat to anyone willing to pay for it before giving it away for free to elites."
Are you kidding? Name one airline that sells inexpensive upgrades to non-elites before upgrading elite passengers.
Oct 19th 2009 8:06PM The best place to learn about status matching is at FlyerTalk, specifically the "master" discussion thread and status matches. You can find it here:
Scott is actually very incorrect. Most airlines need a lot more than a copy of your current elite card. They'll want actual proof that you fly a bit (usually a copy of your mileage statement with your current airline).
He's also wrong that "Status matching is more popular than ever." I'm not sure that he has any idea how popular status matching is in comparison to year's past. Certainly, anecdotal evidence suggests that more people matched to Northwest last year because they were generous with status matching, and people knew that getting status on Northwest would eventually equate to status on Delta, which is a little stingier. But other airlines (AA, USAir, United) got stingier with status matches in the past few years, preferring to force travelers into challenges instead.
Furthermore, status matching isn't that easy, and is often not so worthwhile. Scott says, "The game of status matching means you really only need to earn status the hard way once - and after that, smart people can continue holding on to elite status on multiple airlines for several years."
This is blatantly misinformative. First of all, matching status with an airline only works as a one-time thing. I'm an elite with AA. I can certainly status match to Northwest or Alaska, but I won't keep the status with those airlines unless I actually fly on them. And I can't just keep status matching... Almost every airline will only approve a status match once. So yes... status matching can get you fast tracked to mid-tier status on many airlines (very very few match to top-tier), but it will only do you much good for a year. Then you have to re-earn status the hard way.