United Airlines Extending Elite Status To 2022

a model airplane on display

Earlier today I wrote about Delta’s announcement that they were extending elite status and a slew of other benefits in light of the coronavirus crisis.  It didn’t take long for United to announce a similar plan.  We don’t have a complete picture from United but we have most of it.  Side note: I’m working on a master post of COVID-19 and the impact on travel, including everything I’ve written so far.  For now, you can find those articles here:

United Airlines Extending Elite Status

United reached out to me this afternoon to let me know that all elite members of the Mileage Plus program would have their status extended through 2021, ending at the end of January, 2022.  That matches what Delta announced earlier today and makes sense.  Nobody is doing much flying for the next couple of months, and business travelers have already been largely off the road for a month so far.  That puts a serious crimp in qualifying for status again.  While most business travelers aren’t focusing on how they’ll re-qualify right now, it’s good for the airlines to put them at ease.

United Club, EconomyPlus and Other Memberships Extended

United also let me know that they would be extending a number of memberships/subscriptions an additional 6 months, including:

  • United Club
  • EconomyPlus
  • Wi-Fi
  • Checked Baggage

Again, this makes sense.  Customers paid United with the expectation that they would be able to use these products when they traveled with United. With travel down so significantly, those members aren’t getting any value for money they already spent.

Lower Elite Status Qualification Requirements

Just less than 6 months ago, United Airlines announced some bold new changes to how customers would earn elite status.  These were very much pushing the envelope on what business travelers could spend in the course of the year.  At the time, I thought they would have a real impact on thinning out top-tier elite ranks.  6 months later, it’s a whole new world.

United noted that they would also be making it easier to achieve elite status.  They plan to do so by lowering the thresholds for Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs).  We don’t have that information yet but United says they plan to provide more information soon.

The Final Two Pennies

My good friend Gary Leff noted that he believed United had an extension plan in the can, ready to go.  I don’t actually buy that.  I’m sure they’ve been discussing the matter internally, just like pretty much every other airline in the US and abroad.  If United’s plan was in the can, I imagine we would have already seen the e-mail, including key details like the new reduced tiers for elite qualification.

To be clear, I think it’s perfectly fine that United didn’t have their announcement out just a few hours after Delta made theirs.  These are incredibly complicated times.  The airlines have a long list of issues to deal with, including difficult decisions on thousands of employees that they don’t have enough work for.  Being ready to address how and when elite travelers will fly again is important, but it’s not terribly important right now in the grand scheme of things.

I fully expect that all of this will work out once the crisis is past.  Even with the current uncertainty surrounding refunds that the airlines have created, I do we’ll see things move in the right direction when we’re in a bit more stable place.

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