United will segment biz travel rewards programs for small businesses

Beginning in February, United Airlines will make its PerksPlus rewards program for unmanaged business travel exclusive to bookings made through travel agencies.

Current PerksPlus member companies that prefer to book directly with United won’t be left in the lurch. Those small and midsized business will transition to the United for Business portal. 

Earn rates and redemption benefits for each category of United’s two programs for unmanaged business travel will remain the same, said Adam Keeter, director of United for Business Products & Partners.

He explained that United is making the change so that current PerksPlus member companies that do their bookings on the United website or app can take advantage of the increasing capabilities offered by United for Business, which the airline launched late last year. Among its features, United for Business enables travel administrators to choose among three discount travel plans, view reports on travel activity and set booking and payment preferences.

“As more features have been rolled out this year, we’re moving small and midsized enterprises that already use United channels for their PerksPlus travel to the new portal to deliver more functionality and a better customer experience,” Keeter said. 

The PerksPlus program is open to companies that spend more than $5,000 annually on business travel on United or its international joint venture partners. PerksPlus fliers accrue points that can be redeemed for items such as travel certificates, MileagePlus Premier status and United Club access.

United’s decision to leave the PerksPlus program unchanged for companies that book through a travel agency contrasts with a recent move by American Airlines. 

In October, American announced it would phase out the Business Extra rewards program for small and midsize businesses and replace it with AAdvantage Business, a new program that only rewards companies that book directly. 

In a memo to PerksPlus members on Dec. 7, United said that it recognizes the value that many customers place on agencies.

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