Good News for Frequent Flyers as Airlines Extend Status Perks

Author: David McMillin       

frequent flyers

Delta Airlines has extended status perks and access to its Sky Clubs through 2021. Other airlines are making similar program extensions. (Delta Airlines)

Travelers may not be getting on planes right now, but some airlines are saving them priority boarding spots — with no need to pay baggage fees and other loyalty benefits — when they’re ready to fly again. On April 5, Delta CEO Ed Bastian reassured the carrier’s SkyMiles members that their Medallion status will be extended through the end of 2021, regardless of miles flown or dollars spent this year. Additionally, any Medallion Qualification Miles that are accrued in 2020 will be rolled over in 2021, giving frequent flyers a head-start on the journey toward perks next year. Other changes include extensions for access to the Delta Sky Club and more flexibility for re-booking travel without change fees.

“These are the times that define us all,” Bastian wrote, “and I want you to know we are here for you as you adjust to these extraordinary circumstances.”

United quickly followed in Delta’s footsteps with an email update the next day that announced an extension of Premier status for the year, enhancements to the value of using United-branded credit cards, and similar extensions for the option to cancel a flight and re-book without any fees. The airline seems to have additional positive news on the horizon, too.

“We’ll be making it easier to earn status in 2021 for the 2022 program year,” Luc Bondar, United’s vice president, loyalty and president of Mileage Plus, wrote in an email to customers. “We recognize that getting back to travel will occur at a different pace for different members. Keep an eye out for changes we will make to help you earn status in 2021 for 2022, as we’ll share details later this year.”

As of April 7, American, JetBlue, and Southwest had not unveiled changes for their loyalty program customers, although Southwest’s ticketing policy is already free of change fees.

Around-the-World Status Updates

Outside the U.S., airlines such as Qantas and Qatar Airways are making similar moves to reward customer loyalty with status extensions through the end of next year. Air Canada announced plans to extend Altitude status through the end of 2021, opportunities to donate Aeroplan Miles to combat the COVID-19 crisis while earning miles for their goodwill, and a pause on expiring reward miles through mid-May. Customers who are still traveling or will return to the skies by the end of the year will enjoy an extra benefit: the chance to gift status to a friend or family member.

Etihad and Cathay Pacific have each adopted somewhat of a miles-stimulus approach, which gives members complimentary monthly miles and points to help maintain their existing level of status. Other airlines like Emirates are taking smaller measures by lowering requirements for reaching status tiers.

David McMillin is an associate editor at Convene.