Complete guide to airline elite status during the coronavirus outbreak

May 19, 2020

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

There’s no doubt that the past month has been rough for the travel industry. The continued spread of the coronavirus has led to major event cancellations and travel restrictions, and many travel providers have issued waivers to give travellers more flexibility for both new and existing reservations.

This uncertainty has led many travellers to wonder if airlines and hotel programmes will extend elite status, upgrade certificates and other benefits for loyal members. Given the evolving nature of the outbreak, this is a question that is changing frequently, but select carriers have announced intentions to implement updates in the future.

Please visit TPG’s hub page for coronavirus coverage and sign-up for our daily newsletter for up-to-date information on the outbreak.

Here’s a quick roundup of what we know from most popular international airlines — though we’ll continue to update this post as we receive more information.

In This Post

Air Canada

On 6 April 2020, Air Canada announced that it will extend elite status validity for all of its elite members through 2021 regardless of miles flown. This extension is automatic and there is no need to contact Air Canada to enrol in the extension. Further, Air Canada elites who requalify for elite status in 2020 can gift elite status to a friend or family member for free.

In the announcement, Air Canada also unveiled a promotion where it will award one Altitude Qualifying Mile for every five Aeroplan miles that a member donates to select charities by 30 April 2020. These Altitude Qualifying Miles will count towards advancing an elite’s 2021 elite status tier and earning status to gift to a friend or family member — though this is capped at 25,000 AQMs.

In a separate statement, the airline announced that it’s giving all elite members additional eUpgrade Credits that expire 31 May 2021. The number of eUpgrade Credits added depends on the elite member’s elite tier; check out Air Canada’s website for information on how many credits each tier has been credited. These credits have already been distributed and can be redeemed immediately.

The Montreal-based carrier previously announced that it’s pausing Aeroplan mileage expiration until 14 May 2020, and that all Aeroplan-issued award tickets can be cancelled free of charge until 30 April 2020. In addition, the airline is waiving change fees on a number of paid tickets — see the airline’s coronavirus page for more info.

Alaska Airlines

On 7 April 2020, Alaska Airlines announced that it’s extending elite status validity for all 2020 elite members through 31 December 2021. This status extension is automatic and there’s no need to enrol or contact Alaska Airlines for the extension.

The only benefit that’s excluded from this extension is the 50,000 bonus Mileage Plan miles that Alaska awards to MVP Gold 75K members upon qualification. The airline stated that it will release details on how MVP Gold 75K members can earn bonus miles in “a few weeks”.

Mileage Plan members who enrolled in a status match challenge between 1 December 2019, and 31 March 2020, will have their elite status automatically extended through 31 December 2021. This extension is valid regardless of how much the member has flown during his or her status challenge period.

As you’d expect, the carrier is waiving change and cancellation fees on many tickets — check out Alaska’s COVID-19 travel page for complete details on these waivers.

American Airlines

American Airlines announced a status extension of its own on 13 April 2020. All American Airlines elite members who currently hold elite status will have their status validity extended through 31 January 2022. This status extension is automatic and includes members who earned status through a status challenge or were gifted status from World of Hyatt.

In a separate email, the airline announced that this extension also applies to its invite-only ConciergeKey members.

Additionally, the requirements for earning elite status (or moving up a tier) in 2020 have been reduced across the board. While not as generous as United’s 50% reduction, the cuts are significant and apply to Elite Qualifying Miles, Segments, and Dollars for all elite status tiers. Here’s a breakdown of these levels.

Metric Gold Platinum Platinum Pro Executive Platinum
Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) 15,000 30,000 45,000 60,000
Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS) 15 30 45 60
Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) $1,500 $4,000 $6,000 $9,000

The carrier also announced an interesting new wrinkle: Net purchases on U.S. cobranded credit cards that post to your AAdvantage account between May and December 2020 will count toward American lifetime elite status at a rate of 1 mile per dollar spent. If you’re close to a Million Miler tier, this could be a way to push yourself over the top in a time of limited travel.

Further, existing Systemwide Upgrades set to expire on 31 January 2021 will now expire on 31 July 2021. The airline has also lowered requirements for earning additional Executive Platinum awards by 40%, which will now kick in at 90,000, 120,000 and 150,000 EQMs.

The airline has made a number of smaller changes to the AAdvantage programme too, so make sure to check out our full article on the airline’s response to coronavirus for more info. In addition, check out the airline’s coronavirus information page for information on its coronavirus travel waiver.

British Airways

On 26 March 2020, British Airways announced that it has lowered elite qualifying requirements for select Executive Club members. Elite members with a status renewal date in April, May and June of this year can requalify for status with 30% fewer Tier Points due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Qualifying elite status members will only have to earn the following quantities of Tier Points in order to maintain their existing status or move to a higher status level:

  • Bronze: 210 Tier Points (versus 300)
  • Silver: 420 Tier Points (versus 600)
  • Gold: 1,050 Tier Points (versus 1,500)
  • Gold Guest List: 3,500 Tier Points (versus 5,000)

Additionally, the validity of select companion vouchers have been extended by six months. Like other airlines, British Airways is offering a travel waiver that lets passengers change their flights free of charge — see British Airways’ coronavirus information page for more details.

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific is granting its members bonus points to help make up for lost travel due to the Coronavirus, according to Executive Traveller. These will be granted in monthly increments to Marco Polo Club members and represent only a portion of the points needed to retain status. Unlike other programmes, all members will be given these bonus points regardless of residency.

Status

February

March

April

Total

Total Required

Silver

30 Club Points

30 Club Points

30 Club Points

90 points

300 points

Gold

65 Club Points

65 Club Points

65 Club Points

195 points

600 points

Diamond

140 Club Points

140 Club Points

140 Club Points

420 points

1,200 points

In addition to these points, members who have lounge passes, earned companion certificates or flight upgrade credits that expire between March and April will see their passes extended by six months.

For more information on this and other steps Cathay Pacific is taking regarding the outbreak, check out the carrier’s coronavirus updates page.

Delta Air Lines

Delta on 5 April became the first U.S. airline to announce that it would extend elite status for all members amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Related: Delta becomes the first U.S. airline to extend elite status

The airline says whatever Delta Medallion status travellers earned for 2020 — including those gifted — will be automatically extended for the 2021 Medallion year, which ends 31 January 2022. Additionally, all Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) from 2020 will be rolled over to 2021 to qualify for 2022 Medallion Status.

Delta is giving extensions on Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates as well as $200 Delta travel vouchers selected as Choice Benefits. Additionally, the carrier will also extend some of the perks attained through its cobranded U.S. credit cards.

Delta 360 — an invite-only elite tier for high spenders — is not eligible for this extension. When if the extension included these members, the airline released the following statement to TPG:

“No – Delta 360 is an annual, invitation-only program. Those selected to the program for 2021 will be contacted by Delta in February 2021.”

Beyond elite status, Delta is also waiving change and cancellation fees on many tickets due to the outbreak. Be sure to check the carrier’s coronavirus updates page for complete details and eligibility.

Emirates

According to Emirates’ COVID-19 updates page, existing Emirates Skywards Silver, Gold and Platinum members can requalify for status by meeting 80% of the travel requirements for their respective status tier this year. Additionally, all flights completed before 30 June 2020 will receive 20% more Tier Miles toward status qualification.

Like other airlines on this list, Emirates has also issued a handful of travel waivers that let some travellers cancel airfare without penalty. See the airline’s website for more details.

Etihad Airways

On 19 March 2020, Etihad Airways announced that beginning 31 March 2020, it will distribute bonus Tier Miles to all Etihad Guest members on a monthly basis in order to help them maintain elite status. These bonus Tier Miles will be automatically deposited into Etihad Guest accounts on the last day of every month through June 2020, and extensions to this program will be “considered as more information comes available”. No enrollment is required.

Etihad notes that the number of points to be distributed will be “calculated as a monthly average of miles members earn flying with Etihad Airways and are required to maintain their existing tier”. Throughout 2020, members who achieve 80% of the qualifying requirements will be extended or upgraded for 12 months. Members who achieves less than 80% of qualifying requirements will be extended until 31 December 2020.

Finally, Etihad is offering double tier points on all trips taken between 1 March and 30 June 2020.

Beyond elite status, the carrier is also waiving date and destination change fees for those with travel booked through 30 June 2020 — check Etihad’s coronavirus travel updates page for more details.

Related: Emirates, Etihad to stop flying entirely following UAE ban

Flying Blue

(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)
Air France and KLM’s loyalty programme is offering some relief for select elite members. (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

On 15 April, Flying Blue announced that it will extend its coronavirus policy by extending status for members by one year. The programme announced that it will maintain all Flying Blue Elite members with a  qualification period ending between March 2020 and February 2021 for another 12 months.

Previously, the programme said that it was only offering reduced status qualifying thresholds for certain members. That policy, however, has been changed to offer a one-year status extension for members, which is a positive change for all Flying Blue elites.

Flying Blue is also pausing expiration of miles through the end of 2020 for all members and allowing free changes and cancellations for award tickets (with travel through 30 June 2020). For more details on these updates, check out the programme’s coronavirus news page.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines is extending status for all current elite members through the end of February 2022. The airline is also lowering qualifying requirements for Pualani Gold and Pualani Platinum status by 50%, making it easier for travellers to earn or upgrade status once it’s safe to travel again. Here’s a look at the updated status requirements.

Status tier qualifying segments qualifying miles
Pualani Gold 15 10,000
Pualani Platinum 30 20,000

Further, the airline is extending U.S. credit card companion certificates that are set to expire before August 2020 through 31 December 2020.

Hawaiian Airlines is also offering a travel waiver for most new and existing bookings — see the airline’s coronavirus page for more information.

Hainan Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines

Fortune Wings — the loyalty program used by Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and other Chinese carriers — has automatically extended elite status validity for elite members. According to the Fortune Wings website, elite status members who are set to lose their current elite status tier will have their elite status extended for up to 14 months.

Fortune Wings said the following in a press release:

“During the policy implementation, FWC elite members (including Platinum, gold and silver card) that member tier would be degraded in current month, will be automatic maintained by their original levels and the validity periods will be extend by another elite member period; Namely, the member tier validation would be from the day of upgrading till the end of the next month of the next year, which would be up to 14 months. For example, the original member tier, which will be expired on March, 31st, 2020 and maintaining conditions are not met, will be automatically maintained and the valid period will be April 1 2020 to May 31st 2021.”

This program went into effect on 1 February 2020, and an expiration date will be “will be announced later.” Elite status will be automatically extended and no enrollment is required.

JetBlue

JetBlue extended Mosaic elite status for all current elite members through December 2021. This includes elite status earned by flying and spending on the U.S. card, so all elites get an extra year of elite status regardless of how it was earned.

In addition, JetBlue is letting all Mosaic members gift status to a friend or family member. This gifted status will be valid from 15 June 2020, to 15 June 2021, and includes all Mosaic benefits, including free checked bags, priority boarding and access to discounted Even More Space seats. This status won’t, however, include the bonus 15,000 TrueBlue points normally awarded when one qualifies for Mosaic.

JetBlue has also lowered the requirements for earning Mosaic status in 2020 by 50%. You can now earn Mosaic by meeting any of these metrics:

  • Earning 7,500 qualifying TrueBlue base points
  • Earning 6,000 qualifying TrueBlue base points and 15 flight segments
  • $50,000 in annual net purchases on the U.S. JetBlue Plus card (this hasn’t changed for 2020)

LATAM

LATAM has extended status validity for all LATAM Pass elite members through March 2022. This status extension is automatic and will be applied regardless of how much an elite member has flown in 2020. LATAM released the following statement on its website:

“Many things have changed due to the current situation, affecting the opportunity to travel and accumulate qualifying points for access to Elite categories, but we want to give you peace of mind: the category of our Elite members is guaranteed until March 2022.”

In early May, the airline announced that its lowering elite status qualifying requirements by 30%, making it easier to qualify or upgrade elite status in 2020. Further, it extended LATAM Pass points set to expire in March, April or May by 90 days.

This is the most generous airline status extension that we’ve seen so far. In addition, LATAM is offering waived change and cancellation fees on a number of its flights. Check the airline’s coronavirus information page for more info.

Qantas

Qantas was among the first carriers to announce programme-wide updates, automatically extending status validity by 12 months for all current elite members that have not yet requalified in 2020. Eligible members will receive a new elite status card by the end of the month in which their current status is set to expire. Qantas has stated that no enrollment is required to take advantage of this extension, as all extensions will be processed automatically.

The updated elite status expiration date will show online after one of the two processing dates listed on Qantas’ website. Members with elite status expiring between March and June 2020 will have their status extended by 27 March 2020. Those with status expiring between July 2020 and February 2021 will have their status extended by 9 April 2020. Regardless of the processing date, the elite status’ expiration date will only be extended by one year.

Unfortunately, members who have already requalified for status are not eligible for this extension. Likewise, Qantas members can only use this extension to retain their current status tier — it’s not possible to move up a tier with the extension.

Beyond elite status, Qantas is taking other steps related to the coronavirus, as it recently suspended all international routes due to the coronavirus outbreak and is offering various travel waivers. Be sure to check the carrier’s coronavirus update site for complete details.

Qatar Airways

Similar to Qantas, Qatar Airways is automatically extending status validity by 12 months for all current elite members with status set to expire before 31 January 2021. While details are limited, the airline says that it would also reinstate status in some circumstances.

In addition to the status extensions, Gold and Platinum members now have 12 additional months to use their Qcredits, which can be used toward perks like upgrades, extra baggage, and lounge access. The Qcredits, including previously redeemed ones, are now also refundable.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is also offering relief for those affected by the outbreak. The airline said that is automatically renewing all KrisFlyer Elite and PPS Club membership statuses for another 12 months at the end of their membership year.

The status extension applies to all memberships expiring from March 2020 through February 2021. The validity of any expiring PPS and Elite Gold Rewards will also be extended until 31 March 2021.

In addition to this extension, Singapore is also waiving rebooking fees for many new and existing tickets with travel through 31 May 2020, but visit the carrier’s travel waiver page for up-to-date information.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest announced extensions for both A-List elite status and its famous Companion Pass benefit on 16 April 2020. In the announcement, the airline stated that it will extend elite status validity for all current A-List and A-List preferred members through 31 December 2021. Further, all current Companion Pass holders will have their pass extended through 30 June 2021. These extensions are automatic, so there’s no need to contact Southwest to extend.

Additionally, all Southwest Rapid Rewards members will get a head-start toward elite status and Companion Pass. The airline will deposit 15,000 tier qualifying points and 15 qualifying segments into all Rapid Rewards accounts — these bonus points will count toward elite status qualification. This effectively drops A-List and A-List Preferred qualification to 20,000 tier points and 55,000 tier points respectively.

On the Companion Pass side, Southwest announced it will deposit 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 qualifying flight segments into all Rapid Rewards account. This drops the Companion Pass requirement to 100,000 qualifying points for 2021.

Do keep in mind that these miles aren’t redeemable, so you can’t use them to book flights. Regardless, it’s nice to see that the airline is making it easier for its members to earn elite status and Companion Pass benefits in 2020.

Finally, the Dallas-based airline has also announced extensions to expiring travel funds, including an option that will allow Rapid Rewards members to convert expiring funds to Rapid Rewards points. All funds issued between 1 March 2020, and 7 September 2020, will have an expiration date of 7 September 2022; typically, Southwest Travel Funds expire one-year after being issued. Southwest’s website indicated that these conversions will happen at the same rate you can book travel using Rapid Rewards points, but given that this is variable, we’re awaiting more details on how the math will work — and the launch of an online tool that will facilitate the transfer.

As far as flight changes go, the airline has always allowed free changes and cancellation on both paid and award tickets. Make sure to check out Southwest’s coronavirus page for information on cancelled routes, travel restrictions and more.

TAP Portugal

TAP Portugal has extended elite status for some elite status members by 12 months. According to TAP Portugal’s website, the airline has extended elite status for Gold and Silver members who earned status through segments flown or Status Miles earned. Those who earned status via other methods — for example, through TAP Miles&Go — are excluded from this extension.

TAP Portugal is also extending mileage validity by a year and offering bonus miles to TAP Miles&Go members. Likewise, the airline is offering free changes and cancellations for select members — read more about these benefits on TAP Portugal’s coronavirus page.

Turkish Airlines

In an email to elite status members, Turkish Airlines announced that it’s extending elite status validity for all Miles&Smiles elite members by six months. The email — which was sent on 8 April 2020 — also notes that members can purchase double the amount of redeemable and status miles this year.

This news comes after Turkish Airlines suspended all international flights through April. The airline is offering a travel waiver to those affected by the coronavirus outbreak — make sure to check out the carrier’s website for more info.

United Airlines

United became the second U.S. carrier after Delta to announce that it would extend elite status to all its current Premier members through the end of the 2021 programme year, which ends on 31 January 2022.

Related: United, following Delta’s lead, extends elite status for all Premier members and more

United is going to lower the PQP thresholds for earning Premier status. United is also extending all of its annual subscription options, such as United Club memberships, Wi-Fi and Economy Plus by six months for each customer. It’s not immediately clear what’s going to happen with PlusPoints upgrades.

Beyond elite status, United has implemented fee waivers for many of its flights, but be sure to visit the carrier’s travel notices page for complete details.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic announced that it was extending status for Gold and Silver members by six months. While the number of Tier Points needed is staying the same — 1,000 for Gold and 400 for Silver — members will get an additional six months added to their membership year to meet the requirements for an additional year of status.

In addition to extending status and requalification period for elites, Flying Club is also extending the validity for some elite benefits. For Gold members, that means that the following will be extended for an additional six months:

  • Gold member companion reward for Gold status renewal
  • Clubhouse passes for Gold member 1,500 Tier Point reward
  • One cabin upgrade for Gold member 2,000 Tier Point rewards

And for cardholders of eligible Virgin Atlantic cobranded credit cards, that means the following card vouchers will be extended for an additional six months:

  • Companion reward
  • Clubhouse passes
  • Premium upgrades

For both elites and cardholders, in order for the benefit to be extended by six months, it must have been valid as of 13 March. The extended validity should show in your Flying Club account by 20 March.

WestJet

WestJet told TravelPulse Canada that it began proactively extending and upgrading elite status for some WestJet Rewards members on 23 March 2020. The Canadian airline is handling status extensions on a case-by-case basis and has prioritized members who were on track to achieve status in March, April or May. Further, the airline said that it “will similarly look after those whose tier status may be impacted in the months ahead”.

Earlier this week, TPG contributor Benji Stawski emailed the airline regarding the WestJet Gold status he acquired during the airline’s 2019 status match. This match gave members immediate status through 31 March 2020, with the option to extend through 30 June 2020, by taking one WestJet flight. Stawski didn’t take this flight, but WestJet responded to his inquiry saying that it’s waived the single flight requirement and extended all status matches through 30 June 2020.

As you’d expect, the airline has a broad travel waiver that waives change and cancellation fees for select flights.

Bottom line

Given the evolving nature of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s highly likely that these policies will continue to change over the weeks and months to come. Make sure to bookmark this article to check back as we update it with more information.

For more details on how the outbreak is affecting the broader travel industry and up-to-date information, be sure to check out our dedicated coronavirus news page.

Featured photo courtesy of the Port of Seattle

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