It’s been an interesting year for premium domestic passengers as American, Delta, and United all try to jostle in front of one another in an attempt to be the prettiest princess on the block.
The winner of the prize gets the most business from premium passengers, the crown jewel in the tiara of legacy airlines.
The battle actually got started a few years back with the transcontinental premium cabin arms race. United’s Premium Service, American’s Flagship Service, and Delta’s widebody transcon service have all been doubling down on hardware, installing lie-flat seats, better personal entertainment and classier food options. Low-cost carriers like JetBlue and its Mint service also jumped in the game, providing a stick to keep the legacy carriers moving.
The game got interesting in early 2015 as airlines returned to profitability and the economy continued its recovery. Now, with cash to spare and airports full of business travelers hitting the road, airlines are scrambling to roll out the deepest incentive or fanciest product to lock in premium travelers.
Early in the year, American and United entered the ring by offering a double miles promotion for premium travelers. American’s promotion is still ongoing through the year, while United’s has since wrapped up.
On top of their current offerings, American is now offering a double and triple points promotion for premium fares.
Elite qualifying points, not to be confused with elite qualifying miles are another tool that American passengers can use to earn elite status. Unlike elite miles, however, points are earned as a function of fare class; more expensive tickets earn up to 1.5x points per mile while budget tickets earn only a fraction of a point. With this promotion, passengers can now earn points at 2x or 3x per mile, quickly propelling a potential passenger towards elite status.
With this promotion, American is clearly building an incentive for business travelers to join the airline. And indeed, as premium loyalty members get jaded with the new programs from United and Delta, many may make the move. Expect return fire from the other legacies in short turn.