Most of us were happy to see American announce a double elite qualifying mileage promotion just yesterday. I was kind of expecting it given the economy, but airlines can be so unpredictable. The prospect of earning top tier status for a mere 50,000 flown miles, given the unlimited domestic upgrades, eight longhaul international upgrades, and international first class lounge access is something that’s hard to pass up.
Nonetheless the question remains — will American’s biggest rival, United, match this offer? Put me firmly in the “yes” camp. I’m all for looking at history to predict the future, and I think last year was a great example. American offered this promotion because of their MD-80 fiasco, whereby tons of people were inconvenienced greatly. United still matched the promotion, despite the fact that they didn’t have a similar fiasco. They didn’t want to lose customers to American, and at the end of the day offering extra elite qualifying miles doesn’t cost them a whole lot, and if anything creates more loyalty.
This year, on the other hand, both airlines face the same challenge — a weak economy, and more specifically a huge reduction in yields and loads due to less business travel. Based on the fact that American made this offer again, we can only assume it was profitable (in relative terms) for them last year. I can’t imagine it’s much different for United.
If United chooses not to match American, it’s probably because they feel that an increase in elites would substantially decrease the revenue they generate from buy-ups and co-pays with their new upgrade system. Only time will tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see United match before the end of the week.