How to Quickly Qualify for Free Upgrades, Short Security Lines and Airport Lounge Access

Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - 0 Comments

Old School Toy

The American Airlines Status Challenge is a very fast and easy way to qualify for Elite Status on, you guessed it, American Airlines. What’s with all the Challenges? First there was the 100 Thing Challenge, now this.  What can I say?  I’m into challenges… especially when they involve Elite Status.

“Elite Status?” you ask. “Sounds cool, but what the hell is it, how did you get it  and why would I want it?”

“Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

The Benefits of Elite Status

  • Possibility of receiving  free upgrades to 1st or Business Class
  • Shorter security lines (Elites have a special lane)
  • Shorter check-in lines (Elites have a separate dedicated desk)
  • Early boarding (first access to overhead bins)
  • Extra frequent flyer miles earned (100% bonus for platinum and 25% bonus for gold. This gets you faster free tix & upgrades)
  • Access to airport lounges (Free food, drinks, wifi, showers, etc…)
  • Waived checked baggage fees
  • Best of all, the admiration of all your friends and the envy of all cattle class passengers stuck in the long lines

Since I like status (and who doesn’t?), I decided to register for this challenge. You need to call American Airlines customer service (800-882-8880) and ask to start the challenge. It will cost you $120 for the Gold Status Challenge and $200 for the Platinum Status Challenge. This fee is non-refundable. You pay up front and will not get it back if you don’t complete the challenge. So, remember to finish this thing!

You will be given the choice of starting on the 1st or the 16th.  A great tip that I learned from is that you can backdate when you start the challenge, so if you are going to take a flight on the 8th of January and it’s the 5th of January when you call customer service, ask them to start your challenge from the 1st of January even though that has already passed.

Once you’ve registered for the challenge, it is conceivable that you will receive an email from American Airlines telling you the basic rules. It may read something like this:

Here are some tips to help you succeed:

  • Be sure to fly AA since only points earned on American Airlines, American Eagle and AmericanConnection® flights count toward Challenges 
  • Since Challenges are based on points, not miles, you’ll meet your goal more quickly if you select fares with high point values. If, for example, you use Deep Discount Fares, remember that those fares earn points at half the rate of miles – so you’ll have to fly twice as much! But if you buy Discount Fares, the rate is one point per mile and you can meet your Challenge by flying 10,000 elite-qualifying miles. And if you select premium fares, you earn 1.5 points per mile and can meet the Challenge by flying just — OK, you do the math! 
  • Know the point values you’ll earn for the booking codes you select. Yes it may look like alphabet soup, but there’s a point to these codes. In fact, there’s anywhere from 0.5 — 1.5 points!
    • Earn 1.5 points per mile when the purchased fare on your American Airlines ticket is booked in one of these booking codes: A F P D I J R B C Y
    • Earn 1.0 point per mile for these AA booking codes: H K L M V W
    • Earn .5 points per mile for these AA booking codes: G N Q S O 
  • How can you determine what booking code is used for the fare you’re purchasing? Simply ask the booking agent, whether that’s your travel agent, corporate travel planner or AA Reservations representative. Or, even better, when you book your flights on, the Flight Summary screen displays the booking code in the same column as the cabin booked. 
  • If you have the opportunity to upgrade, good for you! But with respect to the points you will earn, traveling in a premium cabin is not the same as purchasing a premium fare. When you upgrade, the points for your flights are still calculated on the fare and booking code you purchased, not the cabin that you were lucky enough to travel in! 
  • Remember that the charge for your Challenge is nonrefundable – even if circumstances beyond your control prevent you from meeting the goal. But we’re thinking positive thoughts and we know you can do it!

If you need more info on the challenge, I suggest reading The AA Challenge FlyerGuide Wiki.

For more detailed info on the benefits of Elite Status, go to American Airlines Elite Status Benefits.

If you just want to make it EASY for you personally to qualify for Elite Status, with the least effort and expenditure, then I highly recommend hiring EliteHelper. They will help you find the best routes that work from your preferred airport(s). This is a paid service I used and it helped me reach Elite Status much faster.

No animals were harmed in the writing of this post, nor are any of the above links affiliate links.

If you liked this information, check out my new book, ROCK YOUR TRAVEL.

It’s all about frequent flyer miles and travel hacks.

And while you’re at it check out the new website:

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Hi, I’m Algis


I have an insatiable wanderlust which takes me to some crazy places where I try strange foods, pretend I'm a local and talk with elephants. Keep reading...

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