The most generous and creative perks you can enjoy as a result of the elite status extensions
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Though it’s still not time to start traveling again, the airline industry has spent the past two weeks buying long-term loyalty from its frequent flyers. This has come in the form of sweeping elite-status extensions. Most loyalty programs are outright extending status for another program year — without any requirements.
This is quite generous, though perhaps a bit puzzling. Although no one knows when it’ll be safe again to travel, the airlines didn’t really have an incentive to extend status now. What if it’s safe to travel by late summer? Airlines could’ve just lowered the status requirements instead of extending status — though I’m certainly not complaining.
As part of these extensions, we’ve also seen some incredibly generous and creative offers to drive further loyalty. In fact, Delta’s industry-leading move was big enough to impress Brian Kelly (and our editorial leader, Scott Mayerowitz). So now let’s take a deeper look at some of the most interesting options that loyalty programs have launched.
Air Canada: Donating miles and gifting status
Air Canada definitely earns the award for the most creative promotion thanks to two of it’s announcements — both of which are in addition to Aeroplan’s flexible award-ticket-cancellation policy. For every five Aeroplan miles you donate to a charity engaged in fighting the coronavirus, the airline will reward you with one elite-qualifying mile (up to a maximum of 25,000 elite-qualifying miles earned). Though we’ve seen some U.S. airlines match donated miles, this takes it to the next level. Not only are you doing good for society, but you’re also getting rewarded along the way.
Related: How to maximize Aeroplan miles
But Air Canada didn’t stop there. Since the airline extended elite status by another year, it needed to figure out what to do with passengers who already have extended status but then reach the applicable thresholds to qualify this year. Even though your existing status is safe for all of 2021, Air Canada is letting members who qualify in 2020 share that status with a friend or family member. That’s a really innovative program that actually makes a lot of sense — effectively encouraging members to travel later in 2020 (once it’s safe to do so) by dangling the carrot of extending the perks of that status to a loved one.
To me, one of my favorite benefits of being a World of Hyatt Globalist is being able to gift award stays that include Globalist perks through the Guest of Honor program. I love sharing my status with loved ones, and being able to do that with Air Canada is definitely buying my loyalty.
Alaska: Offering full status to those on a status challenge
Almost every major U.S. airline offers some form of a status match or challenge program. Say you’re loyal to one airline but decide — for whatever reason — that you’d like to try a competitor. Instead of starting from scratch, you can frequently get temporary status for a short period of time — during which you need to complete a set amount of flying and/or spending to keep the status for the rest of the year.
And of all the airlines that offer these programs, Alaska’s the only one that granted full status through the end of 2021 for those participating in a challenge. If you initiated one with Alaska between Dec. 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, your temporary status has been extended through Dec. 31, 2021. This is incredibly generous and certainly well above my expectation. In contrast, all the other airlines either extended the temporary match or are requiring you to restart it when you’re ready (and able) to travel again.
American: Offering fast-track to Million Miler status
If you’re a very loyal American Airlines flier, this could be great news for you. Through its updates to the AAdvantage program, AA is making it a lot easier to earn lifetime elite status by granting 1 mile toward Million Miler status for every $1 spent on eligible, cobranded credit cards between May and the end of the year. This promotion applies to all Citi / AAdvantage and AAdvantage Aviator products, as well as select AAdvantage credit cards outside of the U.S.
Back in 2011, all redeemable miles earned from any source — including credit card spend and sign-up bonuses — counted as Million Miler miles. Then, in December of that year, AA introduced a refreshed Million Miler program that only awarded Million Miler miles for base miles.
As such, this limited-time promotion is a godsend for those who are close to crossing the Million Miler threshold (or those who’ve been hoping for about 10 years that AA would reinstate the ability to earn Million Miler from credit card spend).
Delta: Giving Choice Benefits without needing to requalify
Of the big 3 U.S. airlines, Delta is simply the most generous with its elite-status extension.
Each year upon qualification, Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallions get to choose from a selection of Choice Benefits, including upgrade certificates. This year, since most members won’t end up re-qualifying the “hard way,” Delta is allowing all Platinums and Diamonds to select new Choice Benefits along with their status extension. Plus, it’s extending the validity of those certificates earned in 2020, meaning that Diamond members will have up to eight Global Upgrade Certificates to use next year.
This is incredibly generous and a notable step above what AA and United are doing. The latter two carriers are just lowering the elite thresholds for 2020 and making you earn status at the reduced thresholds in order to earn the valuable upgrade certificates.
United: Making it easier to earn status through credit cards
United ushered in new Premier status qualification metrics in 2020. As part of that, it made earning status harder — both by flying and through spend on a United cobranded credit card.
Though the details aren’t fully fleshed out yet, United’s making it easier to earn PQPs from its co-branded cards. From May 1 until Dec. 31, you can earn double the PQP from the United Explorer Card family or quadruple the PQP from the United Club Infinite Card family. Unfortunately, PQP earned from cobranded cards are only applicable up to the Premier Platinum level. (Specifically, this offer will apply to the United Explorer Card, United Business Card, United Club Card, United Club Business Card and the United Club Infinite Card).
The information for the United Club Business Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Combined with the lower Premier thresholds, this could be a great year to open a cobranded United credit card and earn valuable status through Jan. 31, 2022.
We’re living in unprecedented times. To see most of the major loyalty programs extend status is unheard of, even though this is great news across the board.
That being said, each program is being a little bit more creative and generous in its own way. To me, Air Canada gets an award for being the most creative, and Delta gets an award for being the most generous with its upgrade certificates. Nonetheless, each program is offering something unique that should give you some good news amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
All photos by the author.
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