Airlines Respond to Coronavirus with Bonuses for Frequent Flyers
Stay-at-home orders triggered by the coronavirus have hit the travel and hospitality industries perhaps more than any others. Air travel has dropped 96% during the pandemic, according to airline and Transportation Security Administration data.
Many people see reduced spending on travel and leisure as a way to save money — albeit forced. But for frequent travelers, the lack of flights actually poses a financial problem: They could lose the frequent flyer statuses that save them thousands of dollars on necessary travel each year.
Airlines are responding with status extensions, changes to requirements and, in rare cases, bonuses to make up for the frequent flyer miles you would have earned traveling this year if not for the coronavirus.
Which Airlines Are Offering Bonuses to Travelers?
If you’re a loyal traveler with any airline, keep an eye out for an email or check the company’s website for updates to see whether you’re eligible for any benefits. As we saw with auto insurance refunds, once one company announces an offer, others are likely to follow suit.
As with anything coronavirus-related, the status of these offers changes quickly, but here are the major airlines that have announced extensions and bonuses so far.
Southwest wrote in a blog post and email to members in April that Rapid Rewards members will receive:
- 15,000 tier-qualifying points (the max you can earn in a year)
- 10 flight credits toward A-List and A-List Preferred status.
- 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points.
- 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status.
- Anyone who already has A-List or A-List Preferred status will keep their status until the end of next year.
- Existing Companion Pass benefits are good through June 30 next year.
I had to cancel one round-trip flight I’d booked for May, for which I would have earned about 2,000 points. This bonus is not too shabby by comparison.
You can earn A-List status by taking 25 one-way flights (12 ½ round trips) or earning 35,000 points per year. The status gives you priority check-in and boarding, 25% more points per flight and free same-day standby benefits.
You can earn A-List Preferred status by taking 50 one-way flights or earning 70,000 points per year. You’ll get everything A-Listers get, plus free inflight Wi-Fi and double points for flights.
A Southwest Airlines Companion Pass lets a friend fly with you for free (except for taxes and fees). You have to earn 125,000 points or take 100 one-way flights in a year to earn one.
Tier-qualifying points aren’t redeemable for travel — they just get you closer to that boosted status!
Delta Skymiles members will receive six-month extensions to Select status, travel vouchers and upgrade certificates.
Travelers with the Delta Skymiles American Express card and Delta Sky Club members will receive a six-month extension for benefits with an expiration date of March 1, 2020 or later. Delta Sky Club gives you access to exclusive lounges at the airport.
Medallion members will receive a one-year extension on their status, and qualifying miles will roll over into next year. Medallion members receive benefits based on tiers (Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond) and include things like unlimited free upgrades, priority boarding and waived baggage fees.
United Airlines hasn’t offered any bonus points to MileagePlus members, but it has extended Premier status through January 31, 2022 and reduced thresholds to hit the next tier in 2021 by 50%, it wrote in a blog post.
American Airlines announced that Elite members will receive a special credit up to $400 to use toward an American Airlines Vacations package.
A Vacations package lets you book a flight, hotel and car through American Airlines. To earn the lowest-tier Elite status, travelers have to take at least 30 flights, earn 25,000 miles or spend $3,000 per year with American Airlines.
The airline also said it would extend existing Elite status through January 31, 2022, reduce status qualifications for this year, extending additional benefits and waiving some fees for members.
Rather than frequent flyer bonuses, the budget airline Allegiant is offering discounts to all customers.
If you book before June 30 for travel for now through November 17, use these promo codes to save:
- READY50: $50 off a flight purchase of $250 or more.
- READY100H: $100 off a purchase of $400 with hotel stay added.
- READY100C: $100 off a purchase of $400 with car rental added.
- READY250H: $250 off a purchase of $850 with hotel stay added.
- READY250C: $250 off a purchase of $250 with car rental added.
Allegiant flights tend to be less than $200 for a round trip, so you may have to purchase flights for yourself and family or other travel companions together to take advantage of the discount.
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media.