Midwest Lowers the Bar for Elite Membership

There's been a fair amount of activity lately in the rarefied elite realm of airline loyalty programs, with a veritable deluge of elite-mile promotions, and the introduction of new top tiers for ultra-frequent flyers from Continental and Delta.

Now we have activity at the other end of the spectrum, targeting those who fly frequently but not often enough to qualify for elite status in most airlines' programs.

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Midwest has introduced a new introductory level of elite membership, Aspire, awarded to Midwest Miles members who fly 15,000 miles or 18 segments during a calendar year. That lowers the bar considerably from what had been the airline's sole elite tier, so-called Executive level, which itself only requires 20,000 miles or 25 segments.

The perks associated with Aspire status are modest: a 25 percent bonus on flown miles (versus 50 percent for Executive elites); an annual discount on an award ticket (the same as Executive); dedicated check-in and security lines, priority boarding, two free carry-ons, and free DirectTV on board (also comparable to Executive benefits).

With Midwest's limited routes, it makes good business sense to award elite status for fewer miles than are required by larger carriers, which typically don't dole out elite privileges until program members have racked up at least 25,000 miles.

But there's probably more to this move than the predictable tweaking and twiddling that airline programs are constantly undergoing.

The addition of a second elite tier may also be a further step in the direction of aligning and integrating Midwest Miles with the EarlyReturns program of Frontier, now that Midwest and Frontier share a common owner, Republic Airways Holdings. Members of the two programs can already earn and redeem miles on either airline's flights. A partial or full consolidation of the two programs could be in the cards.

For now, though, Midwest Miles members can enjoy a higher level of service for a relatively low level of loyalty.

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