During the United Airlines third quarter earnings call the carrier announced that they would not be making changes to their elite program. Normally the lack of changes aren’t noteworthy, but it’s been a big question from members since Delta has announced big changes and even in the face of backlash has merely suggested they rolled changes out too quickly not that the changes themselves were a mistake.
And United didn’t even wait until questions from analysts or journalists to state about MileagePlus, proactively:
We have no material changes planned for 2025 program year.
In other words, status-earning in 2024 (for 2025 benefits) will remain more or less the same as today, where United is a more generous airline for earning status via flying than either American or Delta, but a less generous airline for earning status via non-flying activity than American.
United went on to explain that they’ve “carefully managed our premium population in recent years… we very much believe in never causing a situation where everyone has premier status” so that no one gets benefits, a dig at Delta’s explanation that they have too many elites for the premium products they offer (when in fact their announced changes, expected to be partially rolled back, were driven by a desire to push customers to spend more on their American Express co-brand cards).
In fact, United does have more ‘extra legroom’ coach seats to offer to elites than competitors, though major hub-based elite members face the same challenge with upgrades that elites on other airlines including Delta do.
Alaska Airlines and JetBlue have proactively made offers to disaffected Delta SkyMiles elites, unhappy with planned $35,000 spend requirements for Diamonds status and increased spend levels for lower status, and unhappy with limits on lounge access by premium cardmembers who do not spend at least $75,000 per year on the card. (Of course, JetBlue does not have lounges.)
Neither American nor United had moved to exploit Delta’s most valuable customers looking to leave the SkyMiles program. Numerous readers expressed reticence to make the jump to American and United, not knowing whether they’d just follow Delta with similar changes. That’s been a lost opportunity.
Meanwhile, as Delta drags out what changes will actually go into effect next year, customers have been in limbo but also likely in a wait and see mode. That may be in part because much of the coverage of Delta’s backtrack has suggested that they wouldn’t make announced changes when comments by Ed Bastian suggest the opposite – simply that they learned the need to slow walk the changes, boiling the
member more slowly.