6 Reasons NOT To Be Loyal To An Airline In 2017

I’ve long been an advocate for the value of airline frequent flyer programs. Historically if you put in some effort to be loyal to an airline, they reward you handsomely, with upgrades, lounge access, bonus miles, etc.

In the past I often didn’t even crunch numbers that much with my airline loyalty, since being loyal to an airline just felt right. Well, unfortunately times have changed. In some ways I don’t blame airlines for cutting loyalty program benefits a bit, though at the same time they’ve made the programs so transactional that I’m finding myself crunching numbers and wondering whether airline loyalty is even worth it anymore. In many cases, it’s not.

Here are six reasons why 2017 might finally be the year to dump elite status with your preferred airline:

First class upgrades are getting tougher to score

Perhaps the single biggest benefit of elite status is complimentary upgrades. Well, if you’ve been an elite member with an airline for many years, odds are good that you’ve found your upgrade percentage decreasing year after year. Delta even published some statistics a couple of years back regarding this — in 2011 only 31% of people paid something to sit in Delta first class, while in 2015 that number was up to 57%, and they’re hoping by 2018 it reaches 70%.

Airlines are doing everything they can to actually sell first class seats, and that’s coming at the expense of upgrades. Furthermore, we’re seeing many airlines install fewer first class seats on new planes, which reduces upgrade odds even further.

Delta-First-Class

Outright buying first & business class tickets is getting cheaper

This is related to the above. Part of the reason upgrades are getting tougher to clear is because airlines are pricing first class more reasonably, causing more people to buy it. Even as a top tier elite member with American who is entitled to unlimited complimentary upgrades, I’m often finding it worthwhile to still outright pay for first class.

I’ve frequently found myself in a situation where first class was only marginally more expensive than economy. Other times I knew I had no shot at an upgrade because first class was almost full, though they were still selling it at a reasonable cost.

This even applies to transatlantic flights. In the past year (or so) I’ve booked two transatlantic business class roundtrips from the west coast to Europe for ~$1,200 each, which is about as much as economy would have cost.

British-Airways-Business-Class

Basic economy will penalize elite members

While Delta has been offering basic economy fares for a couple of years, both American and United will be introducing basic economy fares in 2017. With basic economy, many of the cheapest fares don’t come with elite benefits, like upgrades, advance seat assignments, etc.

In other words, you’re basically having to pay a premium just to have the privilege of having a shot at an upgrade.

In some cases the cost difference from basic economy to economy is similar to the cost difference from economy to first class, in which case you may just be best off dumping loyalty and outright buying first class when it matters most to you.

American-Economy

Revenue based mileage earning & spend minimums make loyalty less lucrative

As of this year, American, Delta, and United all award miles based on how much you spend rather than the distance you fly. This greatly reduces mileage earning for a vast majority of members. On top of that, as of 2017 all three carriers will have a revenue minimum required in order to earn status.

So you’re being rewarded less for the flights you’d take anyway.

united-status-requirement

Credit cards give you some elite perks when traveling

With upgrades more difficult to come by, some might say “well I still value elite status for priority boarding, free checked bags, etc.” Well, the reality is that most major airlines now have credit cards that give you those basic benefits just for paying a small annual fee. Consider picking up one of those cards, rather than spending $3,000-12,000 per year to requalify for status with an airline.

There continues to be a lot of uncertainty

One of my biggest frustrations as an elite member has been the amount of uncertainty. We’ve seen cut after cut after cut, and we really don’t know when they’ll stop. We’re constantly staying on the status “hamster wheel” to requalify, though year after year I wonder if things will get even worse the next year. For the past five years I’d say we’ve seen a net reduction in elite benefits at most airlines year after year, so that uncertainty is another reason to dump status.

You earn status in 2017 based on certain expected benefits, but who knows which of those may be cut in 2018.

Bottom line

While I don’t fault airlines for making cuts to their loyalty program, I think they’ve taken them one step too far, to the point that they’re not worth it for many members anymore. At some point these programs go from generating incremental revenue by influencing consumer behavior, to just becoming a cost center because people collect miles but no longer make purchase decisions around them, given the lack of differentiation.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everyone should drop status. If you travel for work and your company has a preferred carrier you have to fly, you might as well continue to try and requalify for status.

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.

Have airline loyalty program changes caused you to change your behavior in terms of which airlines you fly?

Comments

  1. Lucky,

    While I understand your analysis, I think most of the items are specifically derived for non-business travelers.

    Specifically on buying business/first, basic economy, and spending thresholds.

    Most businesses do not base travel on dollar amount per se (ie. you have $1000 to spend on this ticket), rather a percentage range based on the lowest available ticket (ie. lowest available +10%). So the little upgrades that are available are still valuable.

    Businesses also don’t make their employees purchase basic economy because of all of the restrictions.

    Finally, spending thresholds are usually the least of all problems due to last minute bookings. For example, I’m well over 3x the Delta Diamond MQD threshold this year.

    Again, not “hating” on what you’ve written, I just think this is from a lens of a non-business traveler.

  2. I’ll be Platinum with AA by chance more than design, but next year will be the first time I haven’t qualified for United Premier status since 2010, going from 1K to no status, since benefits are so minimal (and since I have *G through TK through 2018).

  3. This is mostly only applicable to the North American FF programs. However, in Europe, programs are evolving and they still have the incentive to actually be very loyal.

  4. @Lucky – I had a great experience on WOW Air and now have three weekend trips to europe planned with them (at like $250 each lol). I used to care about status but now I go on the cheapest flight, with flex for up to an additional $100 for a better routing, experience etc… in the end I love travel and being a free agent actually allows me to travel more and with fewer unmet expectations. If I hadn’t let go of my love of status, I would never have had the chance to try airlines like WOW.

  5. I agree Ben and for a long time I’ve thought there isn’t much point to be loyal. Now I am not a frequent flyer but I do look at what the Carrier offers for a flight when I purchase a tkt. The money that they make now is obscene & an insult to passengers. I wouldn’t have said that a few years ago but now they will do anything to make money. I too have purchased a 1st class fare for not a lot more than Coach.It’s a good point and if I were a FF I would be loyal to my Pocketbook. Thanks as always for a great blog

  6. Maybe that is true of lesser airlines. But, I still value my Alaska 75K status an incredible amount. I get upgraded about 80% of the time. It’s mileage based, so I can still earns tons of miles on cheap tickets (especially with the 125% bonus miles and 50,000 mile kicker). And can redeem them for some fantastic awards. And overall, Alaska just makes life so much easier for 75K’s.

  7. “In other words, you’re basically having to pay a premium just to have the privilege of having a shot at an upgrade.”

    There’s not a huge difference IMO between being forced to buy a certain fare to get elite benefits and having to buy a certain fare for instrument supported upgrades to be usable which has been common for a long time.

  8. Its hard for pimp out here on the east coast
    #noalaskarepresentation.
    I agree, alaska has a real opportunity here to amass a following.

  9. I think all the points are valid. One point no one has mentioned about status is when things go sideways during a trip having status really helps. I can point to several occasions where if I had not had status I would have had a very difficult time getting a new flight. When things go south, I call the line, or jump on Twitter, and get things done much quicker than the non status folks standing in the customer service line trying to get the next flight out. When you are trying to get home after a week out of town, it is nice to be able to get a new routing quickly because my call goes to the head of the line.

  10. This post affirms my 2016 strategy. I wasn’t loyal, didn’t crunch the numbers or do a MR this year. As a result, I’m dropping out of the top tier with AA (and previously US) for the first time in 10 years and picked up low tier status on UA along the way. Even paid for some reasonable international business class and domestic F for personal travel. Still forced to buy cheapest tickets for work so planning less travel in 2017. Will have more time to work on my stories about “the good old days” of air travel.

  11. Well, Lucky profides some evidence which is hard to negate. However, I don’t see this as the beginning of the end 🙂 Looking around the globe, e.g. to Europe and Asia, the perks were fewer from the beginning. Upgrades have always been very limited, credit cards offer little to no perks, etc. And still: People are members of loyalty programs and, indeed, loyal. My take is that the US is becoming more like Europe (in this sense, at least…)

  12. I’m inclined to agree. I’ll probably try to keep Mosaic on JetBlue and let my Alaska (gold) and AA (platinum) lapse. I’d just as soon buy a first class ticket as spend half that and cross my fingers that an upgrade clears.

    However, I question how disciplined I’ll be in avoiding attractive mileage run fares. In some ways, it’s a change in lifestyle. Am I ready for that? Should I get a dog?

  13. Agree 100%. Used to be a United 1K as someone living in NJ right outside Manhattan, near EWR. Now 2016 was split between about 30% American, 30% United, 10% Delta, and 30% JetBlue for domestic travel. I had gold on UA and plat on AA left over this year (from china mistake), and yet I always felt most “elite” on JetBlue.

  14. While my upgrades on Delta do get worse and worse every year, I still get some great benefits from being a platnium member, such as:
    – free same day standby
    – customer service folks more willing to bend the rules
    – free award ticket redeposit
    – free economy comfort

    Doesn’t hurt that Delta is the best airline in NYC with reliable service, newish planes and friendly staff. I’ve purchased some great upgrades ($49 nyc-charleston) and gotten some decent biz fares ($1700 nyc-madrid) but as long as they’re better than United, i’ll keep flying with them

  15. Like many of your readers, I travel for work. I can only buy first class on flights over 2,000 miles when traveling for work. Airline status absolutely makes sense for easier security/boarding, better customer service, the ability to select premium seats, better service during irregular operations, etc. Flying with status is much better than flying without status.

  16. This post is spot on! I dropped being loyal in 2015, and just burned miles and just purchased J / F . No more stress with upgrades and saved thousands. Not only saved with air fare but also with taxi, hotels, car rentals etc.

    Thanks for another great post.

  17. As long as DL offer their horrifying redemption rates for nearly ANYTHING, I won’t bother with them. Flying to Asia via China Eastern or China Southern because those are the only saver space available ? You gotta be kidding me.

  18. As an AA Exp flyer, I recently got upgraded on 6 out of 7 segments, including SFO-JFK.
    I have used 4 SWU’s so far this year, out of 4 requests.
    I still think it is worth getting top tier with an airline if you fly a lot.

  19. You should apply the same logic to hotels. Have you ever thought about how many times you have overpaid for a hyatt or spg hotel, when there are other hotel and airbnb options available at a fraction of the price. And in the local hotels you actually get to experience the local culture more than the drab hotel lounges etc

  20. I would take it further. No point being loyal to your country too. I am sure everyone can come with 6 reasons how the USofA has screwed them and why siding with putin’s Russia makes sense. Donald already found his 6 reasons. What’s taking you so long?

    When you have that epiphany your friends in Russia will be waiting. Let’s make America “great” again.

  21. Agree, I’ve been buying business and first tickets for some time now, and certainly see little reason to prefer one U.S. based airline over another for loyalty purposes.
    And sending me a email for the privilege of “buying” status is a waste of time too.

  22. I am dropping from AA EXP for 5 years to 0 next year. I am not gonna be loyal to AA when they are not loyal to me anymore. I always had to pay more to chose AA instead of other airlines. I spect to save around $3,000 a year for choosing other carriers. Yes in the past 8 SWU and unlimited domestic upgrades etc was worth more than $3k a year for me. But this year with only 4 SWU and upgrades so scarse, and basic fares with no benefits its a bye bye.

  23. I’m MSP based and thus been forced into Delta. For years I was regularly upgraded, but I’ve had virtually none over the last two years. Meanwhile Delta continues to degrade the value of the SkyMiles program AND maintain sky-high prices to fly to major locations where there is competition from MSP, such as SFO, LAX, NYC, DCA. At this point, there is little if any value in maintaining any Delta status below Platinum, and that is borderline compared to the increased fares you pay over the year.

  24. Lucky, you’ve hit the nail bang on. I imagine that the real road warriors still find value in being loyal, as even a reduced rate of upgrades is better than nothing (and lounge access, priority boarding, etc are nice perks). But for the rest of us, who fly just a few times per year, loyalty is no longer worth it. In a way, it’s a good thing, because I no longer have to take out-of-the-way routings to gain extra miles, or take poorly timed flights. Now I just go with whichever airlines best suits my travel plans and budget.

    Fortunately, the credit card points game is still lucrative, so I’m still able to accomplish the same goal I had when I was a loyal United flier: take my family on business or first class international vacations every couple of years.

  25. Yeah I can’t wait for Norwegian and gulf carriers to expand in the US. Close to a million miles on UA but really no reason to be loyal.

  26. Totally agree. No more loyalty for me. I will simply look for the cheapest ticket no matter what airline. I’m happy with using my Chase Reserve and Citi Reserve and getting 3X on travel. Then I can those points on a variety of airlines, not just one.

  27. I’m sticking with AA for the immediate future. Back in September I made EXP after spending years at the low and middle end of elite status with various airlines. The difference now is discounted international J fares with greater EQMs. The downside is that using AA miles has become more of a challenge so I am shifting my focus on credit card spend off of airline cards. When the big changes were announced earlier this year, I looked at other FF programs but decided AA was best for my current travel needs. This may not always be the case. As for the volatility of these programs, I think we’re seeing the bottom – at least I hope so.

  28. This is great! I can not wait for 2019! to see how things are when they have enough time to back fire. Please look at it from my point. Working with HP for years they HAVE to buy seats to get the person to the destination. We have little say in it. You can not earn loyalty from a Fortune 500 company. Small bis.Well maybe more so but from a person that gets a bus. ticket and gets upset that his seat is not upgraded to first is not the one paying for it.
    That is were my view is different. I am the one that pays for my flights with my family and that is were you need to be loyal and airlines need to offer loyalty. Last week most of my family passed 200k on AA & my wife at 180k for the year.
    I have earned 20 SWU for next year. but then there is the problem. I have almost all my flights scheduled for next year. 90% NOT with AA. So later in the year when I want to use the SWU I will be at the bottom of the list. Is that loyalty ?
    This year I had 24 SWU and 50% success rate. Still have 12 left.
    We fly only for fun and adventure to were it is the best rate. I DO NOT say lets go to Hawaii unless there is a fare that is very low and I can use the loyalty I earned to enjoy the trip.
    We are doing our best to go where we really want to this coming year of 2017 with points and look to 2018 for road trips.

  29. I actually agree with your assessment and Delta, the airline your quote here, comes out with plenty of good first class fares, especially if you book it in advance. I think elite status still matters to certain extent, but what has changed is that I actually stop putting miles on my US airlines based account, except jetBlue for obvious reasons and Virgin America. I have made to AA EXP this year, but next year I concentrate on maintaining BA Gold, just because of the Emerald status. For Star Alliance, I am just just happy with Star Alliance Gold attained through TK and SQ (Once SQ cuts more F flights, I will focus on TK again). For Sky team, I don’t even bother anymore. The only valuable elite status is TrueBlue Mosaic, which gives me flexibility in cancelling and changing awards and tickets with no fee. They can certainly work on better policies with baggage (it should be additional two pieces of bags, rather than two pieces of bags regardless of fare purchases. It makes no incentive for me to buy their flex fares because it still only gives me two pieces of bags and that 5 times bonus is not attractive.) Anyway, I think most US airlines will continue to lower its premium fares in the near future just to encourage to buy F other than look for upgrades. The only airline that hasn’t adopt this cheaper F fares is Alaska Airlines. However 2017 is an interesting year and I wonder how US airlines are going to adjust their current system because they cannot afford losing too many elites too.

  30. Nick. it’s people like you who just want a ticket at the cheapest and doesn’t care about the reason behind it.

    NAI operates a flag of convience out of Dublin to avoid Norwegian taxes and laws. They use cabin crew from Asia paid at a marginal rate of what they would be forced to pay had they been based in Norway.

    NAI touts claims of opening pilot domicile a in the US. To accomplish this they are granting a temporary 2 year waiver of a pilot EASA (European pilot license). Converting a license from FAA to EASA is no easy task and requires about 2 years of hard study. Unless someone is already dual citizenship the likeliness that this will happen will be slim.

    The ME3 are all getting huge govt subsidies. They could care less about making a profit. That residence suite sure is nice when you don’t have to worry about ASM, CASM, RASM or how about shareholders.

    It’s hard to play a fair game for Us carriers when you compete against ones who don’t play by the rules.

    Look at the US carriers support of all demographics and orientations. Can that be said the same for ME3 carriers? I doubt it.

    I am all for US commerce and that is where my money will go.
    I realize most people on here will say US airlines suck and they can improve their product or stop complaining. Again it’s hard to compete when you are not on even playing grounds. Open skies was originally designed around this.

  31. Ahhhh, I couldn’t disagree more with this post. Sure first class upgrades are nice but where having elite status really kicks in for me is having access to lounges, being able to select seats, boarding first and actually being able to find bin space and best of all PRIORITY lines. If you travel a lot in Europe than this benefit holds it’s weight in gold. I have been able to make a lot of close connection due to having priority security and/or fast track.

    Besides the other perks such as free bags, waived fees, and AA Exec Plat free drink and snack in main cabin pay for themselves if you travel enough.

    Lastly, my home airports are IAD and DCA so United and Delta are almost always cheaper than American but I book American regardless due to the extra benefits as mentioned above and also if there is a cancellation and/or delay I like the fact that I can call the Exec Plat line or go to the lounge and get someone to reroute me pretty quickly as apposed to waiting in those looooooong lines and being herded around. So, elite status isn’t what it used to be but if you fly more than once per month than I would say that its still pretty valuable and worthwhile.

  32. Status is always best earned when someone else is paying for your tickets 🙂 Looking over the spreadsheet for this year, nearly all of our paid domestic flights were on JetBlue (34″ seats and Wi-Fi is all i really care about). Our international flights were all point redemptions in J or F. I’ve had status in the past and I find it wasted a whole bunch of my time and energy wondering if my domestic upgrades were going to clear.

  33. From one John to another,

    The main reason that the US airlines suck for me isn’t due to the hard product. Its the soft product that is light years behind most Asian carriers and the M3. All the US legacy carriers have decent hard products now especially in business class but the attitude of their staff is sometimes appalling.

  34. Although correct, this issue with this viewpoint is twofold – 1) we’ll have another downturn, and thus, airlines will go back to fighting for us, and their costs are going to likely only go up (fuel, labor primarily), 2) service differentiation – rebooking, cancellations and fee waivers. Plus, if using miles for redemptions ever – the earning rates at higher status. It may not be as sexy as it once was, I think we all agree, but it is not entirely out yet.

  35. Too add a bit more – first fares will eventually go up (who knows when, though my guess when fuel jumps – maybe not as bad was it once was, though still.). For those of us who do travel with a lot of luggage on occasion, the status can get that second or third bag. Then…with the harder requirements and lower benefits, there will likely be less competition in one airline in the next couple or so years (status match is great until you can’t anymore, since no one can earn as easily, then the numbers drop.)

  36. Completely agree. The lowest status on AA, United etc are useless. Remember flying back ord-ewr and i was 60 on the upgrade list. After that i just pay for business/first if reasonable or use miles for award tix in premium cabins. ZERO loyalty pays these days especially if you don’t fly with the company paying.
    Additionally the ability to “earn” miles through stacking bonus and shopping portals has eliminated the need to fly to earn miles since everything is now revenue based. What is the difference between earning 10X points shopping online and flying and earning 5X?
    The hobby has changed over the years but adapting is part of the game.

  37. Surprised no one has mentioned Southwest . I switched from UA to WN for most of my domestic flying about 5 years ago, have no plans to go back. I still value status for international travel.

  38. Agree with the first commenter about your advice through a leisure travellers lens.

    As a business traveller – basic economy and minimum spend are less of an issue, and depending on where we fly, some of us could outright book domestic first or business.

    As an AA EXP based in Asia, I do value my one world emerald status. First class lounges are nice and a step up over credit card lounges. First class baggage (and airlines that differentiate between first and business priority tags) certainly saves time. The SWUs for vacations are nice.

    5 years back, upgrades were a huge perk of status. The airlines are moving to a hotel based loyalty program. Think of the swu’s as your Hyatt suite certificates and the general corner/view upgrade as a standard economy plus upgrade. Extra points and nicer treatment is a plus. A much more balanced (but less rewarding) program and worth it for those that travel a lot, but not worth mileage running for.

  39. Those of us remote from major airports are left with what we can get.

    In that situation, loyalty does not mean a lot unless you are a business flier who must repeat a single route often (in which case, you have my greatest sympathy.)

    80% of all our departure/arrival flights are on Southwest.

    To Europe we might, for example, get a British Airways flight non-stop to LHR. Pay your own way, extra, often on SW, to PHX, SAN, LAX, DFW, ORD. Sometimes even those BA cities involve a change of planes. Alaska has only one flight a day for us (Seattle), Delta goes to ATL or SLC, Jet Blue once a day flies to JFK midnight to 5AM. With those choices and a couple more, loyalty is meaningless.

    To Asia, there is more choice, occasionally with good connections on the West Coast. But why not choose/enjoy an Asian carrier which are usually better than US carriers, often have codeshares?

  40. Before I had unconditional love to AA. Would never, ever think of flying with someone else. It made sense with upgrades, lounges, RDM and plenty of award inventory. I would pay more since benefits justified “investment”. Did that for 20 years and 2 Million miles. Now it does not make sense, no “rebate”, so off to being free agent! Whoever offers the most value.

  41. This is a great article. I’m presently sitting on an AA flight to Dallas and then on to Puerto Vallarta first class with my family of four. We bought the tickets one week ago and paid $310 one way, and it’s 8 days before Christmas. Coach is totally full and they asked for volunteers at the gate.

    Can’t help but wonder how many people much more loyal than than I were denied their upgrades tonight.

  42. I am based outside the USA ( La Habana, Cuba) and half my travels are Domestic in the USA and the other half (about 15 International trips, mostly to Europe and Asia).
    I am EXP on AA, have other status on other airlines (gold on copa, gold on etihad, gold on qatar) but the value for me is to be EXP on AA, especially when things go wrong.
    Just yesterday I was booked on OMA CLT MIA with upgrades on both flights but the first flight was cancelled. Calling the EXP telephone line within minutes I was booked (albeit much later) on OMA DFW MIA and even though there was less than 24 hours before the new flights I got upgraded on both MD 80 and 777.
    I am loyal to AA because of the service on the phone (when booking reward seats, few days ago I booked a I class on QR from BRU to COK), the agents on the phone are super nice, I do feel appreciated as they always thank me (today twice for being EXP). I am also very polite and speak English with a British accent. (I have found the latter to be enormously symbolic in USA).
    With the trip today I will become EXP for next year, so far I have still 2 unused SWU as my across the pond flights are almost always on QR and they have wonderful Business class fares.
    I have to pay my own fares, I am not on company business. I am happy to travel and I must say it is rare that I have not been upgraded with AA.
    I plan to be loyal to them, cheapest fares do not interest me unless it is for QR Business Class.
    PS For the first time, this week I will earn 500 miles for the short flight between Miami and Havana.

  43. Obviously your post is targeted to US followers. I think most of the poinst you’ve made do not apply to people living in other countries. For example, in Brazil we do not have a devoloped market for airline branded credit cards. No credit card offers any kind of perks such as status or waived fees. Our airlines only offer economy on domestic flights, so upgrades are not an issue for us (yep, no business or first class on domestic flights in a country as big as Brazil). So, in some ways loyalty is still interesting for us.

  44. Well said. With the vast availability of budget premium travel, sticking to one alliance is clearly an uniformed move.

  45. When I crossed 1 million miles with Delta a few years ago I received 12 system-wide upgrade coupons and a bunch of other goodies including a gift cert. for Tiffany’s. Recently crossed three million and the best they could offer was 40,000 bonus miles (not even medallion qualifying). Flew Hainan a couple of times this year because of very low priced business class and found I could get Alaska miles. May concentrate on Alaska in the future but waiting to see if they go 100% into the One World camp.

  46. Why are some addicted to apologizing for this airgreedfest.
    The mergers sent US air travel back to the Stone Age. US air travel is shameful. On many routes their is a duopoly-just looking at WINTER fares from Chicago to PHL-you can suffer on United or American (or take a connecting flight with a couple of the other crudster aircos that takes you hundreds of miles our of the way.). Using UAL/AA you will pay between $250-$300 the price is a s nakedly fixed as nakedly fixed can be.
    There used to be-wonderfully for the consumer-cut throat competition, lots of seats on most routes, and efforts to woo customers.
    Now, I avoid air travel whenever I can. It is like being slapped in the face and humiliated-you pay a high fare, get no miles or perks, and have to beg for a seat on a packed cattle car flying at the times of the cartels choosing through jammed, filthy hubs.
    Pretty funny to see Wall Street making these appeals to patriotism (Don’t fly WOW etc.) as they mercilessly bleed the US public dry-THEY turned air travel into an utterly painful ordeal so they can make BILLIONS in profits a QUARTER.
    Looks like the US is going to embarrass itself by preaching to the world again starting in January.
    DO AMERICANS NOT KNOW THAT IN EUROPE, ASIA AND SOUTH AFRICA, ouir air travel oligopoly makes the United State a laughingstock.

  47. If you fly internationally a lot, loyalty may still be worth it for much better lounges than credit cards can get you access to especially outside the US. In fact while the co-branded credit cards and stuff might get you waived fees and some priority services on US airlines, I’m not sure you get any of those flying on their European and Asian partners, but your perks remain if they are from status.
    For that matter, if you’re a student (no regular income) or live in countries without the US travel credit card market, there isn’t as much of a chance to earn miles from general spend, and transfer them to whichever airline to redeem. In this case, loyalty helps a lot because you earn more miles (sometimes twice as many) with status than you do without. If this is your main way of earning miles, might certainly be worth it.
    Others have mentioned IRROPS, but even beyond that just general customer service is incredible. I often pay for premium fares outright but still remain loyal to one airline/alliance for the reasons above and when stuff goes wrong they really do bend the rules for you. I have been rebooked for free twice this year after I missed flights by arriving at the airport too late. I highly doubt they would do that for someone without status, F/J or not. On one of these was rebooked from one partner airline to another for free (had status with a third in-alliance partner), and all because I underestimated traffic en route to JFK. It’s lovely to be able to pay for F and J outright as prices drop, but I find there are still perks to doing so on one airline.
    That said, if I had one of these points earning credit cards, I probably would agree with you. In that case you can get lounge/priority stuff by paying for premium cabins, and still have enough miles to redeem on any airline you want because of 3X points on travel and the like.

  48. I’ve been top tier of different programs in the US, Europe and Asia for the last 15 years but will be making no efforts in 2017 to retain any of that. Inter-continental business class tickets are cheaper than ever before (quite often on ME3) and I see no need to maintain status on any airline.

  49. @John No actually it’s people like you who want to put in protectionist measures to ‘Make America great again’ who are going to bring us all down. There is already a lack of competition among US airlines. Why do you think they have stripped so many benefits out of their loyalty programs. Because they know we have nowhere to go. Competition from anywhere is good and healthy.If US airlines have treated their frequent customers with such disdain that they have no reason not to try the cheapest competition then they get what they deserve.

  50. Nick. Really..take a look at the US shipping industry..What has happened to it due to flag of convince? It has been decimated and all but disappeared. How can there be healthy competition when the playing fields are never level.

    Competition from anywhere is good and healthy? Are you serious? If and when your job gets outsourced to China, India, wherever just remember that protectionist measures are bad and all competition is good competition. Fair competition is good. Unfair competition is not. It is very simple to understand.

    I don’t consider 6 major airlines a lack of competition.
    UAL,Delta, AA, SWA, Alaska, JetBlue.

    Simple fact is one time there was a way to scam the airline system to maximize your mileage, and thus upping your status thereby maximizing your upgrades on the cheap. Pretty much what this whole blog is about…
    Well guess what times have changed and now that the airlines are wise and modified benefits you want to throw a fit because you can’t get your “automatic free upgrade” anymore. Might want to step off your “over entitled soap box” and come back down to earth with the rest of us.

  51. Status is critical for getting a fully paid J on business heavy routes out of no-competition hubs… think early morning hongkong-beijing on Cathay / Dragonair or returning on Friday 4:30pm or 6:30pm… you can’t even buy a full fare business or first the day before if you haven’t got status… forget changing flights.. and pray snowstorm/ sandstorm does not mess up the flights…

    Cathay started tiered redemption rates in F for HKG-LHR… so finally they have made it somewhat worthwhile to maintain status…

    But J on other airlines are indeed much cheaper and more interesting….

  52. Please stop saying there is competition-in many, probably most, markets it has collapsed.
    You see two airlines with a pretty rigidly fixed price in a lot of places. Just looking at Philly Chicago, a 90 minute flight and in January, February and March-the middle of winter-the fare is as fixed as fixed can be-You can taken UnitedAmerican Airlines for a minimum of $250 found trip (frequently $300 or more.). Your other option is to go through Boston to save $20. What criminality.
    And going into the new year, it appears that the so-high crap carriers (HCC’s) have done a deal to
    collude with the Rip Off Carriers (ROC’s.)
    The meters were one of the biggest ripoffs of the American consumer in US history.
    We nee a dedicated Special Prosecutor for the Airlines to probe the dirty deals that have been done and are
    ongoing. Just look at the proven corruption with the Port Authority of NY and NJ and United, for example.
    Wall Street can’t stop itself from pigging out-look at the subprime crisis where they almost took the whole county down-and now they are doing a shambolic “Fly an American carrier campaign”as the bleed their hostages-the flying public-dry.

  53. I see no problem in 250-300 for round trip ord-phl. I have paid more for that for most of these flights iah-msy, iah-vct, iah-cll, iah-act, iah-ile, an those are shorter flights of 30 mins or less. Is that criminal? no. I value my time so I prefer not to drive. So don’t come on here preaching corruption for charging what most people would consider reasonable fo 2 big market cities. Try driving Ord-Phil and then see if 250-300 sounds like a good deal. Air travel isn’t a necessity. You aren’t entitled to 69.00 dollar round trip first class. You have the option to drive. But you feel that you are entitled to a cheap fare wherever you want to go. Sorry Charlie but that isn’t how business works. I swear I would love to go back prior to deregulation and then listen to some of you complain. I’m sure you are not even old enough to remember or care. Perhaps we should as I would love the return of civility of air travel.

    I believe that port authority flight scandal has been resolved, fines issued, and flight removed.

  54. I Checked ita matrix Jan 3-10. Ord-Phil. AA and UAL direct around 250. Delta and JetBlue 1 stop around 250. Seems like competition to me. Oh didn’t even look at SWA,out of midway so there is 5 airlines. I think you,need a cup of shut up and quit complaining.

  55. I’m a United 1K flyer (my 7th year) and I have to disagree with the upgrades being harder to come by. It’s very rare when I DON’T get upgraded. That being said, what does bother me is that after reaching 1K status I’m awarded with 6 GPU’s which are nice, but then I have to pay a higher fare to use them. What’s up with that? I feel like I’m penalized for reaching the status and wanting to use the certificate. I personally do not think there should be any certificates for 1K flyers. I would then be willing to simply pay a little bit of a premium for the 1st/business class upgrade for flying overseas.

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