I’ve read a bit more of the reaction around the blogs and boards about the sudden changes made by American AAdvantage a couple days ago. Let’s start our conversation with a comment I made on the Points, Miles, and Martinis blog the other day. Words in parenthesis are added by me after the fact.
“I have a few thoughts on this topic set to post in about 15 minutes. I, for one, am not surprised by the changes themselves, but am surprised by the timing and the way they were introduced. While I continue to consider an AAdvantage mile to be superior to a SkyMile, this change narrowed the gap a bit. A lot of people will jump on the blame Parker bandwagon, and some of the emotion will be predictable (I should have said understandable too). No matter what, AAdvantage was going to change a bit….as is the new American. The question is, just how much? AAdvantage remains my favorite program for the foreseeable future, even if I don’t fly AA that much anymore. I still hold quite a few miles between US and AA….but you can bet that I won’t sit on them for very long. Which takes me back to a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately – is it time for some of us to break up with elite status, miles (I should have elaborated here), and focus on cash (maybe) and the proprietary points programs like UR?”
As I said yesterday, AAdvantage should have done a better job of communicating this. There are a lot of people that view this merger with trepidation, and missteps like this do not help assuage any fears. Overall, the changes that were announced were not that far out of line with anyone else. What happened here was a failure to communicate, and as I said yesterday, I think AAdvantage deserves the benefit of the doubt in that regard. But all of that is neither here nor there.
I joined my first mileage program in 1987, the Piedmont Airlines Frequent Flyer Bonus Program. The next one I joined was American AAdvantage in 1991. I’ve used miles to experience things I never would have experienced otherwise. I’m grateful for the opportunities they’ve afforded me in the past, and I’m sure I will experience in the future. Yes, there is a future. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but I have reached the conclusion that is time to break up with the old idea of loyalty when it comes to the airline mileage programs. I read a lot of comments that end with something like “loyalty is a two way street.” Really, it isn’t. It’s a one-way street and the “one” in this should be you. Do what’s good for you.
Take advantage of the big bonus offers when you can. While it took me a minute on my example, one should probably go for the big offers as they come around and your personal situation allows – think 100,000 AAdvantage miles for the Citi AAdvantage Executive card. Take advantage of all the miles offers you can as long as you aren’t going into debt to do so. Diversify. Elite status only matters if you fly enough miles to earn it without going too far out of your way to get it, and/or a high percentage of your travel is contractually obligated to a certain carrier. Right now, that fits my travel patterns. The minute it doesn’t, I change the way I fly and collect miles.
In the end, a take from a line in the movie Wall Street seems to apply here – “never get emotional about stock.” My advice – never get emotional about miles. Coming soon – the whatnot in all this, cash and the other rewards programs.
-MJ, April 10, 2014