A guide to status matching

For years status matching of elite level frequent flyers has been common practice in the airline industry.

Let’s say you have elite frequent flyer status with airline A. Status matching is where you apply to an airline B to see if it can offer you complimentary equivalent status in its loyalty program. Such status can give you benefits such as priority check-in and boarding, lounge access and mileage bonuses.

Airlines offer free status matches in the hope of gaining high revenue customers from direct competitors.

Flyers tend to request status matches for a variety of reasons – perhaps they are changing jobs or moving to a new city / country which could require different travel patterns on other airlines and alliances; or they just have a number of upcoming flights booked on a new carrier they wish to try and would like to temporarily enhance their benefits.

Airlines sometimes offer status matches on a temporary basis only – such as targeting residents of a specific country or frequent flyers from a bankrupt airline.

Can I do a status match with one of my airline’s alliance partners?
Generally no. Partners in each of the 3 main alliances – Oneworld / Skyteam / Star Alliance – have informal agreements in place to ensure they don’t ‘steal’ each other’s elite passengers. It may be possible to match within an alliance if moving to another continent or via a corporate program.

How often can I status match with one airline?
In most airline frequent flyer programs you can only undertake a status match once-in-a-lifetime of membership. However some airlines in the US will allow more frequent matching such as every 5 years.

How do I get a status match?
Status matching is discretionary and is generally done on a case-by-case basis. The first step is to contact your target airline’s loyalty program by phone or email – you should already have a membership.

You will then have to send some documentation – a photo of your frequent flyer card along with account statements which gives the airline a review of your flying activity. Try to make a compelling case for the match – mention how much business you will do with the new airline. It will help your case if you have some up-coming flights booked with them.

If the airline accepts the match they will upgrade your account in due course.

Continue reading A guide to status matching

Top 30 Most Visited Airline Websites

Ever wondered which airline websites get the most web traffic?

The following list shows the 30 most visited airline websites in the world. The figures are sourced from SimilarWeb whose estimates happen to be fairly accurate in our experience.  They only account for monthly desktop visitors, they do not include mobile visits.

Not surprisingly, you will find that the so-called budget airlines have relatively high traffic levels due to a large proportion of passengers booking directly. In fact budget airlines account for half of the top 10 on the list.

Top 30 Airline Websites

1. Ryanair (ryanair.com) – 26.2million

2. Southwest Airlines (southwest.com) – 20.6million

3. Delta Airlines (delta.com) – 15.9million

4. American Airlines (aa.com) – 15.4million

5. United Airlines (united.com) – 15million

6. AirAsia (airasia.com) – 14.7million

7. Easyjet (easyjet.com) – 13.7million

8. Wizzair (wizzair.com) – 12million

9. Turkish Airlines (turkishairlines.com) – 9.5million

10. Emirates (emirates.com) – 8.6million

11. Gol (voegol.com.br) – 8.3m
12. TAM (tam.com.br) – 8m
13. LAN (lan.com) – 7.7m
14. JetBlue (jetblue.com) – 7.6m
15. British Airways (britishairways.com) – 7.4m
16. Jetstar (jetstar.com) – 6.3m
17. Lufthansa (lufthansa.com) – 6m
18. Pegasus (flypgs.com) – 5.8m
19. US Airways (usairways.com) – 5.5m
20. Qatar Airways (qatarairways.com) – 5.4m
21. Vueling (vueling.com) – 5.2m
22. KLM (klm.com) – 4.8m
23. Aeroflot (aeroflot.ru) – 4.8m
24. Spirit (spirit.com) – 4.8m
25. ANA (ana.co.jp) – 4.7m
26. Azul (voeazul.com.br) – 4.7m
27. Saudia (saudiairlines.com) – 4.7m
28. Air Canada (aircanada.com) – 4.6m
29. Air France (airfrance.fr) – 3.8m
30. Cathay Pacific (cathaypacific.com) – 3.6m

No real surprise here that the number 1 traffic airline website belongs to Ryanair. The European no-frills heavyweight flies an average of 7 million passengers per month. Around 18 months ago it updated the ryanair.com website to a more stylish, clean and user-friendly site.

Following Ryanair are the 4 main US-based carriers which happen to carry more passengers than any other airlines worldwide – each well over 10 million per month. The remaining airlines in the top 10 are budget airlines AirAsia, Easyjet and Wizzair plus the fast-expanding Turkish and Emirates.

Airlines who use multiple country domains (examples are American Airlines and Air France) will slightly dilute traffic numbers to their main domain.

Finally, when considering the combined website traffic of the main European carrier groups we have:

British Airways-Iberia-Vueling (16.2 million),
Lufthansa-Germanwings-Swiss-Austrian (10.4 million)
Air France-KLM-Transavia (10.4 million)

stats from May 2015 from SimilarWeb

Expedia vs Orbitz vs Travelocity vs Priceline vs Cheapoair

Which online travel agent (OTA) is the cheapest? Is there any difference in fares between agents such as Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz or do they all pull the same results from Global Distribution Systems. Below we will test out 5 of the main OTAs in a random series of flights worldwide.

Now in the past we have always maintained that you should try to get multiple quotations from different airlines and online travel agents in the search to find the cheapest airfare. Is this still the case?

In the US, many people naturally turn to the ‘big 3′ online travel agents – Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz – to make flight searches. In fact these 3 all belong to the very same company (Expedia Inc) after recent consolidation in the industry.

The main 2 players are currently:

Expedia –  owns Travelocity, Orbitz, CheapTickets, Hotwire and eBookers.

Priceline – owns Kayak, Booking.com and Agoda.

On top of this you have:

CheapoAir – a large independent flight booking agent.

Tripadvisor – has built up a large portfolio of small sites concentrated mainly around the hotels and restaurant review business. Also has a flight booking engine and owns Seatguru, the flight seat review site.

Google – has become a player having invested in ITA Software and has a Google Flights search engine.

Expedia vs Orbitz vs Travelocity vs Priceline vs Cheapoair Test

Let’s test out the online agents to see who comes back with the lowest economy class return fare (4 weeks out) for various city pairs around the world. We are just looking for the very cheapest airfare and will not worry about the best airline or the optimal connections.

Continue reading Expedia vs Orbitz vs Travelocity vs Priceline vs Cheapoair

AirAsia X – Budget long-haul airline guide

AirAsia X is a long-haul budget airline based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is listed on the Malaysian stock exchange as AirAsia X Berhad (MYX: 5238) and is a sister comany to Air Asia.

Air Asia X was launched to much fanfare with the promise of incredibly cheap flights between London and Australia. Its first flight route was Kuala Lumpur to Gold Coast (Queensland, Australia) in November 2007. In the following years it expanded its route network to serve London (UK) and Paris (France) in Europe, several cities in Australia, Christchurch (New Zealand) as well as regional routes to India, China, Japan, Korea and the Middle East.

However AirAsia X could not sustain some of its longer-haul flight routes. Routes to London and Paris were pulled in 2012 being deemed uneconomic due to running thirsty 4-engine Airbus A340s as well as the UK’s high Air Passenger Duty. Also pulled were Christchurch, Abu Dhabi and the Indian routes. AirAsia X refocused on medium haul flights with the key markets of Australia, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Today AirAsia X has a fleet of 27 Airbus A330-300 aircraft configured in 2 classes. There are 12 Premium seats and 365 economy seats giving a total of 377 seats. The Premium seats (2-2-2 configuration) are angled lie-flat with 60″ pitch, 77″ fully reclined and a 20″ width.  The economy seats have a 31″ pitch and a 16.5″ width. The dense 3-3-3 configuration has 1 seat extra from the standard 2-4-2 A330 layout, meaning slightly narrower aisles.

AirAsiaX is due to expand its A330-300 fleet to over 50 aircraft. It has further orders for 10 Airbus A350-900s (deliveries from 2016) and 55 A330-900neos (due from 2018) which will give more fuel efficiency.

AirAsia X Route Map

AirAsia X Routes
Adelaide (ADL)
Gold Coast (OOL)
Melbourne (MEL)
Perth (PER)
Sydney (SYD)
Beijing (PEK)
Chengdu (CTU)
Chongqing (CKG)
Hangzhou (HGH)
Shanghai (PVG)
Xi’an (XIY)
Busan (PUS)
Seoul (ICN)
Nagoya–Chubu (NGO)
Osaka-Kansai (KIX)
Tokyo-Haneda (HND)
Colombo (CMB)
Jeddah (JED)
Kathmandu (KTM)
Male (MLE)
Taipei (TPE)
photo generated by Great Circle Mapper

AirAsia X has announced plans to resume flights to London and Paris in 2016 when the more fuel efficient aircraft are in service. Flights to Honolulu are also being considered.

Note, subsidiary Thai AirAsia X flies from Bangkok Don Mueang (DMK) to Osaka-Kansai (KIX), Tokyo-Narita (NRT) and Seoul (ICN). Indonesia AirAsia X flies regional routes out of Bali (DPS) to Tapei (TPE) and Melbourne (MEL).

Air Asia X started life as a low cost operator offering cheap long-haul flights between UK, Malaysia and Australia. Special promotional fares were known to be as low as £99 one way (London to KUL) or AU$99 (Australia to KUL) – although the airline has always charged for optional extras such as assigned seating, onboard meals and checked luggage.

Over the years AirAsia X’s prices have crept up towards the levels of the major carriers. Today, AirAsia X still offers some competitive “promo” fares – these should be booked during sales many months in advance.

One interesting development is AirAsia X’s partnership with OptionTown. It offers economy passengers the chance to upgrade to Premium for a reasonable fee. It has also introduced an Empty Seat Option to guarantee an adjacent empty seat for a nominal charge.

Main headline photo credit: Roderick Elme/flickr