Changing Criteria for Elite Status and Higher Prices for Awards

There’s an interesting article in the February issue of Travel and Leisure on the trend towards making elite status a perk for higher fare passengers and increased mileage requirements for award redemption.

Naturally, in this fast changing, erratic world of frequent flyer programs, this article is already out of date:

    Top-level elite fliers on Delta will get free upgrades when buying tickets in Y, B, and M classes; these upgrades, if available, can be confirmed when reserving. Second- and third-tier elite Delta fliers will get free upgrades for tickets in Y and B classes, but will have to wait until 100 or 72 hours before departure, respectively, to request the upgrade.

In mid-December, Delta announced that it was moving to a complimentary upgrade model for all elites.

And the piece mischaracterizes upgrades on Northwest and Continental:

    Northwest and Continental passengers who want domestic upgrades from discounted coach fares will now have to part with 15,000 miles, up from 10,000, each way.

True the upgrade award has gone up in price, but that’s just for confirming an upgrade at booking (subject to availability). Elites still get space available upgrades for free.

Still, the article makes many useful and interesting points. While award prices may be going up (more miles to redeem the same award), airline alliances mean that a mile can take you farther than before and to more destinations.

And while award prices are going up, which means that current miles held in an account become worth less, the cost to acquire a mile has gone down substantially. It’s easier than ever before to keep up with award price increases by accumulating more miles.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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