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Airline, hotel loyalty programs extending perks for members through coronavirus

From extensions on elite status memberships to more flexible rewards options, the biggest loyalty programs are supporting valued customers

Summary

The coronavirus situation is changing rapidly, and frequent flyers and hotel loyalty members are left wondering what recourse they have when it comes to their member status and points or miles. Here’s what you need to know about relief measures from major programs.

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While COVID-19 has affected all parts of daily life, the travel industry has certainly been put on hold as people have had to cancel plans and stay at home. Since most travelers plan many months in advance, this also leaves many holding tickets they can no longer use. Frequent flyers and hotel loyalty members are left wondering what recourse they have, if any, when it comes to their member status and points or miles.

We researched the major players in the hotel and airline industry to find out how these companies plan to accommodate their valued members – by extending points, status levels and more – in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hilton Honors

In addition to donating up to one million rooms to medical professionals, Hilton has promised to compensate its Hilton Honors loyalty program members in a number of ways.

Status extension

  • Status earned in 2019: All Diamond, Gold and Silver status members who were due for a downgrade as of March 2020 will receive an automatic status extension through March 31, 2021.
  • Status earned in 2020: All 2020 Diamond, Gold and Silver members will get to continue to enjoy their benefits through March 21, 2022 (24 months).

Points extension

Points set to expire by Dec. 31, 2020, will be temporarily paused. No points will expire before that date.

Other rewards

Weekend night rewards on eligible Hilton credit cards that were not expired by March 11, 2020, and any new rewards issued through Aug. 30, 2020, will now be valid through August 31, 2021.

Additionally, all 2020 elite qualifying nights will be rolled over to the 2021 status year. This applies to all nights members have already completed or will complete this calendar year.

To ensure member safety, Hilton is providing flexible cancellations and full points refunds for all Hilton Honors experiences booked through May 31, 2021.

You can follow further updates for Hilton Honors members on the loyalty program website.

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott plans to compensate its Marriott Bonvoy members, although benefits may vary depending on members’ location. All updates will be complete by the end of April 2020.

See related: Marriott data breach involves 5.2 million hotel guests

Status extension

Bonvoy members who earned elite status for 2020 can now enjoy their benefits through February 2022.

Points extension

Points set to expire by February 2021 will be paused, and no points will expire until after that time period. 

Other rewards

Active free night awards (as part of Marriott credit cards or packages) set to expire beginning March 1, 2020, will be extended through Jan. 31, 2021. Suite night awards set to expire by Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended another year through Dec. 31, 2021.

Additionally, Marriott will deposit Elite Night Credits into Bonvoy elite members’ accounts in the amount of 50% of the nights required for the status they earned in 2019. This can make it easier for the members to reach the next tier.

Elite Night Credits deposit breakdown

Elite statusAnnual tier requirementsExtra elite night credits
Ambassador Elite100 Qualifying Nights and $20,000 stay spend50 Elite Night Credits
Titanium Elite75 Qualifying Nights38 Elite Night Credits
Platinum Elite50 Qualifying Nights25 Elite Night Credits
Gold Elite25 Qualifying Nights13 Elite Night Credits
Silver Elite10 Qualifying Nights5 Elite Night Credits

However, not all changes are positive. Marriott is also suspending brand standards and elite benefits guarantee through Sept. 15, 2020, according to the Points Guy. The elite benefits guarantee entitles Marriott elite members to compensation if certain benefits aren’t offered. The suspension means that members might not get the same experience at luxury Marriott properties they could normally expect.

Stay up to date on relief measures for Bonvoy members on the company’s COVID-19 page.

IHG Rewards Club

Due to travel constraints and shortened travel periods, IHG has lowered its requirements for elite status membership by 25% or more, as well as extended statuses and points for all members (since elite members’ points never expire). 

Lower status requirements

StatusPrevious qualification requirementsNew qualification requirements
Gold
  • 10,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
  • 10 qualifying nights in a calendar year
  • 7,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
  • 7 qualifying nights in a calendar year
Platinum
  • 40,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
  • 40 qualifying nights in a calendar year
  • 30,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
  • 30 qualifying nights in a calendar year
Spire
  • 75,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
  • 75 qualifying nights in a calendar year
  • 55,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
  • 55 qualifying nights in a calendar year

See related: The benefits of IHG Rewards Club elite status

Points extension

Points for all members due to expire from April 1 through Dec.31, 2020, will be extended. No points will expire until Dec. 31, 2020.

Status extension

Program statuses will be extended through January 2022 for all members. Spire elite members will also retain their Choice benefit of 25,000 bonus points or gifting of Platinum Elite status to someone each year.

Award certificates 

Anniversary night certificates (U.S. and U.K. only) set to expire before March 1, 2020, will be extended through the end of the year. All 2020 certificates will be redeemable for 18 months, instead of the usual 12.

Follow updates to IHG Rewards Club benefits on the program’s travel advisory page.

World of Hyatt

The World of Hyatt loyalty program will extend all statuses and rewards to compensate valued members.

Status extension

All active elite statuses, as of March 31, 2020, will be extended through Feb. 28, 2022. 

Points extension

Forfeiting points due to inactivity will be suspended through Dec. 31, 2020. No points will expire until that date.

Other rewards

Any earned rewards, such as free nights or upgrades, set to expire between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.

Check the updates to Hyatt relief measures on the program’s COVID-19 page.

Wyndham Rewards

On April 14, 2020, Wyndham announced it will be extending elite status for all members through Dec. 31, 2021. Additionally, the chain is offering free Gold elite status to essential workers through the same date as a part of their #EverydayHeroes initiative.

Previously, on April 7, 2020, the company promised to extend points for all Wyndham Rewards members.

On June 30, Wyndham also announced lower Member Level earning requirements, following other companies that had taken similar measures.

Points extension

Points set to expire between now and May 31, 2020, will be extended through the end of 2021.

Status extension

Reward status levels for all members will be extended through the end of 2021.

Lower status requirements

Wyndham is cutting elite-qualifying requirements by 40% through the end of 2020. All new and existing 2020 stays will count towards these new requirements.

Elite statusPrevious status requirementsNew status requirements
Gold status5 nights3 nights
Platinum status15 nights9 nights
Diamond status40 nights24 nights

Other rewards

Wyndham is giving a Gold membership upgrade to all essential workers. To receive the upgrade, they can sign up for the offer online.

Keep an eye on Wyndham’s COVID-19 statement page for updates.

Choice Privileges

It took Choice some time to follow suit and join other hotel chains in extending elite statuses and offering other promotions amid the outbreak. On May 21, 2020, the company announced a series of offers to expand the benefits of its Choice Privileges loyalty program.

“Even during this crisis, our members found a number of ways to engage with us and make a difference,” said Jamie Russo, vice president, loyalty programs and customer engagement, Choice Hotels. “Some of them are essential and frontline workers who chose to stay in our small-business hotels, and others showed their generosity by donating their Choice Privileges points to aid recovery efforts. Our latest loyalty program changes tell our members that we appreciate their continued support and our hotels are here to welcome them whenever they feel safe traveling again.”

Points extension

The expiration of loyalty points will be paused until Dec. 31, 2020, for all members.

Status extension

All members’ current elite statuses will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.

Lower status requirements

Choice is also easing requirements to qualify for elite status in 2021.

Elite statusPrevious status requirements2021 status requirements
Gold status10 nights7 nights
Platinum status20 nights15 nights
Diamond status40 nights25 nights

Additionally, Choice is giving current elite members a limited-time upgrade to the next tier. Gold members will be upgraded to Platinum status and Platinum members will be upgraded to Diamond. To keep their upgraded tier through 2021, members will need to stay at least five nights by Dec. 31, 2020.

Other rewards

While Diamond status members can’t be upgraded since there’s no higher tier, they will be getting a 10% bonus, on top of their standard 50% elite bonus, on all points earned through Dec. 31, 2020.

United MileagePlus

United has said it would compensate their MileagePlus members by extending all annual memberships, subscriptions and checked bag benefits for six months. United also plans to make status membership requirements easier and will release information later in 2020.

Status extension

All MileagePlus Premier members will get to retain their 2020 status through Jan. 31, 2022.

Lower status requirements

MileagePlus Premier membership now has easier requirements, reduced 50% for each status level.

2021 statusPremier qualifying flightsand PQP… or PQP
Silver62,0002,500
Gold124,0005,000
Platinum186,0007,500
1K269,00012,000

Cardholder benefits

MileagePlus Premier members will also have the chance to increase the maximum number of Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) they can earn on their United Club Infinite Card or United Explorer Card they can earn in 2020. From May 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, members can earn double (Explorer) or quadruple (Club Infinite) points, depending on the card.

Other rewards

All valid travel certificates issued on or after April 1, 2020, will be extended to be valid for two years for booking, as well as up to an additional 11 months to travel. All redeposit fees for flights booked through May 31, 2020, will be waived, as well as all fees for members who cancel within at least 30 days of departure.

Follow more updates to United MileagePlus on the program’s travel notice page.

Delta SkyMiles

Delta has stepped up to say they will compensate their Medallion members and that all updates would happen by the end of April 2020.

Status extension

2020 Medallion Member status will be extended through Jan. 31, 2022, and this change should be reflected on the member’s SkyMiles account by Feb. 1, 2021. Additionally, all 2020 Medallion Qualification Miles will roll over into 2021.

Follow updates to the Delta SkyMiles program on the coronavirus travel update page.

American Airlines AAdvantage

As AAdvantage members experience reduced travel opportunities due to the coronavirus, American Airlines is offering elite status extension, lowering elite status requirements and allowing eligible cardholders to earn miles toward Million Miler status with credit card spend.

Status extension

Members whose elite status expires on Jan. 31, 2021, will automatically get an extension until Jan. 31, 2022.

Lower status requirements

Members will be able to qualify for a higher elite status in 2020 with lower requirements, including Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD), Elite Qualifying Mile (EQM) and Elite Qualifying Segment (EQS).

Gold oneworld RubyPlatinum oneworld SapphirePlatinum Pro oneworld SapphireExecutive Platinum oneworld Emerald
  • $1,500 EQDs and 15,000 EQMs or
  • $1,500 EQDs and 15 EQSs
  • $4,000 EQDs and 30,000 EQMs or
  • $4,000 EQDs and 30 EQSs
  • $6,000 EQDs and 45,000 EQMs or
  • $6,000 EQDs and 45 EQSs
  • $9,000 EQDs and 60,000 EQMs or
  • $9,000 EQDs and 60 EQSs

Cardholder benefits

All eligible Citi / AAdvantage and AAdvantage Aviator credit cards will earn 1 mile per dollar on net purchases toward Million Miler status between May 2020 and December 2020.

Citi is also offering a one-time $225 statement credit upon account renewal to Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® cardholders whose accounts were open as of March 31, 2020, as reported by The Points Guy.

Additionally, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® users whose flight discounts were set to expire between March 31, 2020, and May 31, 2020, will get a six-month extension. The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® cardholders who hold a companion certificate expiring Dec. 31, 2020, will receive a six-month extension as well, bringing the expiration date to June 30, 2021.

Other rewards

American Airlines is waving reinstatement and change charges for awards booked by May 31, 2020, for travel through Sep. 30, 2020. For travel booked on or after June 1, 2020, the company will wave reinstatement and change fees if the change is made at least 60 days before travel. If the change is made within 60 days, a new fee structure will apply as follows:

Elite statusAt least 7 days, but fewer than 60 days before travelFewer than 7 days before travel
Executive Platinum$0$0
Platinum Pro$50$75
Platinum$75$100
Gold$100$125
Regular member$125$150

Learn more about AAdvantage program updates on aa.com.

JetBlue TrueBlue

JetBlue took a bit longer to join other airlines in taking measures to support loyal customers. On May 14, JetBlue announced it’s extending Mosaic elite statuses, as well as making it easier to earn one.

Status extension

All currently valid Mosaic elite statuses will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.

Lower status requirements

JetBlue is reducing the qualifying thresholds for Mosaic status by 50% for 2020. To earn the status this year, you’ll need to earn 7,500 qualifying TrueBlue base points or 6,000 qualifying TrueBlue base points and 15 flight segments.

Alternatively, you can get the elite status by spending $50,000 in annual net purchases on the JetBlue Plus card – this spending requirement hasn’t changed for 2020.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

On April 16, Southwest announced a status extension for A-List and A-List Preferred members and companion passes. The company is also giving a points “boost” to all Rapid Rewards members.

“As we continue to navigate our way through this unprecedented time and deal with extraordinary challenges, we are committed to keeping you informed and updated on the steps we are taking to manage through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Southwest said in a message to Rapid Rewards members.

Status extension

Earned statuses for A-List and A-List Preferred members will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021. Companion Pass holders will retain their benefits until June 30, 2021.

Other rewards

Southwest is giving all Rapid Rewards members a “boost” of 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status.

Southwest cardholders can also spend their way all the way to A-List status for the first time ever, with no cap on tier qualifying points (TQPs) earned through card spend. Previously, cardholders could only earn up to 15,000 TQPs per year via card spend.  Southwest has also doubled the number of TQPs earned from 1,500 to 3,000 for every $10,000 spent on a Southwest card.

Additionally, travel funds created or expiring between March 1, 2020, and Sep. 7, 2020, will now expire on Sep. 7, 2022. Alternatively, Rapid Rewards members can convert those funds into Rapid Rewards points. According to Southwest, the conversion ratio is “the same rate you would be able to purchase a ticket with points today.”

British Airways

On June 11, British Airways finally joined other airlines in extending the elite status for its members. Additionally, the carrier is reducing the number of tier points needed to reach a higher membership tier.

Status extension

British Airways is extending tier status by 12 months for members who have a tier point collection end date of July 2020, through to June 2021.

Lower status requirements

The carrier has also reduced the number of points needed to retain and upgrade a membership status by 25%.

Here are the new tier qualification thresholds:

  • Bronze: 225 Tier Points or 18 eligible flights
  • Silver: 450 Tier Points or 37 eligible flights
  • Gold: 1125 Tier Points

Cardholder benefits

Members who have earned heir Gold Upgrade Vouchers, Companion Vouchers and Travel Together Tickets with a British Airways credit card will get a 6-month expiration extension to any current vouchers.

CLEAR

CLEAR is a program that makes it quicker for travelers to get through airport security lanes by using biometrics for ID verification. Since many people are currently avoiding traveling due to the coronavirus outbreak, a CLEAR membership might not be useful at the moment.

Originally, CLEAR offered customers to pause their membership for three months. Now CLEAR is allowing members to request a three-month extension to their membership, which can be done by contacting the company directly. With customer service channels such as phone lines overloaded by requests, the fastest way to do so is via CLEAR’s online chat. However, some users have reported experiencing difficulties finding the chat box on the website. Alternatively, you can reach CLEAR by text, email or phone.

TSA Precheck

TSA Precheck is a five-year membership that provides expedited security checks at select domestic airports in the U.S. At this time, TSA is planning to keep enrollment centers open while working to determine if any temporary closures are required. Some centers have been closed or changed hours.

If you’re planning to visit an enrollment center, it’s recommended that you schedule an appointment – as walk-ins may be deferred.

Visit TSA’s enrollment questions page for more information.

Global Entry

Global Entry, a program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that allows travelers to get expedited clearance through automatic kiosks when arriving in the U.S, has temporarily suspended enrollment until at least August 10, 2020. If you’ve been conditionally approved, you will need to reschedule your enrollment center interview for after that date using the online scheduling tool.

As another option, the “Enrollment on Arrival” program is still operational. It allows conditionally approved applicants to complete the application process upon arrival on an international flight at any of the airports offering the program.

“CBP’s highest priority is to ensure the health, safety and security of our workforce and the American people,” CBP stated in its announcement. “CBP agents, officers and mission support personnel will continue to support the whole-of-government response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak has also affected processing times for Global Entry renewals, CPB has increased the renewal grace period to 18 months. This means that if you apply for your Global Entry renewal before its expiration date, you’ll be able to use Global Entry for another 18 months.

As the coronavirus situation is unprecedented and changing rapidly every day, hotels and airlines continue to make updates to their travel policies, including their loyalty programs. Travelers should continue to check airline and hotel websites as the situation evolves. If they cannot find the information they need online, they should contact their hotel, airline or travel agency’s customer service number.

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