United: Global Services members will have to wait for a status extension

Apr 6, 2020

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United’s top published tier is Premier 1K, and, on Sunday, the airline confirmed that current elite members — up to and including Premier 1K — would have their current benefits extended through Jan. 31, 2022. That’s great news for most of the airline’s frequent flyers, but there’s a very important group that isn’t covered by the announcement.

Some of the carrier’s biggest spenders belong to an invite-only tier, called Global Services. While the criteria has never been published, members generally spend a significant amount on United-operated flights each year. It isn’t unheard of for pre-tax airfares to total $100,000 in a calendar year.

You’d expect United to go above and beyond to keep these customers happy — say, with clear, speedy communication during the current COVID-19 crisis. However, while all other frequent flyers learned on Sunday that their earned tier would be extended, United’s biggest spenders are being promised that the airline “will be offering, at a minimum, Premier 1K status to all 2020 earned Global Services members,” as UA confirmed to one customer via email. (Delta’s doing something similar with its invite-only tier, Delta 360. In an email to TPG, the carrier said that “Those selected to the program for 2021 will be contacted by Delta in February 2021). 

While I’ve been happy with Premier 1K, it’s a clear downgrade from Global Services, where benefits include far more flexible confirmed upgrades, top priority for complimentary upgrades, expanded award availability, tarmac transfers for tight connections, a dedicated customer service line and a whole lot more. We’ve reached out to United Airlines for comment, and will provide an update if we hear back.

Global Services members have access to a number of valuable perks, including top priority for upgrades to United's Polaris business class. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
Global Services members have access to a number of valuable perks, including top priority for upgrades to United’s Polaris business class. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

Personally, I’m confident that United will ultimately end up extending Global Services for all current members, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the carrier wait a few weeks or even months to communicate that decision. Why the delay? At this point, it still seems possible some travelers could take to the skies later this year. If United tells its biggest spenders that they don’t need to worry about giving the airline any business, they very well might book expensive business and first-class tickets elsewhere.

At the same time, those top customers will continue to grow anxious about losing access to their coveted Global Services tier — some will purchase and fly on United tickets just to reaffirm their dedication to the airline, I’m sure, though others will grow more frustrated as time goes on, and consider taking their business elsewhere, next year and beyond. If United hopes to keep it biggest spenders engaged, executives need to act, sooner than later.

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