Delta was first out of the gate to extend current member elite status through January 2022.
United clearly had a status extension plan in the can, ready to go, and was just waiting to see if another airline (especially Delta) forced their hand – because within hours, on a Sunday afternoon, United’s MileagePlus is also announcing a status extension.
- Current status will last through the 2021 status year (expiring January 31, 2022)
- There will be lower elite qualifying thresholds next year.
- United is also extending annual subscriptions for inflight wifi, checked bags, United Club memberships and EconomyPlus by six months
The length of extension for purchases like club membership is identical to Delta’s plan. However they do not have ‘rollover miles’ the way that Delta does, so no real ability to take qualifying activity from this year and apply it to next year. Instead they’ll just reduce next year’s requirements. I’m waiting for details on what those will be.
There’s no question that United’s ‘cash is king’ status levels that they could get away with in the best of times make no sense with travel severely curtailed, let alone in a global recession.
As with Delta, United’s co-brand credit card partner Chase will still need to address annual fees on cards that provide club lounge access while customers aren’t traveling, and clubs are broadly closed.
The reason to do this, and to ensure customers can still access their status, is because the best customers of the airline (and bank) are the ones who will help these businesses climb out of the muck in the future. They do not want to create a decision point where customers defect to a competing brand.
American Airlines will now be on a countdown clock.