Good morning everyone! Earlier this month I traveled solo to Spain on a mistake fare that I got with TAP Portugal early last year. I live in Charlotte but the fare was from JFK so I used Citi ThankYou points to get myself a positioning flight on American from CLT to JFK. TAP Portugal is a no frills airline which can be painful when you have a long journey like I did. I had a 3 hour layover at JFK and what was supposed to be a 3 hour layover after a red-eye to my connection in Portugal. My return journey included a 4 hour layover in Portugal and an overnight near JFK before taking the first morning flight to Charlotte. When you are on such a long journey lugging around heavy bags, long waits in security lines and sitting at gates during layovers can be painful. Luckily I took advantage of a random status match on an airline I had no plans of flying with at the end of 2015 and that afforded me a few comforts that may have saved me from losing my mind.
Back in September 2015 Miles to Memories posted about a status match opportunity with Connect Miles, the new loyalty program of Copa Airlines. At that point I had never even heard of Copa Airlines, which is based in Panama, but things were slow at work so I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a few minutes and give it a try. Back then I had Platinum Status with American Airlines (RIP beloved Platinum) so I used that to match with and it got me Gold status with Copa. Apparently that also got me Gold status with the alliance they belong to, Star Alliance. At the time I wasn’t terribly excited about that because living in Charlotte I mostly fly American which is in the OneWorld alliance. Little did I know that 5 months later I would find a mistake fare to Barcelona on TAP Portugal, part of the Star Alliance (although I didn’t realize that at the time).
Sidenote: I know that some Airlines have a “once in a lifetime” status match rule and I did consider that in this scenario. If it were a major carrier like American or Delta or United, I probably would have waited until I knew that I would get the most use out of it. In this case I wasn’t going to speculate as to whether I’d be flying Star Alliance more in 2016 vs future years so I went for it and I’m glad I did because shortly after they discontinued their status match program. I’d love to hear from anyone who has an alternative opinion in the comments below.
I finally took that trip to Barcelona earlier this month and I thanked goodness for my Star Alliance Gold status several times on both the outbound and return flights. The first time was when I found out that my status got me a 2nd checked bag for free. Even though I am an experienced traveler, I do not travel light. Not only do I like to be prepared for different situations, but I also like to have options. Star Alliance Gold status also got me free access to a lounge at JFK while I waited for boarding to begin on my TAP flight. This was the Airspace Lounge in Terminal 5. (Lounge review coming soon). When it was time for me to board my flight it was past 10pm and my back was hurting from walking what seemed like miles in the JFK airport carrying a very heavy backpack. I had a frustrating time finding the TAP Portugal check-in counters (despite the signage) and when I finally found it I found out that it wasn’t open yet and there was already a long queue of people waiting for it to open. FML, I was tired and my back was killing me! But, lucky for me it turns out that there was a priority lane for people with status so I was the 2nd person in line. Thank you Copa!
I had a few perks on my way home as well. There was a long line at the check-in counter at the Barcelona airport but no one was in the priority line….except for me thanks to my Gold status :) I’m getting used to this so after checking my bags I asked the counter agent if there was a priority lane at security. She said no so I proceeded to the regular security lane. As many of you probably know, when you have TSA pre-check you get a bit spoiled by it so I wasn’t excited about waiting in this line. Oh and I also got priority baggage handling with my status which means that when retrieving my bags in Barcelona and then again at JFK my bags were one of the first to come out onto the conveyor belt.
Not knowing what to expect with it being my first time at the Barcelona airport I arrived a few hours before my flight so I was pleased to know that I had more free lounge access here as well. Once I’m settled in, I do a quick google search and it turns out that there WAS a priority security lane after all! I should have done my research ahead of time and questioned further when she told me no. Oh well. During my 4 hour connection in Portugal I visited my 3rd and final lounge for free. The final benefit that I could have enjoyed if I wanted to was priority boarding but on a long-haul flight I prefer to be one of the last people on the plane. Why would I want to sit in my tiny economy seat any longer than I already have to?
Below is a summary of the benefits that come with Star Alliance Gold.
I realized one other benefit stemming from a random status match while on this trip although it is unrelated to Copa and Star Alliance. Many people received a free bonus of 10,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles as a result of the merger with Virgin America. Now, I know that this isn’t a direct benefit of having status but stay with me for a second. At some point I heard of Virgin America matching status so I took advantage of it and received Silver eleVAte status with them. Living in Charlotte the likelihood of my flying Virgin American is slim, but just like with Copa I figured it couldn’t hurt. I didn’t have an eleVAte account at the time so I had to create one. Based on the below email I gather that everyone who had a loyalty account with both airlines got the 10k miles. If that is true, then I wouldn’t have gotten those miles had I not had to create an eleVAte account in order to take advantage of the Virgin America status match.
Alaska Mileage Plan miles are especially valuable because, while they are not part of an alliance, they do partner with many airlines and you can therefore redeem those miles for award flights on many different airlines.
Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a random status match that you took advantage of?