Airlines are digging deep to encourage more travel as well as continue to earn traveler loyalty. As a result, each carrier is making significant changes to their programs, most for the better, but some that clearly protect their bottom line.

TI has identified the most significant changes over the last couple of months for the top U.S. carriers – identifying both the pros and the cons to each program.

Delta Air Lines

PROS

  • Extended SkyMiles benefits including more flexibility: Award ticket redeposit and reissue fees have been eliminated for travel within the U.S. (this excludes basic Economy fares)
  • Status extensions for Medallion Members: Delta extended 2020 Medallion Status a full year through January 31, 2022 and extended several Medallion and SkyMiles Member benefits; They also announced that all Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) from 2020 will roll over into 2021.
  • Delta Sky Club Individual and Executive Memberships active as of March 1, 2020 will now be extended to June 30, 2021
  • If traveler itineraries change and they switch to a cheaper flight (example original to Hawaii for $2,000, but exchange for a $400 flight to Miami), Delta will either credit back the difference or credit points back to your account.

American Airlines

PROS

  • Lowering elite qualification requirements: you’ll be able to qualify for higher status with lower Dollar/Mile/Segment requirements
  • Extending elite status for another year: If your current elite status expires on January 31, 2021, the expiration date is extended until January 31, 2022
  • Increased emphasis on revenue-based Web Special awards, accounting for almost two-thirds of all redemptions
  • Platinum Pro elites will get to pick from reward catalog once they achieve status starting in 2021
  • Considering family pooling: allowing to share miles and perks with family members

CONS

  • Temporarily eliminating partner elite seating

United Airlines

PROS

  • Extending MileagePlus Premier status through January 2022
  • Waiving redeposit fees for 2020 award flights with departure dates this year if you cancel 30 days or more before departure.
  • Mileage, or distance flown, will no longer factor into qualification for Premier status
  • Eliminate change fees on many tickets
  • Electronic travel certificates valid for 24 months from issuance

CONS

  • Cap number of premier qualifying points you can earn on partner flights
  • Increased spend requirements for premier qualification: replacing the Premier qualifying miles (PQM), Premier qualifying segments (PQS) and Premier qualifying dollars (PQD) requirements with Premier qualifying points (PQP) and Premier qualifying flights (PQF)
    • Premier qualifying flights are similar to Premier qualifying segments, but with removed fare class multipliers. A takeoff and landing is equal to 1 PQF

Southwest

PROS

  • Through December 15, 2020, you can convert any qualifying travel funds to Rapid Rewards points so they’ll never expire
  • Currently allowing cardholders to earn unlimited TPQs through spending this year
  • Extending the benefits earned by current tier status Members and Companion Pass holders
    • For current A-List and A-List Preferred Members – extending current earned status through December 31, 2021
    • For current Companion Pass Members – extending current earned Companion Pass benefits through June 30, 2021

CONS

  • Increased the points required to earn a Companion Pass (travel with family or friends) from 110,000 to 125,000
  • Starting January 1, 2021, anyone who changes their itinerary using same-day standby will be responsible for any additional government taxes and fees that may result
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