In September, executives at Continental OnePass announced changes to its elite qualification system for 2004. While OnePass members expressed their dissatisfaction with the changes, members of other airline programs, particularly WorldPerks, held their collective breath in nervous anticipation.
All those millions of WorldPerks members can now relax and exhale.
According to an announcement posted on the Northwest Web site, “The WorldPerks program will remain largely unchanged for the 2004 program year.”
WorldPerks members will continue to be able to earn elite status based on elite qualifying miles flown and on elite qualifying segments. Perhaps more importantly, WorldPerks is maintaining its practice of awarding 100 percent of miles flown on most discount fares, unlike partners Delta and Continental, each of which only offer 50 percent of miles flown on discount fares.
What will change, however, are the number of elite-qualifying miles earned when traveling on Continental- or Delta-operated flights.
Effective Jan. 1, 2004, WorldPerks members will earn just 50 percent elite-qualifying miles when traveling on select Continental fares. And, interestingly, WorldPerks members who had previously only earned 50 percent elite-qualifying miles on discount fares on Delta Air Lines will now earn 100 percent (this is very odd indeed, considering Delta SkyMiles members only earn 50 percent elite qualifying miles on these very same fares).
The only other announced changes to the WorldPerks program for 2004 are to the redemption costs for select awards. First Class award travel from North and Central America to Hawaii has increased to 75,000 or 150,000 miles roundtrip for standard and RuleBuster awards, respectively. And, effective Jan. 1, 2004, 15,000 miles will be required each way for passengers wishing to upgrade domestic itineraries from select coach fares.
This must certainly be considered good news for all flyers who were put off by the moves previously instituted by Delta and Continental.
But how, many are asking, can Northwest stand its ground while its partners significantly alter their programs? The prevailing theory is that Northwest has better managed its elite ranks than Delta and Continental.
While Delta and Continental have in recent years offered complimentary elite status as an incentive to partake of various offers, Northwest has been decidedly stingy in this regard. The theory maintains that, as the elite ranks at Delta SkyMiles and Continental OnePass continued to expand, it became more and more difficult for elite members of each program to gain the ever popular upgrade award, hence, to maintain the attainability of this award Delta and Continental felt a need to “thin the ranks.” By strictly limiting the number of comped elites, Northwest, on the other hand, has evidently been able to control its elite ranks to a much greater extent, and has avoided the situation faced by its partner airlines.
Whatever the reason behind WorldPerks non-changes, there are thousands of members of the program who are no doubt thrilled by this news.