Good News: Oneworld “Not Looking To Add A Formal Additional Tier”


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As the various members of the oneworld alliance expand their own rewards programs to include new status levels the number of status levels offered at alliance level (currently three) has started to appear inadequate.

With airlines like American offering up to 5 elite status levels (if you include the invitation only “Concierge Key” level) and British Airways offering 3 official levels and possibly even a 4th and 5th (if you separate out Gold Guest List flyers and Premier card holders) some have been questioning whether or not the oneworld alliance needs to add an additional tier.

Right now the top two levels of American’s AAdvantage program (Concierge Key and Executive Platinum) both match to the top tier oneworld status – Emerald – as do the top two official tiers of the British Airways Executive Club (Premier and Gold)….but some have suggested that this should change.

There have been murmurings that the oneworld alliance needs a new top-tier elite level to accommodate (and further recognise) the very top elites from the various member airlines – this would see the likes of Concierge Key and Premier status holders separated out into their own new oneworld top tier (possibly called “Diamond”).

For most current elites this wouldn’t be good news.

Oneworld Emerald status is probably the best alliance status out there as it offers at least two great  benefits that no other alliance status offers:

  • Access to most oneworld First Class lounges regardless of what cabin the traveler is booked into.
  • Access to First Class check-in desks/areas regardless of what cabin the traveler is booked into.

These benefits can make the start of a journey easier and a lot more comfortable….especially when you consider the quality of some of the oneworld First Class lounges (The Pier in Hong Kong for example).

The Pier First Class Lounge In Hong Kong

The formation of a new top-tier oneworld Diamond status would almost certainly see these benefits stripped from the likes of American’s Executive Platinum members and BA’s “regular” Gold members.

Additionally, now that the oneworld Emerald benefits would be not all that dissimilar to the benefits Sapphire members currently enjoy, there’s every reason to believe that Sapphire members would see their benefits cut too.

There would be a domino effect of cuts and a lot of flyers would be negatively impacted.

Fortunately it looks as if the oneworld hierarchy doesn’t agree with those who’d like to see an additional oneworld status tier.

In an interview with AUBT oneworld CEO Rob Gurney is quoted as saying the following:

We’re not looking at adding a formal additional tier

I think airlines have become a lot more effective at segmenting their customer base (and)  differentiating across a high group of super premium customers. What we are looking at is doing a much more effective job explaining to the customers that are currently into those tiers the benefits that they get, and communicating that more effectively.

I read that as meaning that airlines can reward their very top elites however they wish to and in whatever way works best for them…but oneworld will stick with three tiers and do a better job of letting the top-tier elites know just what benefits they have.

Thoughts

With airlines already doing a great job of devaluing their own elite levels (just take a look at what American did to its Platinum members by introducing a Platinum Pro tier and what it did to Executive Platinum members by making Concierge Key an official tier) its nice to see oneworld stand firm on this point.

I’ve said numerous times that the most valuable benefits I have courtesy of my American Airlines Executive Platinum status (EXP) are those that I get as a result of EXP matching to oneworld Emerald status. If these benefits were to be taken away I’m not sure there would be much point in flyers who mostly travel internationally participating in the AAdvantage program….and I’m sure there are other oneworld programs where the same would apply.

Oneworld is already an alliance in which its getting harder and harder to use the various loyalty currencies economically (you can’t find American Airlines saver awards, British Airways charges extortionate surcharges, searching for international premium cabin awards on Qantas is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack etc…) so devaluing the benefits for the vast majority of oneworld elites would not be a smart marketing move….and oneworld appears to recognize that.

2 COMMENTS

  1. More needed would be a new top tier at STAR since it only has two elite tiers: Silver and Gold. This makes for no differentiation for up to three upper tiers plus whatever uber-elite category (i.e.Global Services @UA, HON @LH) exists.

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