Don’t Be A Loyal Airline Customer

Now that we’ve explained why you should be a loyal customer to an airline — or at least an alliance — it’s time for the counterpoint post why you shouldn’t be!

There’s many ways in which the value of points and airline status have been chipped away at, as happens to any form of currency that inflates as wildly as points have over the last years, but the ones most important to us who are trying to visit Every World Heritage Site are two:

1) Rather than getting a straight award for miles flown, now the number of miles you get is based on the class of ticket you paid for — or, increasingly, directly on how much you paid for your ticket. Nomadic Matt had a rant on that:

And thus the current dilemma: If you are a low-spending but still frequent traveler, does it make sense to stay loyal to an airline in this day and age?

The answer, I’ve come to realize, is a resounding NO.

As someone who likes the concept and perks of loyalty, it saddens me to say this, but unless you are spending a lot of money on one airline, loyalty — at least to airlines — is an antiquated concept.

The major airlines in the United States do not value your loyalty anymore. They are only rewarding their high-spending clients with deep pockets — not their frequent clients…

And around here, well y’know we try to actively avoid being those high-spending clients, that’s kinda the whole point of the points. And airlines are wising up to that.

2) It’s getting harder to redeem for basic flights

When points programs started, it was pretty easy to score free basic flights. Redemption prices have gone up, availability has declined for fixed price redemptions in favor of “market-based” redemptions so you end up paying a lot more for flights you actually want, and in general it’s conventional wisdom these days that your points are best used for upgrading seat class, not the actual flight.

And that … well, it’s just not real high on our priority list to have a slightly nicer experience for the few hours a flight lasts. Never once used points for an upgrade, sincerely doubt we ever will. And even the people who do are giving up on it now. For instance, here’s thoughts from One Mile At A Time:

But if you’re someone who has the choice of which airline to fly, I at least encourage everyone to be more critical when deciding whether or not airline loyalty is worth it. Nowadays first class is cheaper to buy outright, while upgrades are tougher to come by. Benefits and mileage earning have been greatly reduced for most. Airlines are requiring you to spend a certain amount to requalify for status. On top of that, credit cards often give you the most basic elite benefits.

Maybe it’s time to start flying the airline that works best for each individual trip. At least that’s the direction I’m slowly headed.

Check out those articles — and all the rest of the great info at those sites as well! — but the important takeaway here is that it’s no longer generally practical to score lots of cheap travel and/or status perks by flight mileage, you need to spend money.

Fine then; in the next post, we’ll go over how to turn your non-travel spending into travel rewards, since that’s the way to go in 2017!


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I go places.

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