Why Airline Rewards Programs Are Trying Harder to Keep You Loyal

Status matters: social, work, financial, health, legal or marital. This is a year when many people will be paying a lot of attention to another status: frequent-flier elite status.

Travelers—and airlines—are worried that they won’t requalify for top-tier frequent-flier status without frequent business trips and long international flying. So airlines are making big changes to keep loyalty to a particular carrier from breaking.

Most carriers extended status earned in 2019 through this year because of the pandemic. The concern now is whether people can requalify this year for 2022 with so many international borders closed and business travel still depressed.

United reduced qualification requirements by about 25% at the start of the year, added some bonuses and last week launched an additional welcome-back bonus giving even more qualifying points for your first three trips, or the chance for more bonus points from credit card spending. Other airlines have also made changes and say more are likely coming to make it easier to requalify:

* American has lowered qualification thresholds, rolled over earnings from the fourth quarter last year and waived some requirements for spending $30,000 on an airline co-branded credit card.

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