I’m hoping I’m wrong, but I did the research and don’t think I am. It really sounds as if select airlines (read: some, but not all) are giving preferential treatment to passengers who are having or just had babies, or who are welcoming children into their families.
I was reading about travel on a message group the other day and someone who has status on Air Canada (their program is called “Altitude”) mentioned they were taking advantage of this offer from the airline:
Altitude Status Extension for Parental Leave
A unique privilege for new parents.
We understand that life brings changes, and as a result, your travel patterns change too. That’s why we’ve introduced a unique privilege for new parents: Altitude Status Extension for Parental Leave.
If you are expecting a baby or welcoming a new child into your family and plan on taking a parental leave, you can request an Altitude Status Extension in order to continue enjoying the privileges of your Altitude status for a minimum of 12 months when you return to flying more frequently. Air Canada is proud to be the first airline in North America to offer this privilege.
To request your Altitude Status Extension, please send an email to email@example.com and include a copy of proof of parental leave from your employer as well as a copy of the certificate of childbirth, adoption or fostering.
So if you have taken a leave of absence (LOA) from work because you’re having a baby or are welcoming a new child into your family, you can also extend your Altitude status, even if it’s going to otherwise expire. Hmmm…interesting.
So then I did some research into some other major airlines. Alaska Air and British Airways both offers a similar extension if you show proof of parental leave for a new baby or child in the family. United, American and Virgin Atlantic don’t have anything on the books but apparently will work with new parents to help save their status.
I wonder if these airlines know or care that there are other life events that could stop you from flying, through no fault of your own, that could potentially be included in an extension of status:
- Having to take care of a family member with a serious health condition
- Your own serious health condition that prevents you from flying
- Military-related reasons
All of those reasons are “good enough” to request an LOA and/or change in health insurance, etc., the same as someone who’s pregnant, or has a new baby or child in the family. So why are only those who have/are having new babies or children allowed to request an extension of the airline status change?
Fortunately, some airlines give more options:
Hawaiian Airlines: Their program allows you to request an extension if you have an extended medical condition. It’s not perfect, but it’s at least better: “Our Elite Status Extension program allows you to keep your Pualani Elite Status for one year after your Medical Event. A Medical Event includes parental leave or a medical condition lasting 12 weeks or longer that prohibits you from flying.”
Delta – Their program seems to be the best of all. “Something happens that impacts your ability to travel, and you’re unable to reach the Tier of Medallion Status you previously had. This includes things like becoming a new parent, changing jobs, going back to school, experiencing a medical issue, needing to take care of a friend or family member or another life event—we’re here to listen.”
I’m not saying this as someone who would personally need to take advantage of this perk – Joe and I are not loyal to any airline and don’t have status. So even if we had a life event, we still would have no dogs in this fight. I just think it kind of stinks that if you have to take care of a new baby, have taken an LOA and can’t fly, you can get an extension of your status. But if you have to take care of a sick parent, or have your own, new serious diagnosis, or are in the Reserves and are being sent somewhere, have taken an LOA and can’t fly, it’s too bad, so sad.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary