Many airlines offer to match status, meaning you show proof of your elite status with one airline, and they’ll match your status in that program, often only up to the mid tier. This is generally once in a lifetime, many airlines don’t do it, and they’ll typically only match another alliance’s status. But a couple of years ago, before Northwest merged into Delta, I figured I might as well status match to their Platinum level (by sending in my United 1K credentials), and it paid off nicely. I had about four or five trips between Continental, Delta, and Northwest, and ended up getting upgraded to first class on every single segment. I wouldn’t usually “waste” a status match on an airline just to upgrade a few trips, but my reasoning was that I could still status match to Delta in the future if I ever wanted to, since it was only WorldPerks that was dying.
Along the same lines, Continental is very generous when it comes to status matching. They’ll match to the equivalent tier, all the way up to Platinum status. If you match now, your status will be good through early 2012. And since it looks like Continental and United’s merger process is moving along pretty fast, this might be a good time to get status in the combined airline without wasting your “once in a lifetime” match. I have to imagine that if in 10 years you wanted to status match to the new “United,” a match to Continental pre-merger wouldn’t prevent that.
For full details on how to status match, see this FlyerTalk thread.