This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet. After years of promotions and offers from airlines desperate to keep their most valuable customers, the world of elite status is set to return to something like “normal” in 2023.
That doesn’t mean the travel landscape is normal. Although passenger numbers have almost returned to where they were in 2019, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration, business travel has not yet recovered. According to a November 2022 survey by STR, a hospitality analytics firm, 49% of business travelers said they are traveling less than they were before the pandemic. Further, the elite status programs have changed. Some airlines, like JetBlue
and American Airlines
are set to make major changes to their elite status programs this year. Others have made tweaks and adjustments that affect the value of theirs. This makes the beginning of the year a good time for frequent travelers to reevaluate their elite status strategy. Is your airline loyalty paying off? Or is it time to switch? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer because different airline elite status programs offer different perks and benefits. (And, of course, different airlines serve different markets.) That said, NerdWallet’s latest analysis of the value of different airline elite status programs can help in choosing the best program for you. Let’s jump in. Factors to consider Airline elite status offers benefits like free checked bags, upgrades to premium economy and first class seats and bonus miles. Some of these benefits overlap with those offered by airline credit cards, so it’s good to compare them to determine whether elite status is worth it or whether you’re likely to get as much benefit from a co-branded card. When weighing the benefits of different elite status programs, consider:
Which airlines serve your home airport? Flyers living near hubs, such as Atlanta for Delta Air Lines
or Seattle for Alaska Airlines
are usually best served by those programs.
What benefits matter most? For some travelers, it’s all about upgrades. For others, it’s baggage fee waivers and lounge access.