Airlines are responding differently to the coronavirus pandemic, including how they handle elite miles and status extensions.
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See which airlines are doing the most — and the least — to protect your elite status

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It's the question on the minds of elite flyers the world over: What's to become of my airline miles and elite status if I can't fly for a portion of 2020?

Frequent flyers — many who exercise extreme loyalty to their chosen airline — are now finding out if the love affair is a reciprocal relationship. While some airlines have chosen to remain mum, many major carriers are making moves to protect their best customers.

But there are definite winners and losers in the 2020 mileage game. The fine print for each decision varies and, in some cases, is painstakingly long. And, some airlines are revising their status announcements (for the better) mere weeks later.

Check back if your carrier's announcement was on the stingier side.

Decent: Lowered requirements and free points

Aer Lingus is said to be emailing members of its elite flyer program, AerClub, with news of automatic credits ranging from 25 to 350 points, depending on the membership tier level. Estimates suggest bonus points are equal to approximately 33% of the points needed to maintain yearly status.

British Airways is reducing status point thresholds by 30% for members up for renewal in April, May and June. Certain vouchers, earned through BA credit cards, are also being automatically extended for six months. The concessions were sent via email to select customers. 

British Airways' planes
Scott Barbour

Better: Status extensions

The holy grail of elite flyer airline announcements is the automatic elite status extension. However, these announcements are not created equal.

Less than a year:

In an email to members, Turkish Airlines announced a six-month extension for all elite status holders. Members can also purchase double the amount of miles this year. Details are scarce though passengers are reportedly able to view the updated expiration dates by logging into their Miles & Smiles accounts.

While embroiled in a high-profile struggle to stay afloat, Virgin Atlantic is extending the status of Silver and Gold Flying Club members by six months. Qualifying companion, upgrade and clubhouse vouchers are also being extended by half a year.

At least one year, if conditions met: 

Emirates Skywards Silver, Gold and Platinum members (but notably not Blue) whose membership reviews come before September of this year will have their status extended until Dec. 31, 2020. Members with reviews before March 1, 2021 receive 12-month status extensions with a caveat; they must meet 80% of the usual travel requirements. Additionally, miles expiring at any point in 2020 are being extended until year end.

Updated: After first announcing monthly allotments of Tier miles to all members from March to May, Etihad Airways later announced an extension policy similar to Emirates in that members will see their statuses extended by 12 months if they've earned 80% of their required miles. Those who fall short of that percentage will receive a three-month status extension. In May, the airline further updated its policy to extend monthly Tier miles to June and to lengthen the three-month status extension to the end of the year. 

Two additional perks? The airline is giving double Tier miles for all flights taken between March 1 and July 31, 2020 and up to 5,000 bonus Guest miles and $400 for those who opt for credit for flights canceled during this time.

At least one year:

After initially offering free monthly bonus points, Cathay Pacific one-upped itself and is now granting a simple 12-month status extension to memberships expiring this year. Lounge passes and other similar benefits are being extended for 12 months too.

After initially announcing reduced tier thresholds, Flying Blue — the loyalty program for Air France, KLM and a number of smaller airlines — reversed course and is now extending members' elite status by 12 months. The extension applies to memberships set to expire before February 2021. Explorer members' miles are being extended through the end of 2020 too.

One of the first carriers to issue status extensions, Qantas is automatically granting 12-month extensions to elite memberships that expire before February 2021. Flyers do not need to take four flights per year, as is the usual rule, to receive it. Qantas stated it will not send new physical membership cards, though elite members can find the updated expiration dates on their digital cards. 

An air stewardess prepares bedding in a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 suite.

Like Qantas, Qatar Airways' loyalty program, Privilege Club, is "extending or reinstating" tier statuses for 12 months for memberships that expire before Jan. 31, 2021. Additional privileges, such as preferred seating guarantees and extensions on upgrades, extra baggage and lounge access, are being rolled out for elite members too. 

Singapore Airlines is renewing elite memberships for one year and PPS and Elite Gold Rewards (that expire in the second half of this year) are being extended to March 31, 2020. Krisflyer miles that expire between now and August are being extended by six months. Comprehensive details — the most of any airline listed — are available on the company's website.

Extensions into 2022:

Air Canada is automatically extending all Altitude statuses to the end of 2021, which technically is one day short of 2022. But the blanket offer is so generous, we are including it here. Members who have already achieved status for the next year (or who do so by the end of 2020) can give it to a friend or family member. Plus, the airline's loyalty program, Aeroplan, launched a "Travel at Home" program which allows members to earn miles and status by making purchases at Apple Music, Bose and eBay, to name a few, or through donations made to coronavirus-related charities (the latter through April 30).

As the first U.S. airline to announce program status extensions, Delta Air Lines elite members can retain their current status through Jan. 31, 2022. Medallion Qualification Miles from 2020 can be rolled into 2021, and select memberships, upgrade certificates and $200 travel vouchers are being extended, among a number of other updates to its program.

United Airlines has issued one of, if not the most generous elite membership announcements to date.
United Airlines | Getty Images

Similar to Delta, United Airlines is extending elite status for all Premier members through Jan. 31, 2022. The airline is also reducing threshold qualifications for 2021 by a full 50% making it easier for flyers to reach higher tiers. Qualifying PlusPoints, annual membership and subscription benefits are being extended by six months. Electronic travel certificates can be used for up to 24 months from the date of issue, making this one of, if not the most generous program announcements to date.

American Airlines' announcement came a bit late for some, but when it did it was ample. In lockstep with Delta and United, the airline is automatically extending the status of all elite members until Jan. 31, 2022. The airline is also reducing requirements to meet elite status tiers — not quite as much as United but still an appreciable amount — while throwing in vacation package credits and a number of other perks.

Awaiting word 

Lufthansa has not made any status announcements to date, though one appears to be coming. The website for the company's Miles & More frequent flyer program states: "The Lufthansa Group airlines will be offering goodwill gestures for retaining status over the course of the year and will keep all frequent flyers informed."

Additionally, the company has announced that the Miles & More program, which also services passengers on Austrian Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines, is changing its status program effective Jan.1, 2021 to a simplified, more transparent points-based system.