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To get elite status on United, Delta, fliers must spend some cash

June 23, 2013|By Hugo Martin
  • A United Airlines plane at Los Angeles International Airport.
A United Airlines plane at Los Angeles International Airport. (Los Angeles Times )

If you fly with United or Delta airlines, it will cost you more next year to join one of the elite status groups on their loyalty reward programs.

Both airlines announced recently that racking up miles is not enough to qualify for the top tier of the loyalty programs: Passengers must also spend cash.

Delta became the first of the major airlines to add the requirement a few months ago, with United announcing the same requirement last week. The new requirements for both airlines take effect in 2014.

To reach the Silver status on United’s MileagePlus program, fliers must spend $2,500 directly on United, United Express or Copa airlines flights, plus have accumulated 25,000 miles or 30 flight segments on United or partner airlines. Elite loyalty status means fliers can upgrade to roomier seats, board early and avoid some fees that other passengers must pay.

Most MileagePlus members already meet the payment minimum, United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said.

The spending requirement can be waived for U.S.-based members who spend at least $25,000 on their MileagePlus credit cards.

The amount fliers must spend rises with each status level, such as Gold, Platinum and Diamond for Delta fliers and 1K for United passengers.

“The revenue component ensures that our most valued customers get the best program benefits and a more exclusive experience,” said Chris Kelly Singley, a spokeswoman for Delta.

What does that mean?

According to Brian Kelly, an expert on loyalty reward programs who founded the website The Points Guy, Delta and United may be trying to make the top tiers of their loyalty programs more exclusive by pushing out the “mileage runners” who fly on cheap flights to collect loyalty points.

“They are looking to weed out the fliers that are not producing for their bottom line,” he said.


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