Here’s how Delta, Hilton and Hyatt impressed me during a crisis

Apr 5, 2020

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Loyalty in the travel industry is a very strange beast.

For most airline, hotel and car rental programs the clock resets on January 1 and travelers find themselves scrambling to requalify for the following year.

Sure, there are some lifetime elite status tiers that can be hit. But generally, you are only as valuable to a company as your business during the past 12 months.

That relationship is now even more tenuous with most of the world staying at home to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease.

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At The Points Guy, we hear from our readers daily. For most of March, there were questions about canceling cruises, flights and hotel stays.

We responded with several guides:

But the question that has really been on many of our minds is: What about my hard-earned status?

On March 15,  two days after my family in Manhattan started our social distancing, Delta CEO Ed Bastian sent out a great letter to members of the airline’s loyalty program. It was mostly about cancellation policies but he was very direct about status. He wrote:

“We’re grateful for the loyalty of millions of customers who choose to fly with Delta each year, and I know some of you have questions regarding Medallion Status and promotions. Please know that we hear you and understand your concerns. Right now, we are 100 percent focused on helping our customers with immediate flight needs. As soon as we get through this critical time, we will address questions about what we are doing to help ensure you can continue to enjoy Status and benefits when you fly now, and in the future.”

That was perfect. It acknowledged our concerns but made it clear that this was a fast-changing situation and the airline had other priorities at the moment.

Now, Delta Air Lines has becomes the first U.S. carrier to extend members 2020 status for 2021. You can read all the details here, but it is the most-generous and customer-friendly policy we could all hope for. Everybody, including those with gifted status, get an extra year of status. The extra year of status also comes with additional Choice Benefits, which include regional and global upgrade certificates. All of the miles flown in 2020 and 2021 will count toward 2022 status, as the airline is letting elite members rollover and combine those “Medallion Qualifying Miles” or MQMs.

As a Delta Diamond Medallion member, I couldn’t be happier. TPG’s founder and CEO Brian Kelly also thinks it is a great move. Read his thoughts here.

Delta isn’t alone in this.

Hilton Honors, followed by World of Hyatt, both decided to extend elite status for another year. We have yet to hear from Marriott’s Bonvoy program. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) lowered its elite qualifications first. Now that others have gone further, they might have to revisit.

I give Delta props for going one step further than Hyatt, in granting a new set of upgrade certificates for the extended status year. That’s costly and generous. But it was the right thing to do.

When this pandemic is over — and it will end at some point — we are going to want to hit the road again.

The moves that companies make now are the ones that will last with us for the rest of our lives.

Delta’s SkyMiles aren’t the best out there. I struggle to always find value in my miles, especially for international premium rewards. But the airline has always done right for me. The service is great and the on-time flights often get me home in time to see my family.

American and United now have to either follow Delta’s lead or risk alienating passengers who have spent years loyal to them.

I’ll remember what Delta, Hilton and Hyatt have done for me. This isn’t about where I’m going to stay or who I’m going to fly between now and December 31. This is about long-term trust and faith in a brand and its loyalty program.

For the latest on elite status extension, check out:

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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