Don’t worry, this post has nothing to do with revenue based frequent flyer programs, be it revenue based elite qualification, revenue based mileage accrual, etc.
Instead this has to do with a (rather long but interesting) question that reader Lex posed on the “Ask Lucky” page of the blog:
I’m currently a diamond member with CX and my membership is due for renew this coming August. I don’t want to fly in economy for the sake of racking up miles. Unfortunately I cannot afford to fly business to achieve 120,000 miles either. With regards to PE, I’ve found QF and NZ to be outstanding, and CX and BA to be terrible.
I’m happy to downgrade to Gold this year in order to keep all the OneWorld benefits. For that I will need to fly 60,000 miles. CX’s miles based scheme makes achieving this threshold a very difficult endeavour (flying in Biz).
While I deeply appreciate CX’s Macro Club especially the recognition given when flying, and guaranteed seat and priority waitlist, I have found it to be difficult to attend high status. I’m pondering on whether a revenue based scheme will be more suitable.
In all honestly I only need to fly once a year from NZ to Taiwan. All other trips are not essential, but flying is in my soul.
Now my questions are
1)Which FFP scheme do you think would suit my flying behaviour better?
– Status seeking
– Never economy, happy with premium economy
– occasionally business class when there is a sales.
2) Do you have any other suggestions to help me maintain my status more cost effectively?
I can understand the desire for status
I’ve been playing the “mileage game” for nearly a decade, and I can relate to Lex‘s passion for flying and the industry, and wanting to have elite status. Even though Lex only needs to take one longhaul trip a year, if you’re passionate about airlines and frequent flyer programs there’s still something nice about having status and flying more than that.
Historically US frequent flyer programs are more generous
So Lex is a Marco Polo Club Diamond member, which requires 120,000 miles or 80 segments. That’s a lot of flying.
What’s really quite sad are the benefits you get for Diamond status, though. You receive things like:
- Lounge access
- Priority check-in
- Priority seating
- Extra baggage
And other similar benefits. But you don’t get a single complimentary upgrade as an elite perk (though have priority for operational upgrades).
Meanwhile as an Executive Platinum member with American (which requires 100,000 miles) I get eight systemwide upgrades valid on any fare, plus unlimited complimentary domestic upgrades.
And as it stands I think that Executive Platinum is the only status level in the US that’s really worth going out of your way to earn. Other than that it’s really not worth it, in my opinion. Airfare is as high as I’ve ever seen, benefits have been diluted, and requirements to achieve status have gone up. And that’s in the US, where historically it has actually been worth going out of your way to earn status.
But if you’re totally going out of your way to earn status like Lex is, are you really being properly rewarded for 120,000 flown miles with Cathay Pacific? What would I do instead?
Break the status addiction and buy miles
I know it can be really tough to give up status. But Lex, you’ll be paying less for first class than you paid for premium economy before, which you say you’re perfectly happy with.
We frequently see promotions for buying miles from Alaska Mileage Plan, Avianca LifeMiles, US Airways Dividend Miles, etc. They all consistently sell miles for less than two cents each, and given their award rates that should allow you to consistently fly business class (or maybe even first class) for less than you’d pay for premium economy.
For example, US Airways charges 90,000 miles for business class between North Asia and New Zealand. At a rate of 1.6725 cents per mile (a rate at which you can generate US Airways miles right now), that’s ~$1,500 for a business class ticket.
Meanwhile the cheapest premium economy fares I see between Taipei and Auckland are $2,500+.
Is buying miles “sustainable?”
I’d argue buying miles is as sustainable as being loyal to an airline. Airlines have created massive businesses out of selling miles, and that’s something we’ll continue to see grow over the coming years. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the evolution of alliances airlines have the opportunity to make money by selling award seats on partner airlines, and there’s no reason we’ll see that stop anytime soon.
That’s not to say award costs and rules won’t change, but at the end of the day the beauty of this community is that we can collectively stay one step ahead of the airline. 🙂
Even without access to the lucrative credit card sign-up bonuses that we have here in the US, I still think you’re better off funding your travels through buying miles as opposed to being loyal to an airline. That’s at least true if you value premium cabin travel. If you’re fine in economy the math doesn’t work out that great, but if you value premium economy at a minimum then you’re definitely best off buying miles, in my opinion.
You deserve better!