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United Copycats Delta’s Higher Elite Requirements

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Delta must be positively blushing at United’s recent mileage-program moves.

First, there was United’s wholesale copying of Delta’s new-for-2015 spend-based program. Apparently, when it comes to the design of loyalty programs, intellectual property rights don’t apply. If they did, Delta would have a strong case against United for copying, detail for detail, Delta’s new scheme.

And now, on a smaller scale, United has cut-and-pasted into MileagePlus Delta’s upcoming change to its elite-qualification requirements, announced last month.

As with Delta, United will require 20 percent more spending during 2015 to qualify for elite status in 2016. The elite-qualifying revenue (PQDs, or Premier-qualifying dollars in United’s terminology) requirements will increase as follows:

  • Silver – Increase from $2,500 to $3,000
  • Gold – Increase from $5,000 to $6,000
  • Platinum – Increase from $7,500 to $9,000
  • 1K – Increase from $10,000 to $12,000

The current elite-qualifying mile and segment requirements will remain unchanged.

A company’s best moves are often mimicked by other companies operating in the same space. That’s the nature of competition. But United’s shameless imitation of Delta’s loyalty marketing is eye-popping in its brazenness. And it raises the question of customer focus: Where is United’s, on its customers or on its competitors?

At least for the time being, American will not be copying Delta and United’s move to revenue-based programs, or adding a spend requirement to qualify for elite status. So there is an alternative. There’s a novel idea!

Reader Reality Check

Next year, travelers will face a clear choice, between the revenue-based programs of Delta and United, on the one hand, and American’s traditional mileage-based program, on the other. Which side will you be on?

This article originally appeared on

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