All the Airline and Hotel Loyalty Program Changes for 2021

As the year comes to a close, airline and hotel companies are having mercy yet again on travelers who were grounded during the pandemic. Most brands extended status and perks for a year in the spring, but with travel plans slashed, many frequent fliers were unable to use their benefits or even meet the already reduced requirements for additional status due to local rules and regulations.

Luckily, many travel companies are extending another olive branch to members to keep them engaged, like perk extensions that have never been seen before. Here’s the latest from airline and hotel brands.

Accor Live Limitless

Accor has extended elite status through December 31, 2021, and it has also extended reward points expiration for Silver tier members and higher through April 30, 2021. In addition, status in the new year will be easier to attain since status points and nights earned during the second half of 2020 will count toward elite qualification in the new year. Platinum and Diamond members with unused suite upgrade awards now have until the end of 2021 to use them thanks to a 12-month extension.


Members can keep their current status through the end of 2021, and mileage expiration has been paused through March 31, 2021.

Alaska Mileage Plan

With the airline joining the Oneworld alliance on March 31, 2021, Mileage Plan members are already benefiting from perks with its North American partner American Airlines. Reciprocal elite status perks, including complimentary upgrades and preferred seating and check-in benefits, are already in full swing.

In addition, Mileage Plan members will have status extended through the end of 2021, and earning status in the new year will be easier as elite-qualifying miles earned during the first four months of 2020 are getting rolled over to 2021.

American AAdvantage

The airline has lowered requirements for achieving elite status next year; existing elite status has already been extended through January 31, 2022. Members can start accruing points and miles toward 2022 status early. All flight activity between October 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021, will count toward 2022 elite status. In addition, those that spend at least $30,000 on an American co-branded credit card won’t need to meet the “elite qualifying dollar” requirement to reach status up to the Platinum Pro level.

For those that reach Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum, there are new “choice rewards” like bonus miles or systemwide upgrades for reaching additional thresholds. Through a new partnership, American elite members can also enjoy perks like first class upgrades and preferred seating when flying Alaska Airlines. In addition, the airline has paused the expiration of any AAdvantage miles through June 30, 2021.

Best Western Rewards

Best Western has extended status for members through January 31, 2022. This means that your current status remains the same, unless you earned a higher level this year. It’s also running a promotion for a free night voucher for guests that make two stays between now and January 31, 2021, at properties in the U.S., Canada, or the Caribbean. The free night stay must be redeemed by March 31, 2021. Be sure to register for the promotion first.

Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club

Elite status set to expire between April 2020 and March 2021 has been extended for 12 months. Mid-tier benefits (like lounge passes, upgrade certificates, and Gold Companion Card nominations) set to expire in the same time period received a similar extension.

Choice Privileges

Elite status has been extended through the end of 2021; new members can participate in an elite status match offer. Lower thresholds for elite status earned in 2021 will make frequent-flier benefits easier to achieve. In addition, elite members can enjoy a pause on points expiration through the end of 2021.

Delta SkyMiles

Delta always carries Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) earned over the threshold to the next year (a huge benefit for elite members), but this year it is rolling over all MQMs from 2020 into 2021. It also has extended 2020 Medallion Status an additional year through January 31, 2022. Select Delta SkyMiles American Express Card benefits and Delta Sky Club Memberships have also been extended. 

Emirates Skywards

Members with status set to expire between September 2020 and August 2021 will have status extended for another year. Those who had status extended earlier in 2020 are getting an additional 12-month extension from that original extension date. Miles that were to expire by April 2020 were extended until March 31, 2021. 

Etihad Guest

The thresholds for earning new tier status and upgrades have been lowered by 80 percent through June 2021. Members below 80 percent have status extended through that date and members that achieve the threshold to retain or upgrade do so for another 12 months. The airline also eased up its mileage expiration policy; miles only expire after 18 months of inactivity. It’s easy to keep miles active by buying, earning, redeeming, or transferring miles. 

Flying Blue

Elite status for current members of Flying Blue (the program for Air France, KLM, and a few other airlines) is being extended for another 12 months through February 2022. Miles will no longer expire between now and December 31, 2021.

Hilton Honors

Members can continue to enjoy their current status through March 31, 2022, thanks to an additional year’s extension from the program. It will be easier to earn status, too, thanks to lower thresholds to attain it in 2021. Also lowered are the requirements for “milestone bonuses” that delivered extra points for staying a certain number of nights during the calendar year.

The threshold for Diamond members to gift status to a friend or family member by staying a certain number of nights has also been cut in half. Free weekend night reward certificates for 2021 that come with Hilton’s co-branded credit cards will be valid through the end of 2022 and can be used any night of the week (not just on weekends as they usually are). Any points earned via co-branded credit card spending will count as base points toward earning elite status throughout 2021 making it easier to achieve. Points expiration has also been paused through December 31, 2021, giving members an additional year to use them.

IHG Rewards Club

Elite status remains valid through January 2022. Unused anniversary night certificates awarded in 2019 in conjunction with co-branded credit cards and set to expire in 2020 have been extended for use through Aug. 31, 2021. Certificates awarded in 2020 (set to expire in 2021) have been extended for an additional 18 months from date of issue.

I Prefer Hotel Rewards

Elite status is being extended for members through June 30, 2022 (an additional year beyond what was announced earlier this spring), while points expiration is on pause through June 30, 2021.

Marriott Bonvoy

Elite status earned in 2019 has been extended through February 1, 2022, and members already received a 50 percent jump start toward new status in 2020. If you have a qualifying free night award with an original expiration date in 2020, or it was set to expire before July 31, 2021, as part of a Marriott co-branded credit card, they are extended until August 1, 2021. Free night awards with an original expiration date before 2020, however, are not eligible for extension. Suite night awards (used for room upgrades) earned in 2019 are also being extended through December 31, 2021. Marriott Bonvoy point expiration is on pause through August 1, 2021.

Qatar Airways Privilege Club

The Doha-based airline is extending existing elite status through January 31, 2022. In addition, Gold and Platinum member Qcredits (used for perks like upgrades or excess baggage fees) are now valid for two years as long as a member maintains their eligible status. Its newest loyalty program offering is for students. New Student Club members will receive 5,000 points as a graduation gift. Members also receive perks like free in-flight Wi-Fi, extra baggage allowance, and date change flexibility.

Radisson Rewards

Current elite status has been extended through February 2022, and any upcoming points expiration has been extended through the end of March. To help members get to status faster, any eligible nights or stays earned in 2020 will roll over to 2021. Any e-Certs earned by Radisson Rewards co-branded cardholders that were scheduled to expire between March 1 and July 31, 2020, are now eligible to redeem through June 30, 2021.

Shangri-La Golden Circle

Current elite status and points expiration have been extended for another year through December 31, 2021.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Those holding the coveted Companion Pass, which allows free flight privileges for a companion, through the end of 2020 will enjoy an extension through June 30, 2021. Elite status members with A-List and A-List Preferred have status automatically extended through the end of 2021. Travel Funds from unused flight reservations are being extended, too. Funds that were going to expire (or those created between March 1 and Sept. 7 of 2020) will now be usable through September 7, 2022.

United MileagePlus

The airline is making it easier to attain elite status in the new year by lowering the flying and spend thresholds for status on top of already extending existing status through January 31, 2022. During the first three months of 2021, fliers can earn bonus Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) on their first three trips; this should provide a small boost toward elite status for the year.

United does not quantify the distance travelers fly for status; instead, it focuses on the frequency of flights and the types of fare people purchase by awarding the highest spenders with the most qualifying points. In addition to lower thresholds, United is also adding bonus PQP to members’ accounts based on the 2021 status members have achieved through 2020 as a jump start to next year’s status. PQP earned via co-branded credit card spending will count toward Premier 1K status, and any PlusPoints (used for complimentary upgrades) that were scheduled to expire on January 1, 2021, have been extended by six months.

World of Hyatt

To earn elite status in 2021, base point and tier-qualifying night requirements are being reduced by 50 percent making it easier to attain or requalify. World of Hyatt Credit Cardmembers receive five tier-qualifying nights each year with the card. New cardmembers who apply and are approved for the card by December 31, 2020, get 10 tier-qualifying nights to count toward status in 2020 and 2021.

Hyatt has extended several popular promotions including Bonus Journeys, which awards as many as 4x points per stay and double tier-qualifying nights for paid stays between now and February 28, 2021 (register by January 15). Under the reduced 2021 elite status criteria, members who register for Bonus Journeys and stay as few as 15 nights by February 28, 2021, can earn top-tier Globalist status. A separate promotion returns as much as 25 percent of points redeemed for award stays within the same timeframe. For paid stays between now and April 4, 2021, guests can earn 1,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles per qualifying night at participating Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Wyndham Rewards

Current elite members continue to have their status extended through December 31, 2021, and the brand continues to offer complimentary Gold status to essential workers in appreciation for their efforts. They can apply for the year-long status match by March 31, 2021. Points expiration is on pause through June 30, 2021.

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This story was last published April 2020. It has since been updated with new information.

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