United’s top frequent fliers just scored a nice improvement to their travel experience. The company’s Global Services members will have access to United Club lounges when traveling on domestic itineraries starting in January 2021. The announcement is the latest play to secure the loyalty of the carrier’s high value customers.
Within the airline loyalty program there are top tier member and then there are TOP tier members. For United Airlines the latter category includes its Global Services group, a small cadre of members that qualify through a nebulous series of internal metrics tied to higher revenue and corporate contracts. Those are the customers (and spending) an airline really does not want to lose during the downturn. But when the time came to extend elite status the Global Services program was excluded.
Now that United knows the travel environment won’t rebound substantially in 2020 the decision to extend the status makes sense. In a letter to members the company notes, “it’s clear that basing you 2021 Global Services program invitation off your travel this year wouldn’t fairly reward your loyalty to United.” Membership is extended through 31 January 2022 for members that qualified last year.
Opening up lounge access to GS members on domestic itineraries also takes into account shifting travel patterns. Long-haul travel is not rebounding as quickly as domestic trips. This policy shift lets the carrier deliver a tangible benefit to its members as their travels adjust.
The only questionable part of the change is delaying its implementation by 5 months. Any GS members traveling today would undoubtedly appreciate the lounge access, even with the currently reduced service levels and open locations.
A company representative explained that choice as lining up the benefits with the other status extension changes and tying it to where more lounges are expected to be open.
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