Next year it will be harder for frequent flyers on American and United Airlines to earn high-level elite status in their respective loyalty programs. In a swift move this fall, two of the biggest carriers in the country increased the annual spend requirement for earning top-tier status from $12,000 to $15,000, a 25 percent increase from 2018 to 2019.

Budget travelers, naturally, have been apoplectic. But in the business travel sector, where the corporate office often picks up premium fares and where pennies aren’t as often pinched, the news hasn’t been as dramatic. Several travelers that Skift interviewed last week not only brushed off the news but welcomed it — after all, fewer elites in 2019 means more perks for the soldiers left standing.

All of this plays into the narrative that airlines only want to reward passengers most loyal to their programs. But the question remains: Can loyalty only come from the wealthy?

— Grant Martin, Business of Loyalty Editor

Skift Stories and More Expert Insight

amadeus nice france Bel-Air à Villeneuve-Loubet office AmadeusAmadeus and Points.com Partner to Scale Loyalty Tech for Airlines: Sometimes a small deal underscores a big trend. That’s the case with Thursday’s news that Amadeus, the travel tech colossus, and Points International, a provider of tools for travel loyalty programs, have signed a commercial and technical deal to sync their airline loyalty systems.

Higher Standards for Airline Elite Status Don’t Bother Elite Travelers: Moving the goal posts for elite status qualification will help put United and American on more of a competitive playing field with Delta, which requires $15,000 in spend and 125,000 flown miles for its top Diamond tier. But it will also make it harder for some travelers on the two carriers to earn elite status.

25 Travel Moments That Mattered in 2018: This past year served up headlines that certainly didn’t end with the start of another news cycle. The ripple effects were felt across all of travel.

Alitalia’s Plan to Save Itself Includes Teaming Up With Delta and Air France-KLM: With beleaguered Italian airline Alitalia expecting more stable ownership by next month, it is focused on a new project. Alitalia’s joint venture will involve Delta Air Lines, Air France-KLM, and Virgin Atlantic, buying back its loyalty program from Etihad Airways, and winning more corporate and high-end leisure customers, its chief business officer said Wednesday in an interview in New York.

How Artificial Intelligence Determines Which Airline Stories Go Viral: As a Dataminr executive told us, “There is no such thing as a secret now.” If it happens on an airplane and someone puts it on social media, it is bound to become news. That’s just how it goes now, for better or worse.

Hertz Partners With Clear to Ease Rental Car Pain With Biometrics: Hertz and New York-based Clear announced on Tuesday the debut of Hertz Fast Lane Powered by Clear, a service that uses biometrics to speed members through the rental car process. The service is so fast, said the company, clients can get through the rental car exit gate and be on the road in 30 seconds or less.

What LVMH’s Belmond Buy Means for the Future of Luxury Travel: LVMH might not have been the most obvious of suitors for Belmond’s luxury assets, but now that it’s close to owning them, it’s a deal that makes a lot of sense in this post-experience economy still contending with the concept of new luxury.

Airlines Should Think Twice Before Devaluing Their Frequent Flyer Points: Doing so gets rid of much of the difference between full-service carriers and their low-cost rivals.

Wear an Ugly Sweater and Get Priority Boarding on Alaska: Friday, December 21, 2018, is National Ugly Holiday Sweater Day. To celebrate, Alaska Airlines is offering priority boarding to those who wear ugly holiday sweaters on that day.

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Skift Business of Loyalty Editor Grant Martin [gm@skift.com] curates the Skift Business of Loyalty newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Monday.

Photo Credit: A business traveler walks through the connector tunnel at Chicago's O'Hare airport. Jason Mrachina / Flickr