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U.S. Airlines’ Secret Ultra-Loyalty Programs

Excerpt from Wall Street Journal

Aug 24, 2013 6:23 am

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If you already envy elite flyers, spare yourself more jealousy and stop reading now.

— Eliza Ronalds-Hannon

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Alan Light   / Flickr

The perks United Airlines Global Services members receive put to shame first-class lounges like this one, in Tokyo. Alan Light / Flickr


For years, upmarket carriers including British Airways, Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Qatar Airways have used exclusive programs, lounges and perks to reward their best customers. In the U.S., United and AMR Corp.’s American Airlines have recently tried to catch up…

The airlines employ teams to track these fliers’ journeys and solve disruptions before they happen, sometimes bumping coach passengers to fit rerouted elite travelers. The carriers invite these customers to expensive restaurants and professional sporting events when they aren’t traveling. At the airport, they send their mail, press their suits and sew on buttons. United said that when an elite flier once stained his shirt, an employee sent her husband to the mall to buy a replacement.

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