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A LATAM Airbus A320. (Photo: Carlos Daniel Dobelli from C.A.B.A., Argentina (LATAM A320-233 LV-BSJ) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

LATAM Lowers Elite Status Requirements

In an unexpected move, South American carrier LATAM announced it will be lowering its elite frequent flyer qualification requirements in order to retain high-value flyers that did not make it through the latest requirements hike in 2018. The news was first reported by Argentinean blog Sir Chandler.

The new changes facilitate attaining elite status for all but one of LATAM’s frequent flyer tiers. Gold members, LATAMPASS lowest elite status tier will now need 15 qualifying points instead of 20; Gold + members 20 instead of 25. Both are equivalent to oneworld ruby at the moment, until LATAM leaves the alliance on May 1.

Platinum members, equivalent to oneworld Sapphire will now need 25 qualifying points instead of 35. Oneworld Emerald equivalent Black members will need 60 instead of 70. LATAM’s top tier Black Signature’s requirements remain unchanged at 150 qualifying points obtained exclusively while flying with the airline.

LATAM status qualifying points system for status qualification is calculated based on dollar spend, by a multiplier of nine for domestic flights and six for international flights.

The new requirements will make status more attainable for LATAM frequent flyers, reducing average spend by more than 1000 dollars for most tiers.

At the same time, the airline is bringing back qualification by segments from LATAM operated flights, with 20 needed for Gold, 25 for Gold +, 30 for Platinum, 60 for Black and 120 for Black Signature. Discounted fares Promo and Basic are excluded for segment qualification while segments in their Premium economy and Premium Business cabins counting as two. 

LATAM made significant changes to its frequent flyer program in 2016, changing from using kilometers to miles as a millage currency and shifting from distance-based to revenue-based qualifications, toughing up status requirements in 2018 with the introduction of its qualifying points system and the elimination of qualification by segments, leaving out many short-haul frequent flyers from being rewarded for their loyalty. 

This is an important segment that LATAM seems to be looking to retain with the new program changes that brings constant revenue for the carrier. As such, the increasing competition posed by low cost carriers across the region which attract and retain consumers with competitive pricing, convenience and attractive ancillary pricing for add ons such as priority boarding and extra leg-room seating.

At the same time, having a deficit of elite members on the airline’s frequent flyer base is not good for the carrier either, as it translates into maintaining under-utilized assets such as priority check-in desks and lounges that can provide value by maintaining loyalty amongst more members.

The same goes for seats in its extra legroom section labeled as LATAM + in its newer A320 series aircraft, Boeing 787s and A350s, which when unsold can be better utilized by seating lower-level elites than given out for free to non-frequent flyers.

Jose Antonio Payet
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