Will Delta extend status in 2022? is a question we’re frequently asked. And the honest answer is, We don’t know.
But something interesting happened Tuesday.
Flying Blue announced it’s extending some members’ statuses and qualification periods up to December 2022.
This raised our eyebrows for a couple of reasons. First, the Air France-KLM loyalty program is one of the only frequent flyer outfits to extend some folks’ status through the end of 2022.
Second, keep in mind Delta owns 8.8% of Air France-KLM. Granted, less than a nine-percent stake isn’t anything huge and doesn’t necessarily signal anything. However, it does make one wonder if Delta will soon follow suit about extending status through January 2023 (the end of the 2022 Medallion year).
Now that Flying Blue made its move, do the rest of the airlines follow? Is Flying Blue sort of the guinea pig for the next few months while we wait to see how everything falls into place — or falls out?
Here are a few things that make me wonder if Delta (and other airlines) will now extend status into 2022 — or wait a while.
Flying Blue: Different from SkyMiles and Many Other Programs
Unlike many loyalty programs, Flying Blue’s status and qualification year don’t reset for everyone on January 1. The program is based on a rolling qualification calendar.
Your personal qualification period starts when you earn your first Mile or gain your first XP. Once you gain enough XP to move up a level, you’ll be upgraded instantly and your membership period at this level will last 15 months (till the end of the month). If you do not gain enough XP to move up a level, but maintain status XP, your level will remain the same. For example, if you are Silver but have not gained the 180 XP to move to Gold during the qualification period but you still have 100 XP for Silver, you will remain Silver.
If at the end of your qualification period you keep your level, your membership period at this level will be renewed for 12 months. If you are Elite, your new qualification period will start off with any surplus XP you gained. If at the end of your qualification period you don’t reach the XP that got you to this level, your status will only be reduced by one level. Your membership period at this new level will last for 12 months. If you are Elite, your new qualification period will start off with any surplus XP you gained.
OMAAT broke this down in fairly understandable terms when Flying Blue made its status extension announcement last year.
And Traveling for Miles summed it fairly succinctly:
If you’re a Flying Blue elite with a qualification period ending between March and December 2021 your elite status will be extended for a further qualification period and any surplus XPs that you may have been earned will be protected and rolled over. Congratulations!
Why Delta and Other Airlines Might Wait to Extend Status and Other Benefits
Keep in mind Delta didn’t announce its host of extensions until April 5 last year. We’re still a month-and-a-half away from that same date this year.
Lockdown orders were in effect across much of the United States. We didn’t know as much about COVID-19 as we do now. People were getting laid off en masse.
Now, though, there’s sort of a light at the end of the tunnel. The devastating numbers from December and January are finally falling. Schools are starting to reopen (even in California!). Lockdown orders are being eased in many areas (at least in the United States).
Plus, Delta is a business. They want customers. They want people to be on their planes. And if they keep giving away status, there’s a little less incentive for people to fly.
Why Delta Should Now Extend Status, Vouchers, and Certificates into 2023
All that said, here’s why we think it would be prudent for Delta to extend status, vouchers, and certificates into at least December 2022. There are several reasons people won’t be able — or reasonably willing — to travel until at least late in the year.
The CDC Says Travel Isn’t a Good Idea
The US Center for Disease Control states: “Travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19. CDC recommends that you do not travel at this time. Postpone travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.”
So if the government — who bails out airlines — tells us not to travel, how can we use our Companion Certificates, drink tickets, Sky Club guest passes, and other benefits soon?
And if we can’t use the benefits afforded by our SkyMiles American Express cards, then we’re not as likely to want to remain cardholders. (I’ve already canceled one SkyMiles card and downgraded another.)
Delta is Still Blocking Middle Seats
Delta seems to acknowledge that the COVID-19 threat is dangerous enough that it’s blocking middle seats through at least April 30. Given that we’re supposed to distance physically, I think that’s an admirable call on the airline’s part.
If people need to be physically distanced and planes are flying at reduced capacity, that sort of sends a signal that people should wait a while to fly. Right?
COVID Numbers are Still High
According to the New York Times, there were 25,616 new COVID cases reported in the United States on April 5, 2020 — the date Delta announced status would be extended into January 2022.
On this past Monday, February 15, 2021, there were 55,372.
Sure, that’s a steep drop from the 300,000 new cases we saw on January 8. And continually decreasing numbers are great. But numbers dropped last September — and many people seemed to think that meant they could blow off some steam with their friends and family.
Everything was a living hell a few months later.
I’m thrilled there’s a COVID-19 vaccine finally available. My in-laws got their first shot, as did my dad and stepmother.
Plus, COVID vaccinations currently require two jabs, separated by a few weeks apart. Then you need to hang out for a few more weeks and let the antibodies do their thing. So if you don’t get the vaccine until, say, May, the soonest you’re getting on a plane is maybe June or July. By then, half of the Medallion year gone — as are the opportunities to use your certificates.
Plus, there’s this little hiccup:
At least three COVID-19 variants are crisscrossing the world. The CDC says:
These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.
So far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway.
Again, COVID cases are decreasing, and the vaccines seem effective against the known strains. But the fact “these variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants” are more incentive to not travel unless absolutely necessary.
Lockdowns and Testing Mandates
Two more issues affecting where people can fly are regional lockdowns and testing mandates. For example, the United States requires all entering passengers to produce negative COVID tests before boarding flights back to the USA. Well, that takes some of the fun out of international travel. And that assumes the area you visit isn’t under any lockdown rules or curfews.
Jobs and Money
A lot of us don’t have the jobs or financial security we did a year ago.
Say I’m vaccinated and able to travel starting in August. If a bunch of work comes along in the fall, that will take priority over personal travel for my wife and me.
I’m guessing there are others in the same boat.
I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again: Delta was generous in its extensions last year.
But while the world is making progress in the fight against COVID-19, it’s still war instead of a few scattered battles.
Most of us will still try to travel as soon as we can. (I miss the heck out of it.) But if we don’t have a reasonable window or means to achieve our status goals, then I think Delta needs to extend status, certificates, and vouchers — and do so sooner than later. It’ll be excellent customer service — and only entice us to give them as much business as possible when we can.
Featured image: ©iStock.com/Boarding1Now
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