United, Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue miles do not expire. American Airlines, whose miles expire after 18 months of inactivity, has paused expiration until July. They were slow to do this, but finally recognized at least a temporary need.
Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt has paused points expiration as well though Marriott will start expiring points again in September while neither Hyatt nor Hilton will expire points for the rest of the year.
- Customers can’t travel now
- They can’t redeem their points for travel
- They can’t earn with travel partners
- Many have lost their jobs
Loyalty programs will need their program members again soon. These are the people who can be incentivized to fill seats and rooms. They’re the ones who will either be chased away by a program which treats them poorly during this challenging time, or lured away by a program who treats them well.
So I think it’s especially notable which programs are still expiring their members’ miles.
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan usually thought of as one of the most consumer-friendly programs, their miles expire without account activity every 24 months. It’s not hard to keep an account active, redeem a few miles for magazines for instance, but some will be surprised to see them as a holdout.
- IHG Rewards Club is reducing status qualification requirements, offering reservation flexibility, but still… are expiring points. And IHG points expire after 12 months of inactivity.
Airlines expire points because those points are a liability on their books. They can recognize revenue, and show the elimination of future cost, through expiration. However when Delta eliminating expiring miles, then-program head Jeff Robertson explained,
that expiring miles was the biggest complaint that they received, more so than even award availability. That they were spending millions just to notify members about expiring miles, the revenue from re-activation wasn’t especially great, and so they believed it was in their long-term interest to no longer antagonize members who would otherwise need to earn perhaps 20 miles to extend an account’s lifetime (not very profitable to the airline) or who would just redeem their miles in anger and walk away from the airline (creating a redemption cost and a lost customer).
I reached out to Alaska Airlines and to IHG to ask about their intention of fixing this. Alaska responded with a list of ways to earn points without flying. IHG Rewards Club has not yet replied.