June 11th Update: Updated to reflect new status extensions, including British Airways.

With most of the world closed off to visitors entirely, travel isn’t all that easy right now which makes being a frequent traveler quite difficult. But after years of earning points, spending money and achieving status, that doesn’t mean all the hard work should just fall by the wayside.

Airlines and hotels are recognizing the hoops loyalty members have jumped through, and that safety is of the utmost importance right now, and are offering complimentary status extensions accordingly. Here’s the skinny on which loyalty programs have made gestures, and for how long…

business-class-amenity-kit-champagneMark Ross-Smith, a leading thinker in travel loyalty and former head of a major airline loyalty program offered a very thought provoking piece a couple weeks ago now, illustrating the pros and cons of a program offering such relief to customers.

In short: if you just give someone a status extension, it gives them a chance to go try other airlines or hotels. Even if you planned on giving a status extension at some point, it’s better to wait, so that you see if customers make any attempt on their own to meet you in the middle.

It made perfect sense then, but the shift to global border closures has been drastic and now its time to give loyalty members one less thing to worry about.

While it’s understandable that airlines and hotels have bigger issues at hand, and real time responses are rare these days, I think it’s insane for a travel brand to have not to offer any guidance, or at least incentive at this point on loyalty.

After all, airlines desperately need new revenue, so even for selfish reasons, a booking incentive would go far.

Here’s what hotel brands have done…

IHG, Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton all announced status extensions for members in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Hyatt – World of Hyatt just set the bar for hotel loyalty once again, with status extensions through February 28th, 2022. This includes certificates and other instruments, and points expiration is being suspended in the interim too. Read up here.

Marriott – Finally, on April 8th, Marriott announced 1 year status extensions for anyone who earned Bonvoy status in 2019. The status is now extended to February 1st, 2022. In addition, all points expiry is suspended until February 2021.

Radisson – Radisson is extending points expiry by 6 months and granting status extensions to all until February 2022. Good on you, Radisson!

IHG – Intercontinental Hotel Group has adjusted criterion for earning elite status in 2020, which is a clever approach. They still want you to aim for loyalty, they’re not just giving it to you, but they’re being reasonable about how much you will actually be able to accomplish, being that nearly half the year will be over before things get better.

Hilton – The hotel group is extending all statuses which were due to expire in March 2020 through to March 2021, and those who have already re-qualified for 2020 will have theirs extended through 2022. Fantastic stuff.

Hyatt – Hyatt just set the bar, taking over the top spot from Hilton with massive status extensions for more than a year. Hyatt is also pausing plans to launch its new award charts, which would’ve seen the introduction of peak and off peak pricing.

Accor – Accor has extended 12 months to the validity of existing ALL elite memberships, in addition to a variety of other measures. This is great news all around.  Even better, points earned in 2020 will rollover into 2021.

Best Western – it may not be the sexiest of loyalty programs but Best Western has automatically extended all member statuses globally through 2022. It’s nice to see a brand show some love.

And what airlines are doing…

Qantas – Qantas is offering free status extension through 2021 for all elite members

American – American is also extending elite status through 2021 for elite members, but is taking things a step further where credit card spend counts towards million miler status.

Delta – Delta went big, extending all status through 2021 and all the way to January 31st, 2022. All vouchers and other perks have been extended at least six months.

United – United is matching Delta’s intro offer from US airlines with elite status extensions through 2021, all the way to January 31st, 2022 as well. All memberships, perks and vouchers will be extended six months.

Alaska – Alaska is extending MVP elite status one year, through December 31st 2021. In addition, any miles earned thus far in 2020 (January-April) will be rolled over into qualifying for 2022 status. If you managed any flying so far, it’ll count towards re-qualifying after next year, which is fantastic.

Air Canada – Air Canada is extending status 12 months, with a great twist. If you’re able to qualify for the next year – this year – you can gift the status to someone. Really clever!

Singapore Air – Singapore Airlines is granting 12 month extensions for all current Silver, Gold, PPS and other flyers. This will apply to all statuses held from March 2020 onward to February 2021, which means some flyers just got their status extended through to 2022.

TAP Portugal – TAP is extending all current Gold and Silver members status by 12 months. Great move, and 12 months is generous.

Air New Zealand – Air New Zealand is automatically extending all elite statuses which were current and valid as of March 20, 2020 for one year. This is a great, clean move by Air New Zealand.

Qatar Airways – Qatar is doubling down on its original 6 month status extension, offering 12 full months of status extension for anyone whose status was set to expire by January 31st, 2021. This includes Qcredits and other loyalty perks.

ANA – ANA is offering double elite qualifying miles to help customers retain status this year, and also extending tier memberships by one year, stating “I appreciate your continued loyalty and faith in ANA and we have decided to extend your current AMC Premium Member Status through 2021 (April 2021-March 2022). More information will follow to those eligible AMC Premium Status Members at a later date.”

British Airways – British Airways is extending tier status for all members with renewals from July 2020 to June 2021, for a 12 months. Basically, all members receive a one year extension. If your membership ended up May or June, these will also be granted extensions, but only after they run out. More here.

Iberia – Iberia is extending status validity for members, with one year extensions for most flyers.

Virgin Australia – Virgin Australia is giving members an extra year, and then credit for tier points required to reach status through the next. Each tier receives a different tier points allowance, with 210 for Platinum, 105 for Gold and 70 for Silver. Read more here.

Air France/KLM – Air France and KLM first lowered status requirements by 25%, for any Silver, Gold or Platinum members whose status earning period would’ve ended in March, April or May. They’ve now added a 12 month extension for all members with expiry dates from March 2020 – February 2021.

Air New Zealand – Air New Zealand is extending all AirPoints tier memberships by one year. This is a solid move in line with other Pacific based airlines.

Finnair – Finnair has extended the period for elite status qualification and status validity for 6 months, for all members. This is a nice clean olive branch to keep customers engaged.

Qatar Airways – Qatar is offering 3 months of status extension for most tiers, and other options depending on your status. You must go to Qmiles.com and enter your details to check your offers.

Cathay Pacific – Cathay is offering status extension to all, with some extensions going as far as April 2022. The carrier just received a $5 billion bailout from the HK Government and seems poised to come through this difficult time.

Forced Behavior

Once word gets out that one portion of the population gets free ice cream, it’s only natural for those without the announcement of free ice cream to get frustrated, and airlines and hotels which haven’t taken action run a greater risk of alienating members by not communicating… now.

We’re in unprecedented times, so a 6 month status or benefit extension hardly seems ridiculous, and if everyone agrees to grant them, it doesn’t change the status quo and allow people to go be free agents for the fun of it. It just keeps the playing field exactly as it was before.

What do you think of your loyalty programs response so far?

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