Report: Delta Now Investigating If Your Elite Status Is “Real” When You Request A Match

Delta SkyMiles has been known to status match a ham sandwich. No matter what proof of your current status with another airline you’d send in, they’d approve temporary SkyMiles status and a challenge to keep that status. That’s part of how they work to poach the best customers of their competitors.

The easy matches may be tightening up a bit at Delta Boulevard. At least they may be working to make sure the status you’re offering with another airline to justify the match is at least real, based on a report that “Delta just contacted [British Airways] to verify my elite status for a status match” (emphasis mine).

Many airlines will give you elite status to make it easier to move over your business if you’re a current elite with another airline. With so many elite statuses earned before the pandemic finally ending, if you’re in that boat it can be a great idea to take your soon-to-expire status over to another airline!

Unfortunately for airlines it’s easy to photoshop elite cards and edit member statements, take a screen shot or use a .pdf editing tool. Some may show status higher than what the member really has. Others take an elite member’s credentials and change the name. Or they might add flight or hotel stay activity to meet the minimum requirements a program has in place for a match.

A smart program checks for correct fonts, image quality, and even file names (believe it or not people sometimes title their files “delta screen shot copy version 2 edited.png” and then hit submit).

Members also engage in long workarounds, like Best Western to Wyndham to Caesars to MGM to Hyatt. It’s easy to get hotel status with just a credit card. In Australia you can get Star Alliance Gold status with just a credit card.

United Airlines will sometimes check with a competitor to validate your elite status when you ask for a match, and share information for the same purpose. They must think stopping fraud is better for them than helping competitors steal their customers, and vice versa. Hyatt and Starwood hotels had a similar arrangement a little over a decade ago.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The sad part is that these clowns fake their documents with a clear conscience.
    On the other hand, Delta sky-pesos rape people by charging ultra high rates for a ticket, and they screw people with a clear conscience.

  2. I wonder how the verification process will work with American and its Loyalty Points program. Most airlines require some quantity of flying to qualify for elite status whereas the Loyalty Points program awards status if you just buy enough ‘stuff.” Will other airlines status match based on spend alone?

  3. This is not new. Early in 2022, Delta required status match applicants to provide a copy of one’s statement from the qualifying airline that listed the applicant’s travel in the prior 12 months. Maybe not every applicant but at least some. JetAway, there’s your answer.

    As for the privacy concerns, look in the terms and conditions of the status match application. There might well be a provision in which the applicant expressly grants to Delta permission to contact the qualifying airline for verification. People click “apply.” Please don’t read terms and conditions . . . and assume. Before people start crying “my rights, my rights,” remember that Delta doesn’t have to offer jack (poop) to anyone. Fair is fair.

  4. Harry – are you suggesting that Alan buy a ticket on Southwest or book an award flight using Fight Club Miles on Spirit?

  5. Even if Delta Diamond status was trivial to get from my AA Executive Platinum card, I have zero interest in their program, and I live in NYC of all places.

  6. Presumably Delta figures that someone whose Platinum status is faked on the airline they’re coming from is unlikely to spend Platinum-level money at Delta either.

  7. @ Lee – Delta’s T&Cs may well say it reserves the right to contact the airline you’re matching from. The issue here is whether that other airline permits the sharing of information in its own T&Cs.

  8. They don’t need to share personal information to answer questions on status. Banks do this all the time as well. If you call with an account number a bank can answer yes or no questions ranging from the name on it, balance confirmation (you can ask if an account has more than a certain amount in balance and they can answer yes or no but not give you the exact amount) and account type to account status. There’s nothing illegal about that as no personal information is actually being shared, just confirmed.

    This is how people used to confirm if someone paying with a check had enough balance to cover a transaction and it remains customary to this day.

    An airline has even less of your information than a bank so, this is not a big deal at all! I’m assuming you have to provide the status you have with the other airline to get a match (I’ve never done this myself so I’m assuming here). For Delta it would just be a matter of calling the other airline and asking if the person has the specific status they claim to have to which a rep can answer with a simple yes or no.

  9. Many an airline allow booked customers’ relatives, employees or colleagues to handle travel plans and even put in for changes to existing bookings for customer-related/associated/approved persons not working for the airline. So from there it’s not a giant step for an airline to behave in the same way for someone who is agreeing to the airline terms of a status match or challenge program.

    That said, whenever airlines gather customer info and start having employees “investigate”, there is a risk that there will be rogue (mis-)use of customer info provided by the customer by those exploiting info that the airline gathered and wants to use to “investigate”.

  10. Not surprised. I think this has been a thing for a while now as fake status matching has increased. But like using hidden city ticketing- most ppl don’t get punished. I’ve wondered why they don’t invest in cracking down more since it seems like a relatively easy thing to stop – but I bet it comes down to some cost benefit analysis like everything. If someone wants 3 months of platinum and actually tries to complete the challenge, that might be a win for delta.

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