American Airlines became the country’s first major airline to launch its 2021 loyalty program this week, amid a year of travel severely disrupted by a global pandemic.
The U.S. AAdvantage loyalty program for 2021 is reintroducing expense and mileage requirements to achieve elite status throughout the year, but at declining rates from before the pandemic. To achieve elite status on the carrier in 2021, it is now necessary to spend a minimum of $ 2,000 and travel 20,000 miles to achieve low level Gold status. Top Executive Platinum status will come with $ 12,000 in expenses and 80,000 miles flown.
These targets are modest reductions from the elite status requirements in place before the pandemic. For the 2018 travel year, Gold status, for example, was earned with $ 3,000 in expenses and 25,000 in miles flown; Executive Platinum was achieved at $ 15,000 in spending and 100,000 miles.
In addition to the truncated earnings requirements, American also allows frequent travelers to start earning elite status early. Any plane travel and expenses beyond October 1, 2020 will count towards elite status in 2021, although American is careful to point out that bonus points earned through ancillary campaigns or promotions will not be awarded. postponed.
Americans’ conscious decision to establish elite status levels for the 2021 travel year may be a sign of the industry’s hope for the start of a recovery. At the start of the pandemic in March, most carriers drastically cut flight schedules and put loyalty programs on hold, extending elite status and most program durations for a full year.
Since then, air transport has recovered only at a marginal rate. As of mid-October, the TSA now scans nearly a million passengers every day, which is still just under 40% of 2021 volumes. Business travel, too, has recovered more slowly than leisure travel based on Adara data.
Much of this sluggishness has to do with the relative discomfort many still feel about spending time in public places. Without a pandemic vaccine on the horizon, air transport volume plans remain low; In his earnings call last week, United CEO Scott Kirby admitted that a full recovery in business travel may not happen until 2024.
Even so, that hasn’t stopped some from returning to the skies fueled by a series of promotions, flight deals and research – both scientific and industrial – suggesting the safety of air travel.
A new study released by a joint military task force on Thursday suggested the likelihood of getting COVID-19 from a passenger on a plane was much lower than from an indoor location like a private home. Other data from MIT suggests that “for a bus passenger who has a 1% chance of dying if infected with COVID-19, the estimated risk of death on a complete flight is one in 430,000” .
Between this data and the confidence that passengers can feel, there may be enough gasoline in the tank to launch traditional loyalty programs in 2021. But as the pandemic continues to ebb around the world, so too is it. Most likely airlines need to be nimble and loyal as the situation changes and new crises emerge.