How coronavirus is affecting frequent flyer benefits, travel loyalty points

How coronavirus is affecting frequent flyer benefits, travel loyalty points

If you’re avoiding booking flights for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus, you might be wondering what’s going to happen to your frequent flyer status or airline points in the meantime.

For many frequent flyers and business travelers, the most important benefits of frequent-flyer membership are through special “elite” status: The prime benefits are no-cost upgrades to available premium seats via various priority lists, as well as preferential treatment on relaxed baggage restrictions, better boarding group, fewer or no seat-assignment fees and faster ways to earn more miles or points.

Those upgrades are a powerful loyalty attractor. Elite members go to great lengths to retain or upgrade their status level, and the schedule reductions and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have seriously thwarted their ability to retain and improve status. The same goes for hotel chains with loyal members.

Recognizing this problem, and wishing to retain loyalty of their best customers, many airlines and hotels have started to ease status requirements for the duration of the pandemic. They’ve also extended validity of some important elite-status benefits. And some airlines have even eased restrictions on use of miles for ordinary, non-elite flyers.

Here's a rundown from SmarterTravel.com:

Airlines changing points terms due to coronavirus

Several airlines have already announced their changes; others are sure to follow. The changes listed below are effective as of April 20. They’re moving targets: Look for further, rolling extensions, especially those scheduled to end this month or next. Further down are the hotel chains offering points or elite-status term changes.

Alaska Airlines

Elite flyers can retain their current status on Alaska through at least Dec. 31, 2021. Companion certificates earned through the airline’s credit card slated to expire in 2020 are extended: Apply certificates by December 2020 for travel through Nov. 6, 2021. Status-earning miles acquired between Jan. 1 and Apr 30, 2020, will roll over to 2021. You can find more information here.

Air Canada

Elite flyers on Air Canada retain their current status through Dec. 31, 2021. Frequent flyers will not have to pay a fee to redeposit miles used to book award flights, through at least April 30. Accrued miles will not expire through May 14. You can find more information here.

American

Elite flyers whose status expires on Jan. 1, 2020, will retain their current status through January 2022. Upgrade certificates slated to expire on Jan. 31, 2021, are extended to July 31, 2021. You can find more information here.

Delta

Elite flyers with Delta retain their current status through Jan. 31, 2022. Status-earning miles acquired in 2020 will roll over to 2021. Sky Club memberships set to expire March 31 or later are extended for six months. You can find more information here.

Upgrade certificates and vouchers scheduled to expire March 1 through June 30 are extended until Dec. 31, 2020. Certificates and vouchers expiring after June 30 are extended for six months.

Hawaiian

Hawaiian “will not be expiring any miles from March 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Members with miles set to expire within this time period will retain their full mileage balance. [Prior] standard expiration policy will resume on January 1, 2021.” You can find more information here.

Southwest

A-List and A-List Preferred flyers with elite status through Dec. 21 will have status extended through Dec. 31, 2021. Companion passes earned through Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended through June 30, 2021. You can find more information here.

United Airlines

Elite flyers on United retain their current status through Jan. 31, 2022. United has lowered mileage and spend requirements for the 2021 status year to earn various status levels by 50%. Frequent flyers will not have to pay a fee to redeposit miles used to book award flights, through at least May 31. You can find more information here.

Expiration dates on several annual-pay programs, such as Wi-Fi, checked bags, United Club membership and seating in Economy Plus are extended by six months. Electronic travel certificates are now valid for 23 months.

WestJet

WestJet has upgraded or extended members who were on track to attain status in March through May, and it will “continue to look after” other travelers whose elite status might be affected by coronavirus changes. WestJet is also extending the validity of various vouchers and certificates by varying periods. You can find more information here.

Other North American airlines

Other airlines with robust elite-status programs are likely to announce similar policies. On other U.S. and Canadian lines, status is a lot less important, but you can expect some relaxation of various frequent flyer rules from those lines fairly soon, as well.

Foreign airlines

Big foreign lines, too, are easing rules and extending status. Lines that have extended status for a year include LATAM, Qantas, Qatar and Virgin Australia; Virgin Atlantic has extended status six months. Air France/KLM, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Etihad are adding miles to accounts or lowering status requirements. Many of these lines are also extending validity of various upgrades and companion certificates — check their respective websites for more information.

Amtrak

Even Amtrak is relaxing some rules. Upgrade, companion and various other certificates earned through the Guest Rewards program due to expire are extended through Sept. 25, 2020. And earned points expiration dates are also extended to that date.

Hotels changing points terms due to coronavirus

The giant hotel chains operate frequent-stay programs that offer substantial elite-level benefits such as room upgrades, free meals and early check-in/late checkout, along with the room awards available to ordinary members. They, too, are reacting to the fact that members can’t earn credit as quickly as normal periods. In fact, their extensions are generally more generous than those of the airlines.

Accor

Accor has added bonus points to member accounts that reduce the points required to qualify or requalify for elite levels. You can find more information here.

Best Western

Current member status levels are extended through Jan. 31, 2022. You can find more information here.

Hilton

Current member status levels for 2019 scheduled to end on March 31, 2020, are extended through March 31, 2021. Members' 2020 status is extended to March 31, 2022. Accrued points due to expire in 2020 will remain valid through Dec. 31, 2020. Accrued Weekend Night rewards are extended through Aug. 31, 2021. You can find more information here.

Hyatt

Elite status levels as of March 31 are extended through Feb. 28, 2022. Unused awards with expiration dates between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020, are extended to Dec. 31, 2021. Accrued points due to expire in 2020 will remain valid through Dec. 31, 2020. You can find more information here.

IHG

Qualifying points required to reach the several elite levels are reduced by at least 25%, through 2021. Points due to expire between April 1 and Dec. 31 will remain valid through Dec. 31, 2020. Award night certificates due to expire between March 1 and Dec. 31 will remain valid until Dec. 31, 2020, and certificates issued in 2020 will have an 18-month validity period. You can find more information here.

Marriott

Current elite status is extended through February 2022. Expiration dates for accrued points are extended to February 2021. Active award night awards expiring in 2020 are extended to Jan. 31, 2021. You can find more information here.

Radisson

Current elite status is extended through February 2022. Certificates and scheduled to expire through July 31, 2020, will remain valid through June 30, 2021. Point expiration is extended by six months. You can find more information here.

Wyndham

As of April 18, 2020, Wyndham says it is “pausing the expiration of any Wyndham Rewards points until September 30, 2020 and [has] extended current Wyndham Rewards Member Levels (status) for all members globally through the end of 2021.” You can find more information here.

More from SmarterTravel:

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/news/2020/04/21/frequent-flyer-loyalty-programs-affected-coronavirus-full-list/5168255002/

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