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How Long Will Airlines Continue to Extend Loyalty Perks?

Ruthy Munoz
February 19th, 2021 at 5:23 AM EST

How long will airlines continue to allow customers to extend loyalty benefits as vaccines begin to offer the prospect of people flying again? The short answer is it depends on the airline.

Airlines are being challenged to find ways to keep their customer base engaged and renewing their loyalty memberships while feeling rewarded at a time when most passengers still aren’t traveling as much as before.

While most global airlines are doing something to reward their most loyal customers, not all are making these perks available to all their members. Loyalty program extensions and perks vary by carrier.

How long will airlines deem it a smart business move to keep extending loyalty? 

“It really depends on how the pandemic and vaccine roll out shape up,” said Karolina Baszarkiewicz, Finnair’s head of loyalty. “We want to be customer-centric in our approach and find a solution that gives customers the much needed peace of mind and reassurance, but at the same time stimulate demand for air travel.”

The following are the perks several airlines around the world are extending due to the Covid pandemic.

In Europe, Lufthansa is automatically doubling status miles regardless of booking class, and any flights booked in first or business class will earn double HON circle miles, Lufthansa’s highest tier. HON circle members are also benefitting from having their 2019 miles recounted and added to renewal re-qualifications this year. The German carrier is also adding miles incentives to their Miles & More credit card usage.

“Unfortunately, we cannot predict how travel options will develop this year,” said Joost Greve, head of loyalty at Lufthansa Group. “That is why we create reliability for our most loyal customers by making it much easier to maintain and achieve the frequent flyer status.”

Among several promotions it is offering, British Airways is adding 12 months to all Executive Club memberships and decreasing the amount of tier points needed to achieve status by 25 percent. Additionally, the carrier is extending the expiration dates of all unused vouchers by a year.

In the U.S., Southwest is extending its Rapid Rewards companion passes through December, and adding a boost to achieve both tier and companion pass qualifying points faster. Additionally, the Dallas-based airline is waiving spending limits for this year on how many tier qualifying points Rapid Rewards cardmembers with premier, priority, premier business, and performance cards can earn.

“Our goal every day is to make it easier for customers to enjoy the benefits they’ve earned, and to earn future benefits for when they are ready to travel,” said Jonathan Clarkson, Southwest’s managing director of marketing for loyalty, partnerships and products.

Delta is extending current medallion status through 2021, rolling over 2020 medallion qualification miles and giving members a head start on qualifying for status next year. The airline also is extending unused drink vouchers by a year past their expiration dates. Other perks being extended include offering members a status boost through their co-branded credit card.

United is extending its MileagePlus premier status through January, and making it easier for members to hit the next status level with reduced thresholds and other promotions. The airline also is allowing all members to list for standby on the same day of travel to the same destination without a fee.

American Airlines is extending elite status for AAdvantage members until January and members using their AAdvantage credit cards have an additional path to earning status this year.

In addition to redeeming AAdvantage miles for flights, car rentals, hotel reservations, or an Admirals Club membership, members can also redeem their miles for newspaper subscriptions or donate them to make the world a better place, an American spokesperson said.

JetBlue is extending current Mosaic benefits including reducing Mosaic threshold requirements through 2021 and offering its most loyal customers unlimited companion passes through May.

The New York-based airline is also offering complimentary “even more” seating at the airport, alcoholic beverages and bag checks for first and second bags. Additionally, members reaching certain qualifying points can give Mosaic to others or get a free roundtrip certificate.

Finnair is extending its Finnair Plus points through the end of August, and adding an additional six months to its tracking periods for a total of 18 months in extensions since the start of the pandemic. Upgrade vouchers validity have also been extended to match tier members tracking period.

In Asia, Japan Airlines is offering an extension until next January for members with JAL points expiring between January and March by having their miles credited back only if they register in advance by March. JAL coupons expiring by March are being extended until next April.

As the duration of the pandemic continues to be unpredictable, most airlines said they will be monitoring and updating loyalty perks and status as needed to better serve their customers.

Ruthy Munoz
February 19th, 2021 at 5:23 AM EST

Tags: airline industry, airline loyalty, Airlines, coronavirus and airlines, coronavirus recovery

Photo credit:  oneworld / oneworld

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