Half of the major US airlines (Big Four) have extended status for the second consecutive year due to COVID, even if just for a few months – but not United Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Why?
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Have Extended Status
Nearly every airline in the United States has extended status. Delta Air Lines extended status for its elites months ago (more on that shortly.) American Airlines has extended status despite an earning-to-retain challenge as part of its rollout for the new Loyalty Points program replacing its Advantage loyalty program.
Hotel Extensions Abound Too
Intercontinental Hotels Group, for the sadists that seek elite status with that abomination of a program, will be happy to know that their status will be extended another year. There’s no reason to issue a “status lite” because there are no benefits worth denying. More on that in my Kimpton post last week.
Hilton has uniformly extended status around the same time Delta did so. Then they enhanced their program without using “enhancements” to devalue it – they added upgrades confirmed based on availability in advance of the guest’s stay and confirmable connecting rooms. Why can’t they all be like Hilton?
Delta Air Lines has indicated that they will offer an “elite status lite” (my words, not theirs) that will prioritize frequent flyers that earned status outright during the calendar year over those getting an extension but failing to meet the normal qualification requirements.
“Diamond and Platinum Medallion Members who earn Status during the 2021 Medallion Year through the published requirements will be able to select 2022 Choice Benefits upon earning Status. Members who earn Diamond Medallion Status will be able to select a total of three (3) Choice Benefits and Members who earn Platinum Medallion Status will be able to select one (1) Choice Benefit. Members who receive the extended Status and do not earn it on their own will not be eligible to select new Choice Benefits for 2022.
Additionally, all earned Medallion Members will now enjoy higher upgrade priority than those with extended Status within the same Tier. For example, a Platinum Medallion Member who earned Status on their own will clear before a Platinum Medallion Member who was given extended Status.” – Delta Air Lines
Marriott Bonvoy extended with the status lite waivers for its elite members. Hyatt extended with a Milestone approach to status and benefits that are based on its normal elite status qualification structure.
Hyatt offered reduced qualifications but those who fail to meet the traditional milestones will be without some of the benefits associated with status. However, status earned in 2021 is good through February of 2023.
Marriott also offered a status lite option:
“While Marriott is extending everyone’s status by 12 months, you’ll still have to pass 50 elite nights or 75 elite nights to be able to select Choice Benefits. That’s because those are tied to elite nights, rather than to status as such.” – One Mile At A Time
Could status lite be something we see for United and Southwest?
United Airlines and Southwest Airlines Have Not Extended Status
Southwest Airlines ran a similar promotion to what American and United offered by allowing A-List members to fly four flights and extend their status through December 2022. It would be a shame if those emails went to the SPAM folder or weren’t opened (I’m looking at all of those readers who have thousands of unread emails in their inbox.) The carrier has not extended A-List outside of this challenge.
United Airlines, which also favored an “earning-to-retain” model has declined to extend to this point. United required more of its elites in its Flying to the Finish promotion than American did ($2,000 for all American elites to retain status, $3,000 for United 1Ks to hold onto the status.)
Both carriers have a lot to lose from corporate flyers who were not able to keep up pace with closed offices in 2021.
Will They or Won’t They Extend Status?
Southwest Airlines should extend A-List because of the limited amount of benefits and their cost. A-List is basically just early boarding, same day standby, and free WiFi, I mean, why not?
American has this worthwhile excuse that it’s in a program transition to just not acknowledge their $2000 flying promotion to maintain status, extending status for three months and then forcing everyone into the new system.
Let’s pretend for a moment that some of these programs don’t extend status. If United, JetBlue, and Southwest do nothing, elites that fly from competitive gateways will have the option to move. Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York could all be battlegrounds where elites from these cities find themselves at zero due to no fault of their own. Are these airlines really in a position to face this reality?
JetBlue isn’t part of the Big Four, but competes for the New York, Boston, and South Florida markets and has plenty to lose.
Assuming that 2022 is a normal travel year again or at least more normal than 2021 has been, United is rolling the dice that their elites won’t jump ship. I personally know one 1K that has an expiry of his Plus Points now at the end of July, but mine still show the end of January 2022. For comparison, I have earned more PQPs than he has to-date this year so this is either an oddity, or (hopefully) a sign that there will be some sort of an extension coming. How could they not?
Southwest and United would also miss an opportunity to steal disenfranchised American Airlines flyers who don’t intend to earn elite status with the airline’s new Loyalty Points program. If they don’t American’s newest partner airline, Alaska Airlines should be more than happy to offer MVP Gold status (75k) to Aadvantage Executive Platinums – they will do better with Mileage Plan to earning miles and bonus miles with that program anyway.
It would be an awfully risky move for United or Southwest to cede their customers to the competition, especially when American has gone out of its way to make it an easy decision. United has a promotion running through the middle of November so we may have to wait longer to find out, but the closer we progress to the end of the year, the more likely travelers are to begin making new plans for the year. Will they move to (generous) Delta especially out of the New York and Los Angeles markets? Will Southwest and United roll the dice in Chicago? I guess we will have to wait a little longer to find out.
What do you think? Are “status lite” extensions a good option? Will United and Southwest skip extensions this year?