Airlines, Hotel Chains, and Car Rental Agencies are going to compete for travelers hard in 2021. Welcome to the Year of the Status Match.
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What’s a Status Match?
For a primer on airline status (for those who are unfamiliar) read this first.
A status match is when a competing company wants to “steal” your business away from the competition. Elite status holders won’t abandon free upgrades, drinks, waived fees, and priority service to start from scratch at the back of the plane. Frequent travelers may switch their loyalty if they don’t have to start at the bottom with their new provider and can trial the company to make sure it will fit with their plans. If a guest has Silver status with United, they will be matched to the equivalent status level with Delta or American.
More common than status matches where travelers can get the status and not really move their business to the new provider is a status challenge. A challenge offers the traveler status once the challenge begins (including the associated benefits) for a temporary period, usually 90 days. The requirements to retain status is prorated for the same period. Instead of spending $12,000 during the year and flying 75,000 miles, the requirements for the 90-day challenge might be reduced to $3,000 and fly 18,750 miles.
Challenges are sometimes open to the public and other times invitation-only.
How They Will Compete
It’s mostly unspoken that the airlines and hotels will offer anyone with status a challenge if not an outright match right now. Southwest is openly offering a challenge for A-List. They have also offered challenges that include Companion Pass for a limited time to entice new members.
Delta Air Lines already upping the ante. The Atlanta-based carrier is offering a status match during the months of March 31st but with two interesting caveats. The first is that they will elevate the traveler’s status one level in the Delta system, the second caveat is that revenue requirements have been eliminated and as just two to six roundtrips by March 31st to hold that status through all of 2021. You must sign up before midnight on October 31st, 2020.
I haven’t seen anything yet from United Airlines or American Airlines, feel free to list any offers received in the comments. American, United, JetBlue, Alaska, and now even Spirit will have to do more than a traditional challenge to attract the limited travelers flying – the same will apply to hotels.
What Delta has shown is that a simple status challenge is not going to cut it for a tumultuous 2021. They will happily trade guaranteed business now for future potential benefits. They are confident they will impress converts; I admire their moxie.
Why It’s So Important For Providers, Travelers
American Airlines Gold status was my gateway drug into the miles and points hobby. I later added Hyatt to the mix and now hold status in four hotel chains and four airlines – too many certainly. It’s incredibly important to me because of how it enhances my experience. I am able to use upgrades for my family trips to fly in a class of service I can afford but live the life I dreamt of. The same is true of hotel suites.
For travel providers, securing the business of a frequent traveler, even at an entry-level, is highly valuable for an airline. American Airlines disclosed in the recent past that 85% of its customers are once annual flyers on American. However, a substantial portion of their operation comes from their most loyal customers. It’s the Pareto principle on a massive scale (80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.)
Travel providers from all sectors need reliable customers to carry the business and frequent planes, hotel rooms, and rental cars again. Protecting existing customers and recruiting new high-volume customers is paramount to each company’s recovery. Disney unabashedly pursued new customers while restricting Annual Passholders to its detriment. It looks like Delta has learned from Disney’s mistake.
While I am confident 2021 won’t only be famous in the travel community for being the Year of the Status Match, there’s never been a better time to reset your loyalty. Matthew outlined reasons why having status may not be enough for him to switch simply out of lack of opportunity. Personally, I signed up for and plan to complete the Delta challenge as United and American are already locked in for 2021. The real question is where my loyalty will lie at the end of 2021, and that is more or less up to the airlines and their performance.
What do you think? Is 2021 the year of the status match? Who will you match to and why?
Yes, well consumers will be a wake-up to this jiggery-pokery, knowing full-well that the status match will be offered with one hand only to be snatched away with the other, via onerous requalification requirements once things improve.
The shysters running these programs think we were born yesterday. That’s not to say people shouldn’t avail themselves of opportunities, but rather be aware that the likelihood of a longer term happy ending is remote…but ‘make hay while the sun shines’, as they say..
People would send credential proofs to match because it looks.. cool to be a top-tier flyer with the other airlines/alliances even just for a short time. However, reality is they would not do business with the new carrier/alliance because of 3 reasons: a bunch of ETCs, future flight credit with the current airline to use, half-way to 2, 3, or 4MM, and their loyalty, love for the current airline. Matching status is useful when one has a coming trip that is not operated by members of the current alliance or very inconvinient schedule and he wants to relax in the lounge.
I think it will be useless. Very few people will travel anyway so even if one has top status with airlines, hotels, car rentals, etc… they won’t be used at all and even if some people travel there won’t be enough to keep that status alive. I live in a Delta hub with 20 Fortune 500 companies headquartered here. I have friends working for most of them and in many cases employees won’t be allowed back into their offices until Fall 2021 and travel is forbidden by the CEO. So who cares if you have status that cannot be used?
Any DPs of Delta offering status challenges lately? I have no airline status but have some Delta flights coming up.
I am more interested in whether airlines (and hotels) will extend status again for 2022, or offer a soft landing. I doubt that we will hear about that for at least 6 more months, but I suspect that many of them will have no choice other than to extend unless they are willing to lose more than 50% of their “elites”.
This is going to be a buyers market for a long time. “Free” status is not nearly the motivator that it once was, because the airlines and hotel companies spent 10+ years aggressively devaluing status when it was a sellers market.
For most regular travelers the biggest problem they have right now is not status or acquiring miles but rather using the miles and points that are piling up from credit card use along with credits from cancelled 2020 travel. To the extent that I am traveling in 2021 and 2022 I will be traveling for free as much as possible because I am way past my comfort level with points, miles and credits – all of which have no value until and unless they can actually be cashed in.
It is bittersweet for people like me, who travel so often around the country to help with this pandemic, more with the frontline COVID medical providers, and in lesser extent, the frontline COVID nurses and respiratory therapists. I had achieved silver medallion status with Delta within 4.5 months, and will very likely hit gold status by the end of December 2020. What exhausted people like me would appreciate, is the respite that airline lounges like the Sky Lounge with Delta could offer us between connecting flights. I’ll speak for myself. I cannot catch even a minute of sleep out in the General public space in the airport, and would definitely appreciate getting into the lounge to rest before my flights (and no matter how short or long the flight is, I always sleep on it) to the next hospital, to begin work again within a few hours, from working the night before and getting off in the morning, before I hasten off to the airport. Delta used to allow frontline COVID caregivers free access to their lounges at the beginning of the pandemic, but now we cannot do it anymore. I wish that they would allow us to even buy a pass to get in to rest, but they won’t. I’ll continue flying my round trips every week to help with the pandemic wherever I’m called to help out, and racking up the miles with them and other less favorite airlines, and just maybe, I might find some time, someday, to use those miles to take some time off to rest and recharge, before I re-charge at caring for the sick again.
Still, I am grateful to the airline companies that are competing for our business and in return, offering these perks that they are hawking.
Not really. Only in the US.