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As airline passengers around the world are sheltering-in-place due to the coronavirus, a number of airlines, including Alaska, American, Delta and United, have reacted by extending their frequent flyers’ current elite status to cover all of 2021. This comes as welcome news to loyal travelers who are currently not able to enjoy the perks that come with their hard-earned status and who otherwise may not be able to meet the requirements to maintain their current elite status level for 2021.
If you’re a traveler who has secured extended airline status through at least the end of 2021, it may provide you the time to try out other airlines (once traveling becomes safe again).
Why you may want to use extended airline status to try out other airlines
Greater flexibility in booking
If you’re a frequent traveler with airline status, you’ve likely been in a situation where you’ve found a better price or routing on an airline that you don’t have status with, but you decided to book with your preferred airline anyway to help retain your current elite status. If your airline status has been secured through the end of 2021, you can use this as an opportunity to book the cheapest and best flights that work for you, without fear of losing your status for the upcoming year.
» Learn More: Coronavirus flight cancellation and change policies
Opportunity to explore switching your primary airline
If you’ve been curious about switching airline loyalty, now is the perfect time to look into your options. While you may be a loyal United Airlines flyer who never before considered switching, this might be the perfect time to explore another option. See if other airlines are better for your travel needs, depending on what carriers frequent your home airport.
Use this time to obtain elite status on an additional airline
Having elite status on multiple airlines is a great way to enhance your travel experience, since it gives you the ability to fly to more destinations and take advantage of travel deals on multiple carriers while still receiving elite status travel perks. Just make sure to plan it out if you don’t want to give up your status on your main airline heading into 2022.
» Learn More: Switching airline loyalties — how and when to do it
Try out other alliances
You may be completely loyal to your airline with no plans on switching, but you can use this as an opportunity to explore airlines in other alliances. For instance, if you’re a loyal Delta customer and have no intent on changing that, it’s likely that you favor flights on fellow SkyTeam carriers Air France and KLM when booking travel to Europe. But now that your airline status is secured through the end of 2021, it becomes a lot more tempting to try out non-SkyTeam airlines like Lufthansa, British Airways or Swiss Air, especially if those airlines provide a more direct route or better pricing to your chosen destination.
» Learn More: Your guide to airline alliances
Why you may not want to use extended airline status to try out other airlines
Limited access to elite perks
The main benefit of obtaining elite status on an airline is the perks that come along with it, which can include priority boarding, lounge access, upgrades and complimentary checked luggage. When you choose to book a flight on an airline that you don’t have elite status with, you’re likely going to give up most of these benefits, which may decrease your overall flight experience. If you’re concerned about giving up elite perks like priority boarding and free checked luggage, consider applying for an airline credit card like the United℠ Explorer Card that has these benefits included.
Reward airlines for showing loyalty to customers
Airlines are being deeply impacted by the coronavirus pandemic with a massive drop in demand for travel. Part of the reason that airlines are extending elite status for customers is to help retain their most valued flyers. Once we’re able to start traveling again, booking flights through your preferred airline is a great way to thank them for extending your status.
Use this time as an opportunity to increase your status tier
In addition to extending elite status, a number of airlines have also reduced the requirements needed to obtain status in 2021. Lower thresholds for obtaining elite status levels provides the perfect opportunity to jump up a tier or two that perhaps you weren’t able to achieve in past years. And, while we wait for travel to be safe again, you might even be able to spend your way there through promotions like Southwest (spend your way to A-List) and American Airlines (spend your way to Million Miler) are running.
The bottom line
If you’re a frequent traveler and your airline status has been extended through at least the end of 2021, it’s worth considering using the rest of the year and parts of 2021 as a chance to try out other airlines or to increase your status at your preferred airline once travel becomes safe.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card