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Late last year, American Airlines unveiled a lucrative promotion geared to lure profitable business travelers into their fold.
It was a move aimed directly at Delta, an airline that is currently leading the domestic legacy carriers with premium inflight products and a loyalty program specifically stacked towards high-spend business travelers. Tangentially, the promotion also targeted United and its mileage program, though United’s hard product wasn’t as competitive as Delta’s.
Perhaps realizing that, last week United announced its own premium travel promotion.
On the surface, the American and United promotions are quite similar. High-level elites booking premium (first or business) cabins can earn up to 12,000 bonus award miles per long haul segment while standard loyalty members earn 3,000. On shorter segments, high-level elites earn 1,000 while standard members earn 250.
Digging a bit deeper though, differences start to emerge. American’s bonuses run through the entire year while United’s bonuses are only good through February 28th. That’s particularly relevant because February 28th is when United transitions from its current distance-based mileage program to an updated revenue-based mileage program. Under that rubric, United’s premium travelers will automatically earn mileage bonuses.
In a way, United’s promotion thus appears to be a band-aid to keep their loyal business travelers happy until their new loyalty program kicks in. It also begs the question of whether American’s promotion is a way to keep their own premium travelers happy until a new set of permanent incentives can be baked into their mileage program. Once the combined American Airlines and US Airways programs polish up this year, you can bet that the airline will start working on “improving” the 2016 program. In the meantime, business travelers will laugh all the way to the points bank.