There has been an increase in travelers who are willing to pay higher prices for tickets and use rewards credit cards in order to have access to premium cabins and airport lounges, according to CNBC.
As a result, airlines are trying to accommodate this influx of high-spending customers without diminishing the exclusivity and value of their loyalty programs or the appeal of their most expensive seats. However, it is likely that not all travelers will be able to meet the necessary requirements to qualify for these premium perks in the coming year.
Delta Air Lines, American, and United, the three largest U.S. carriers, are increasing the spending requirements for achieving elite frequent flyer status, which grants a range of perks including free upgrades, early boarding, discounted or complimentary lounge memberships, and more.
Airlines are now profitable again, thanks in part to their lucrative credit card partnerships and high-spending travelers who are willing to pay extra for more space or privacy during their trips. Two years ago, the industry was facing a $35 billion loss, but with the resurgence of travel and the ability to sell miles to credit card companies, they have been able to bounce back and are now seeing a surge in travelers eager to redeem their rewards.
Due to customer complaints about overcrowding and long lines at its Sky Club airport lounges, Delta announced last year that it would increase prices and requirements for access to these facilities. In early 2022, it also implemented a three-hour time limit for lounge use and established a VIP line for high-status members.
United, similarly, announced in November that it was raising the requirements for earning status and perks. To alleviate congestion, United also opened a mini-lounge at its hub in Denver International Airport specifically for customers who are in a rush and flying on regional feeder jets, which could potentially allow more space in larger lounges for travelers staying longer.
The new requirements to earn travel perks may make it difficult for ordinary travelers to qualify for these premium perks in the coming year. While these changes may help to maintain the exclusivity and value of loyalty programs and the appeal of expensive seats, they may also result in overcrowding and long lines at airport lounges for those who do not meet the new requirements.