The Price of Status
Earning elite status is not an easy task. The already hard to achieve statuses will now become harder to achieve with the new requirements that American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta are putting into place in 2019.
The simplicity of being able to fly a lot and qualifying for status as a result has gone away. With the new changes that those three legacy carriers are making, the requirements to gain the prestigious honor have all increased.
United and Delta were the first to make the changes to their loyalty programs, and American has now announced that they will be doing the same. In today’s market, airlines must stay competitive, whether that is with fees or perks. Air travel is at an all-time high, and, as a result, when one airline makes a change, it is safe to assume that other airlines will follow suit. The earning tiers and award privileges are important loyalty retention factors and are, consequently, competitive.
American, United, and Delta will now require more spending, and Delta will also require more flying in order to earn or maintain elite status. You will now have to spend $15,000 in the year, and Delta is increasing the qualifications more by requiring their travelers to fly 125,000 miles annually while United and American are staying the same at 100,000 miles.
Along with the increases for earning, United has decided to lower the number of miles travelers earn on some of the more basic fares so that it is an additional earning challenge for the bargain-hunting type of flyers who are not as loyal.
Although these changes are not ideal for the average traveler, they are necessary to guarantee that the elite status perks are valuable and are only given to big-spending and loyal travelers. Some of those perks that are offered by the airlines to their status members are free upgrades, priority check-in and boarding, waived change fees, mileage bonuses, and complimentary checked bags.
Airlines want their loyal customers who have elite status to feel prioritized, and the requirements need to be hefty in order to maintain the integrity of the status. Weighing the options of spend versus reward is something that varies for each traveler, but when you travel a lot for business it can be beneficial to remain loyal to one airline and reap the benefits of that loyalty.