I write to you today from my home office where, like many of you, I have spent nearly all of my time for the better part of two months. COVID-19 has presented us with an unprecedented situation flanked with uncertainty, conflict and somehow, even political ramifications.
I find myself trapped in a new reality, somewhere between a prison sentence and a busy day at work that hasn’t quite ended. Having previously flown on a plane once every five days, and with a lifestyle that ensures I don’t spend my weekends in my home, the transition to spending nearly all of a day’s hours in my apartment has been noticeable.
While we have taken to virtual game nights, dinners on the balcony and socially distant exercise circuits, the travel industry has worked to modify their normal operations as well.
One area that I have been particularly impressed by in terms of corporate response is the extension of elite status by airlines and hotels. Elite status can be difficult to obtain, and many frequent travelers found themselves in a lurch balancing social responsibility with their status’ upkeep during our modified lifestyles. First a few, then most companies stepped up and announced they were extending elite status for any current elite member through December 2021. In some cases, any travel completed in 2020 would count towards earning status for 2022.
While no one knows how long our modified lives will continue, it is comforting to know flight changes and seat upgrades are still in my future when we get there.
Annual Fee Credits
Earlier this year, Chase announced that they were increasing the annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card from $450 to $550. Shortly after the news cycle of COVID-19 broke, Chase doubled back. Certainly not interested in undoing all of the marketing they had developed around the need for the increase, they simply issued a $100 credit on the heels of the new annual fee hitting statements. In short, they delayed it by a year.
American Express offered $320 in statement credits towards streaming services and cell phone bills to help customers who weren’t traveling find value with their Platinum Cards.
They also has demonstrated a willingness to reduce the burden of an annual fee during this time, however it is more in line with their typical retention protocol. After meeting a spending requirement, offers of $300 or 30,000 points were made in exchange for renewing the card with its $550 annual fee.
Looking ahead, I am struck at the uncertainty of it all. Thanks to science, we are on the cusp of relief in the form of antibody testing and vaccines. But how will we live after that? Surely, after months of social distancing, we cannot be interested in sitting in the last row of coach smashed between two strangers. Right? Time will tell: Airlines have taken to blocking out the middle seats on future bookings, flight attendants have urged the end of leisure travel, and manufacturers are even introducing new designs that could promote social distancing going forward.
At any rate, I hope you and your family are staying in, staying well and staying safe. I look forward to a not so distant future where we can discuss the return to travel from COVID-19.