One of the questions I’ve been asked frequently the past few weeks is whether or not the airlines will have double elite qualifying miles promotions next years. It’s something I hadn’t thought about a whole lot, since I like to take it one
mile year at a time. That being said, I’ll go out on a limb and say the answer is obvious, at least for American and United — of course they will! I’ve been a 1K with United for about five years now, and all but one year they had a double elite qualifying miles promotion, although in fairness it cost money to register in years past. Given that the economy (and more specifically business travel) hasn’t recovered yet, I think it goes without saying we’ll see a round of double elite qualifying miles around March or so.
Now the more interesting question in my book is whether they’ll have another “round” towards the end of next year. While it’s largely dependent upon what the economy looks like then, I think there’s more to it, which involves my other prediction — we’ll see more elites next year than in years past.
You heard me right. No, the sky isn’t quite falling, although this is the first time I’m making this prediction. In the past I couldn’t help but laugh when people predicted three months of double elite qualifying miles promotions meant massively devalued frequent flyer status, because it really didn’t. And so far I’d say I’ve been right, because over the past three or four years I’ve consistently had my upgrades clear and haven’t noticed too many additional 1K’s.
That being said there’s another factor this year — shrinking fleet sizes AND six months of double elite qualifying miles, at least at United. United has retired around 100 airplanes in the past year, and as an elite that translates to about 800 fewer first class seats. These capacity cuts alone make upgrades tougher, since you have more elites per flight. And I can’t help but assume that in addition to that, the number of elites this year is actually increasing. While business travel is down considerably, American, Continental and United have offered six months of double elite qualifying miles. That’s a lot, and as a percentage is substantially greater than the decrease in business travel.
So simply put I think we’ll see double elite qualifying miles at the beginning of the year. I doubt we’ll see it towards the end of the year, not just because the economy will hopefully be recovering, but because the airlines will realize they’ve inflated the elite pools a bit too much.
And trust me, I’d love to be proven wrong as far as the inflation of elite ranks goes.