Is it time for another round of extensions for airline and hotel travel certificates?
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Well, my 2020 travel plans haven’t quite played out the way I expected.
Yours probably didn’t either.
When the coronavirus first came to the U.S., many travelers began wondering what would happen to their hard-earned elite status. It took some time, but airlines and hotels across the board extended status for another year in recognition of the fact that travel isn’t returning to normal anytime soon.
As part of the extension spree, airlines and hotels also announced that they’d be extending the validity of travel certificates.
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My current unused travel benefits
My wife and I have:
- $2,009.10 in flight credits with Delta Air Lines that expire Sept. 30, 2022.
- Two free rental days with National Car Rental that expire Dec. 31, 2020.
- Three Delta companion certificates that expire in April, Aug. and Oct. 2021.
- Four regional upgrades with Delta that expire May 13, 2021.
- Four systemwide upgrades on American Airlines that expire July 31, 2021.
- Five Category 1-4 free night certificates with Hyatt that expire in March, April, June and two in Dec. 2021.
- Two remaining Hyatt suite night certificates that expire Feb. 28, 2021.
- One free Hilton night that expires Aug. 31, 2021.
- One free Marriott night (up to 50,000 points) that expires April 2, 2021.
- Five Marriott suite upgrade nights that expire Dec. 31, 2021.
- Three free IHG hotel nights (up to 40,000 points) that must be booked by December of this year, next July and next October.
- Seven one-day passes to the Delta SkyClub that expire at various dates in the summer of 2021.
- Fifteen drink vouchers on Delta that expire at various dates in the summer of 2021.
Please note that I do have 19 credit cards, which in normal times provide me with these ample perks that I use. But this year… well, do I really need to explain?
Most of the free travel awards listed above have already had their deadlines extended as the world has come to grasp the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic and just how long-lasting it will be. So, before I sound ungrateful, a big thank you to all these hotel chains, airlines and car rental companies for extending the deadlines. You can see our full guide to the various extensions here.
So where does that leave us?
As coronavirus cases continue to spike in the U.S. and hopes for a vaccine are still many months away, I’ve started to wonder if travelers need another round of extensions.
As much as it pains me to say it, the answer is yes.
It might not be until the spring or summer of 2021 that I will feel comfortable taking my family on a vacation. I’m just going to let that sink in for a moment. I hope that isn’t the case. But my optimism from a few weeks ago has been dashed out by the horrible news day after day.
I was speaking with my colleague Zach Griff about all of these unused certificates. We both agree that travel isn’t meaningfully restarting anytime soon. With cases on the rise in most states, would-be travelers are staying home and avoiding unnecessary trips.
Furthermore, travel restrictions continue to be extended. Americans can’t visit most international destinations, and some states like New York are even imposing 14-day quarantines for domestic travelers.
Reopenings continue to be pushed back too. Hawaii’s plan to welcome tourists without a quarantine was just delayed by a month, and countries like Croatia, once ready to willingly accept Americans, recently added restrictions for such visitors.
Thus, it’s clear that a recovery in travel is a long way off. Though we’re both cautiously optimistic that the situation will improve by the end of the year, the current trajectory isn’t looking great. Having a vaccine or effective treatment might be the only way out. And even if we are lucky enough to have a vaccine by the end of the year, it could take months to immunize enough people to allow mass travel.
While I would love to see extensions now — and this would really help to reinforce loyalty — I’m not holding my breath.
Airlines and hotels already built up lots of goodwill with their status and certificate extensions. If they are going to do it again, it might not be until closer to the end of 2020.
Another possibility for why it doesn’t necessarily make sense for providers to extend certificates now is that there’s likely lots of breakage with these certificates. If they go unused, travel companies can reduce their liabilities. In a time when every dollar counts, I wouldn’t necessarily fault an airline or hotel for not extending certificates again.
That’s probably the right short-term business decision. But travel companies need to be thinking about the long game here. Remember, many of us aim for lifetime status. This is a relationship that will continue for decades and might be passed on to children or grandchildren. (I still have fond memories of an amazing suite upgrade my dad got with Marriott when I was a kid.) How hotels and airlines act now, during the worst of times, will be remembered by many of us for years to come.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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