A shorter route to 'elite' status
By Barney Gimbel, Fortune writer-reporter

(FORTUNE Magazine) -- Any serious business traveler covets "elite" frequent-flier status.

Faster check-in, special reservation hot lines, and free upgrades to first class are just a few of the perks.

But here's a secret: You don't always have to fly a million miles to become an elite. Though it's not well publicized, American Airlines offers a shortcut.

Normally it takes 25,000 miles or 30 segments during a calendar year to qualify for Gold status. For Platinum, you need twice that.

But thanks to a program from American, there's an easier way to qualify.

Sign up for American's 90-day "challenge" (you have to do it by phone), and you'll need only 5,000 points or 16 segments for Gold status, and twice that for Platinum. (Each mile flown earns one point on most fares.)

If you hit those targets, not only will you be granted "status" but you also can then call the other airlines and tell them you want them to do a "status match" to make you an elite member of their program.

The catch: Your newfound cachet lasts just one year.  Top of page