Delta made its position clear on elite status in 2021 for 2022 travel. American made a move weeks prior, but now United has added a promotion that falls short of Delta and even American.
United’s Latest Move
United Airlines announced a new promotion initially covered by this site last week that detailed a promotion to maintain status for the upcoming year with just 20% of annual requirements flown between July 27th and November 30th of this year. It does not take into account the headstart United gave elites at the beginning of the year nor flying to this point unless they are within 20% of their targets. Read the aforementioned article for a more detailed analysis of the promotion.
Delta Air Lines has instead simply granted another year of status to its elite customers.
The Other Delta Problem
One of the key issues United Airlines will face is the Delta variant problem, to go along with the Delta Air Lines problem. COVID-19 infection rates in the United States are again on the rise. While there is a huge push to complete vaccination, there may be little benefit in so doing. The US has achieved a 70% partial (at least) vaccination rate – the prior requirement for satisfactory herd immunity. The vaccine doesn’t appear to stop the Delta variant according to data from a Maryland study released by the state’s head medical agency:
“Of 469 cases linked to multiple summer events and large summer gatherings in a small town, 346 (74%) occurred in fully vaccinated people, and almost 80% of those cases were symptomatic, reported Catherine Brown, DVM, of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and colleagues.
There were five hospitalizations, four among fully vaccinated people, and no deaths. Of 133 cases with sequence information available, 89% were from the Delta variant (B.1.617.2), the authors wrote in an early edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Moreover, vaccination coverage in Massachusetts was reported to be 69% as of July 3, they noted.” – MedPage Today
Applying those figures, the state had 69% vaccination coverage yet 74% fully vaccinated were sick. That suggests that the vaccinated may be as if not more likely to contract the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The CDC has noted that vaccinated patients who have contracted the virus are less likely to experience serious illness as a result. Yet, in this example, vaccinated persons were more likely to also be hospitalized (or as likely due to the sample size) than those who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
COVID is here to stay. The Delta variant is twice as infectious, though may be less damaging than the original. Delta Air Lines assumes that governmental agencies, businesses, and people will operate the same way they did the first time around by masking up and shutting down. United, and American both think that there is a window before this happens. Either Delta or United/American is right but not both.
The data also complicates the argument for the unvaccinated to get the jab when it isn’t successful against the Delta variant. This comes on the heels of an announcement by United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart and their decision to require a vaccine for all United employees. The vaccine mandate announced to employees Friday will require employees to show proof of their status. More United flight attendants are vaccinated than pilots currently.
The Promotion Is Problematic
None of the airlines have seen enough flying from their elites. Delta Air Lines simply granted another year of status to those who had it, rightly adding a priority for upgrades and perks to those who have already requalified with this carrier this year.
Both American and United’s revenue plays won’t likely succeed, though American’s attempt may be closer to the mark.
American’s promotion started earlier and with a lower threshold for top tier elites, just $2,000 spent as opposed to United’s $3,000. When American offered its promotion, it overlapped more of the summer when families travel and cases were lower. United’s response to Delta came at a time when COVID-19 cases have again crossed 100,000/day.
I write about and participate in these promotions for this blog. I relish these opportunities, yet I still had to reach out to Matthew for clarification. It’s far too complicated. Those who spend the $3,000 requalify, but if they don’t then some amount of points (depending on prior status level) are awarded anyway. This follows a gift of status PQPs to elites at the beginning of the year.
I played out a few scenarios where I spend less than $2,700 during the period and it does nothing for me with the bonus. It’s all or nothing, so why have the secondary promotion at all? It may benefit a sliver of its customer base but overall it’s far too unclear.
Even employees who are vaccinated may not have travel privileges from their employers during this period. It is unlikely that they will take to the skies in the same manner as before without a company picking up the tab.
United’s promotion is likely too little to late. Elites concerned about the Delta variant may not return to the skies and this will make Delta Air Lines’ generous approach seem far more appealing for any flights remaining this year or after November 30th. United’s nickel and dime style isn’t even better than American’s approach which already looks “not good enough.” More elites will be looking at Delta Air Lines as the carrier that has their back, while United reaches for their back pocket.
What do you think? Will United’s new promotion work for or against the company? Is Delta the carrier to beat?