There’s been a lot of noise in the miles and points space of late. It’s been building for months, but things seemed to hit a whole new level when Delta decided to hide how much award travel should cost. Admittedly, I rarely looked at the award chart, but that’s because I tacitly know what Delta charges for award travel. I still know based on experience, and if my memory gets a little fuzzy, one doesn’t have to look very hard to find archived copies of the award charts right now. Then, there was the little note from Southwest, the airline that carries more passengers domestically than any other, that it was making a change to Rapid Rewards in April. Hey, at least they let us know.
The reaction to all this has been fairly predictable. A good bit of spleen-venting on the message boards. Some threats to do this, that, or the other, in response, etc. I am sure it offers some cathartic relief, but does it really help? I have said this a lot here, but I’ll say it again – do what’s good for you. I’d estimate my travel splits to a ratio of around 75 percent business and 25 percent personal. I live in Atlanta. I’m going to fly Delta. I’ll fly Delta, tomorrow, in fact, and I’m not even disappointed about it. But you know what? I’m also going to fly some other airlines when it makes economic sense. While I suppose one could argue that this is precisely why airlines should have loyalty programs and incentivize us to send that little bit of business their way too, I’ve come to see some of the changes that are taking place in frequent flierdom as more “freeing” than “disrespectful.” To put it another way, I’m not sure Delta (or any other airline for that matter) needs my little bit of extra business all that much at the moment, or yours, and they are acting accordingly. We shouldn’t be surprised, and I think I’ll act accordingly as well. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com)
Could business conditions change? Could airlines suddenly become desperate for us to fly them again? Sure. The question really is whether or not a newfound trait called financial and capacity discipline is a fad, or a lasting thing? History indicates the airlines will go back to their old ways because they always do. I’m a lot less convinced than some that the “good ole days” of miles by the bucket load will ever be back. But what to do about it in the meantime?
A certain amount of my travel is going to happen whether I collect a mile or point or I don’t. I will make decisions based on three criteria: 1) Convenience (which includes schedule); 2) Comfort; 3) Price. Only then, will a mile or point loyalty program come into play for me. My advice to a purely 2x or 3x a year leisure flier – if you have the time and motivation, there are sweet spots in loyalty. Credit card bonuses to be earned, and spent, etc. Other than that, for day to day spend, I wouldn’t bother worrying about earning a particular airline mile for my spend. I’d focus on one of the flexible points currencies like Ultimate Rewards, Arrival Miles, SPG points, or….wait for it…..cash, which is still king no matter what anyone says.
-MJ, February 22, 2015