Should Pregnant Women Be Allowed “Maternity Leave” on Elite Level Status?

C onsider this one of those topics about which I would never think. After all, I am a guy.

This article written by Morra Aarons — who is expecting her third baby and cannot travel as of November 13 — of Yahoo! Travel discusses how pregnant women will lose status in many frequent flier loyalty programs simply because they are pregnant.

“Knowing that many frequent flier programs have year-end deadlines for collection and rollover, I decided to call the programs in which I have status and see if I could put the deadlines on hold until I have the baby and am able to start flying again”, Aarons wrote. After some research, she found that:

  • US Airways never makes exceptions for medical leave or maternity leave; and Aarons could not purchase the two segments needed to renew her elite level status
  • American Airlines does not have a maternity policy but would let her repurchase status lost at the end of 2014
  • Virgin America does not have any “maternity leave” policies
  • Delta Air Lines does not have any “maternity leave” policies
  • British Airways has an informal policy and offered to put her Avios frequent flier loyalty program points on hold if she sent in a note from a doctor, which she felt was reasonable


“Regressive policies like US Airways’ help keep women back”, opined Aarons. “Frequent flier status is a subject of near obsession for business travelers, and with good reason. It’s not about perks, but about making life on the road bearable. If you don’t have status in the world of airlines, you probably won’t make it out of Chicago in a snowstorm in time for that big meeting, or get home for your family. It’s a big deal.”

I suppose Aarons has a point; but the first thing which came to my mind is why should a hold be placed on elite level status for pregnant women? I experienced a significantly serious situation caring for a family member for greater than a year during which – with few exceptions related to this situation — I was pretty much grounded. What about someone who goes through a medical procedure which requires surgery and cannot travel?

By no means am I necessarily advocating that Aarons may not have a point. Perhaps pregnant women should be given a sort of “maternity leave” on their elite level status in their preferred frequent travel loyalty programs; but then I can see the aforementioned arguments arise by those who feel that their circumstances should allow them some sort of leave as well — and if so, where should the line be drawn?

“It’s time to rethink”, continued Aarons. “We live in a world in which 70% of women with children under 18 are in the labor force, women are primary or co-breadwinners in  of households and 40% of all households include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.”

I can hear fellow elite level status members of frequent travel loyalty programs pronounce in a chorus of ensuring that that status needs to be more exclusive. The numbers above may be compelling that there could be a large population of people being — dare I say it — discriminated; but at the same time, those numbers suggest a potential dilution of that elite level status if “maternity leave” was granted for all of them.

As I said at the beginning of this article, this is one of those topics about which I would never think because I am male. I will never know what it is like to be pregnant and have some human plop out of my body. Just the thought of that image burned on my brain causes me to increase my respect for women who are pregnant and give birth; so what do I know about this?!?…

…which is why I am turning to you: what do you think? Does Morra Aarons have a point? Please do not read the comments of that article until you have formed your opinion first; then see if your opinion matches the majority of the comments posted by readers of that article.

Meanwhile, I have this sudden urge to venture off and go do some guy things…

14 thoughts on “Should Pregnant Women Be Allowed “Maternity Leave” on Elite Level Status?”

  1. Kris says:

    “Regressive policies like US Airways’ help keep women back.” Is that a joke? Credibility of everything else she says drops to 0 after that statement.

  2. GloverParker says:

    I think it’s worth noting that after five months, many airlines literally won’t let pregnant women fly because of the risk to the woman and the airline — that’s not the case in the counter argument presented above

  3. Angelina says:

    Great article! As a woman who is currently 21 weeks pregnant with baby #2 (back to back), I’ve DEFINITELY slowed down in flying and my elite status obviously took a hit. My current top tier status is set to expire at the end of Feb 2015, which is perfect timing because I will be 34 weeks pregnant by then and almost at the point where an airline most likely will not let me fly without a doctors note. I won’t resume flying until no sooner than June 1, so not only will I be out of luck for 2015 status, but 2016 is probably on the rocks too as I won’t have time to requalify without a challenge.

    During my last pregnancy, I received a targeted elite status challenge. I was able to call the airline and state that I was over 32 weeks pregnant at the time and unable to complete the challenge, and the airline was super understanding and told me they would extend the offer to me as soon as I start flying again. That’s one reason I’ve joined the dAArkside 😉

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Congratulations, Angelina! I hope that your second baby will be healthy and bring you plenty of joy!

  4. Darth Chocolate says:

    1. I agree with Kris. ZERO credibility.

    2. Too bad for the loss of status. What if a male had a heart attack and had to give up flying for 9 months? Would that also be an excuse for an exception?

    The people are old enough to understand that they ought not be asking for special accommodations for every little life change.

    In short, “Suck it up, buttercup!”

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      …and therein lies the conundrum, Darth Chocolate. If a policy for an exception can theoretically exist for a woman who is pregnant, what about other people who temporarily cannot travel — such as the male who had a heart attack and had to give up flying for 9 months?

  5. anat0l says:

    Have a look at Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer. They have an elite benefit called “Parental Pause” (note the wording – it works for fathers as well).

    This probably doesn’t help the American readership much, but I believe this benefit is unique in the plethora of frequent traveller programmes.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I did not know about that policy, anat0l. Thank you for highlighting it and linking to it.

      I wonder which other airlines offer a similar policy…

  6. WAE says:

    Airline policies on flying when pregnant are based on legitimate health and liability concerns. If you choose to become pregnant, you know you cannot fly for a certain period of time. Anyone, male or female, pregnant or not, who does not fly enough loses status. No special treatment for others’ private life choices with known consequences.

    Planes have too many parents who feel entitled to bring infants and young children on flights where they will be miserable and can make everyone around them miserable. It is no surprise that the sense of entitlement for some parents starts before the child is even born.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That is an interesting connection which some might find tenuous, WAE.

      Although I have posted articles in the past about babies, infants and children aboard airplanes, this could be an idea for a future article: does the sense of entitlement by parents extend to before the children were born — and perhaps beyond that?

      Thank you…

  7. Denise says:

    Wow! I am shocked that the author expects an exception made for her. What about everyone else? My kids are in school, I just got laid off, my mom is sick, my company is cutting back on business travel, etc. There are so many reasons that individuals can’t take advantage of airline/hotels promos. Unfortunately, you are just out of luck. Please don’t blame the airlines.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Imagine if all businesses operated that way for their customers and not just airlines, Denise.

      There are some who will give “rain checks” — but still…

  8. Highflying says:

    I think it’s based on circumstance. As a decade long elite status of the top tier, I would imagine the airline would accommodate a pregnant woman, which they aren’t allowed to fly past 32 weeks, a break. If not, they will go status match to another airline who will and that mother with propensity and career to be a decade long elite status will continue to fly, just not with you. Not only do you lose an elite loyal customer, you’ve also done bad pr. I think otherwise before making that blanket statement.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      As a person who has switched from one primary frequent travel loyalty program more than once, Highflying, I cannot argue with you…

      …and I was not pregnant when that happened.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.