The exciting airline loyalty updates coming in 2021
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We’re only about six weeks away from 2021.
While 2020 was mostly bad news, there were a few bright spots in the airline loyalty space. Each U.S. carrier announced some type of innovation, ranging from American’s basic economy improvements to Delta’s two-time benefit extensions and more.
Nonetheless, most of us are ready to bid farewell to 2020. As we look forward to the new year and wrap up Airlines Week of the 2020 TPG Awards, let’s take a look at some of the exciting loyalty programme updates on the horizon.
American’s new Executive Platinum rewards
American was the first of the Big 3 U.S. airlines to announce reduced elite-qualifying thresholds for 2021.
As part of the news, the Fort Worth-based carrier also extended the amount of time needed to qualify for status. All activity from 1 October 2020 to 31 December 2021 will count toward earning AAdvantage status in 2021.
But that’s not all. Top-tier Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members will get a pick from a new collection of Milestone Rewards. American teased the new options in an exclusive interview with TPG.
Don’t worry: The carrier’s beloved Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) aren’t going anywhere. However, new choices will include Admirals Club day passes, bonus AAdvantage miles, headphones and more. This added flexibility will result in something closer to Delta’s Choice Benefits programme, a welcome shift for loyal travellers looking for more say in their perks.
American promised to reveal the full details in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.
United’s first-quarter promotion
As part of United’s elite adjustments for 2021, the carrier announced a lucrative promotion for flyers taking to the skies in early 2021.
Specifically, during the first quarter of 2021, from 1 January through 31 March, MileagePlus members can earn bonus PQPs on their first three United or United Express PQP-earning trips.
Elite members can earn a 100% PQP bonus, with a minimum of 300 bonus PQPs and a maximum of 1,500 bonus PQPs per trip. Non-elites can earn a 50% bonus, with a minimum of 150 bonus PQPs and a maximum of 1,000 bonus PQPs per trip.
UA’s promo definitely makes it worthwhile to consider the Chicago-based carrier for your first-quarter travel plans.
Earning Delta status in 2021
While AA and United have already reduced thresholds for elite status in 2021, we’ve yet to hear from Delta.
While Delta is carrying over all Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) earned this year to 2021, the actual qualification thresholds remain the same (for now).
As such, pay close attention to this space. In the hypercompetitive airline industry, expect to see the Atlanta-based carrier to match — and possibly outdo — American’s move.
Alaska joining Oneworld
The day is finally set. 31 March 2021.
By the second quarter of next year, Alaska Airlines will be a full member of the Oneworld alliance.
When it joins, frequent flyers will immediately see some useful perks, including the ability to earn and burn miles across the alliance’s 13 member carriers, use lounges around the world and have access to more than 1,000 destinations across the alliance map.
Alaska’s top-tier MVP Gold 75K elites will likely get Oneworld Emerald status, unlocking the doors to some top-notch first-class lounges, like Cathay Pacific’s The Pier in Hong Kong and the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney.
The full details are still forthcoming, but hopefully, Alaska will maintain its breadth of non-alliance partners and award chart sweet spots — though it’s worth noting that this date coincides with the end of Emirates first-class awards through MileagePlan.
Alaska and American perks
Alaska joining Oneworld isn’t the only think brewing with the Seattle-based carrier. Just this morning, American and Alaska announced a slew of reciprocal elite perks that’ll kick in for 2021. This includes complimentary upgrades across both airlines for AA Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro travellers as well as Alaska’s MVP Gold 75K members — including the ability for Alaska’s top-tier flyers to use new Global Upgrade Certificates to upgrade long-haul, international flights on American.
Additional benefits to come include perks at the airport as well as seating benefits — with more details to come as Alaska’s formal entrance to the alliance approaches.
American and JetBlue tie-up
In July, American and JetBlue jolted the industry when they announced a strategic, Northeast-focused partnership. When it launches, the two carriers plan to codeshare on many routes, including the nation’s most premier: transcontinental service between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Additionally, the new partnership will include reciprocal elite benefits for both American and JetBlue frequent flyers. We don’t yet know the specifics, but executives at both airlines are excited about the partnership — and are hyping up the benefit to travellers.
Spirit’s new loyalty programme
Yes, you read that right. One of the country’s largest ultra-low-cost carriers is set to debut a new loyalty programme early next year.
Under the new model, elites will enjoy free checked bags and seat assignments. Aside from new elite status tiers, some of the other highlights include the ability to pool points if you have elite status or a Spirit U.S. credit card; no blackout dates for redemptions; points that don’t expire for at least a year (and longer with qualifying activity); redemptions that start at 2,500 points for all members; and the ability to earn points at a rate of up to 20 points per dollar spent.
While some key details remain to be revealed, Spirit’s announcement largely represents good news for those who regularly fly the ultra-low-cost skies. Stay tuned for the full programme launch on 21 January 2021.
JetBlue heads to London … with a new Mosaic programme?
Though Europe is still largely closed to U.S. tourists, JetBlue has big plans to hop the pond in 2021. The New York-based carrier intends to fly to London from both Boston (BOS) and New York-JFK next year.
JetBlue will take delivery of three new Airbus A321LR jets, featuring updated cabins and a new Mint business-class product to fly the six-plus hour flight.
When JetBlue announced Mosaic status extensions in May, Don Uselmann, JetBlue’s vice president of loyalty and personalisation, told TPG the following:
“JetBlue is a relatively young airline in the loyalty space. And we always pride ourselves on simplicity. As we continue to grow and evolve through the coronavirus pandemic, we can all assume that the loyalty program will evolve with it.”
As the airline plans new London service and a partnership with American Airlines, be on the lookout for possible updates to both the TrueBlue programme and its Mosaic elite status tier.
With new partnerships and route launches, carriers are hopeful that people will once again take to the skies. And if they don’t, we can expect even more loyalty programme innovations to pop up next year.
Featured photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images
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