There has been a lot of turmoil in the world of frequent traveler loyalty in the last year or so. Beginning with minimum spend requirements for elite status, and growing into revenue based mileage earning along with higher redemption costs. I don’t think we’re anywhere near stability in the near term either. One of the phrases I hear uttered most often in the aftermath of any change to a traveler’s favorite loyalty program is “loyalty is a two-way street.”
I suppose, in the most romantic sense, loyalty should be a two-way street, I just happen to think times have changed in the miles and points world. I’ve opined on more than one occasion that the things we see happening now are a predictable outcome for mileage programs created in the 1980s when 65 percent load factors were a phenomenal year. The airlines know that too. However, this hasn’t stopped them from selling miles by the ton, but that’s a conversation for another day.
For me, loyalty has become a one-way street. I’m loyal to me. As you know, I fly Delta more than anyone else and as long as I live where I live, I will continue to do so. Delta runs a good airline, I’m rarely inconvenienced when flying them, I like the Delta people I deal with, and frankly, I feel well cared for as a Platinum Medallion. As an ex-airline guy, and an avid follower of the industry, I respect what they’ve done with their airline. SkyMiles issues aside, flying Delta is the best thing for my time and sanity as long as I’m traveling the amount that I am. However, I will not pay significantly more to fly the airline just for the outside chance of an upgrade or a few more miles in my account. Elite benefits are worth some amount of money per trip for me, but if I can save a hundred bucks flying someone else, I will choose loyalty to myself, not an airline.
I’ve diversified my mileage and points balances with other programs. However, with exceptions for focusing on the minimum spend to hit the occasional credit card bonus, I focus my routine spending on Ultimate Rewards and Barclays Arrival earning. Cash back taunts me a bit, but I’m not quite there yet because I’m always finding good uses for more UR points and Arrival miles. Membership Rewards is a good option for many as well, they’re just not a focus of mine at the moment.
In the end, I think it’s time to break up with old ideas and notions about miles and points. They still hold value, and when opportunities arise like the much mentioned 100K Citi Executive AAdvantage offer, jump on them if it makes sense for you. Make loyalty a one-way street.
-MJ, April 18, 2014