If you’re unhappy with your loyalty program, join the club. So is William Beeman, a Delta Air Lines frequent flier who’s been trying to score an upgrade from San Francisco to Geneva after surgery to reattach his quadriceps at the knee.
Trying and failing.
For him, the process feels like a bait-and-switch. To avoid being wedged into a Lilliputian economy-class seat for 14 hours, Beeman says he worked hard to earn elite status on Delta. But when he tried to redeem his miles for an upgrade, the airline wanted even more. Read more “Are new loyalty programs fair to travelers?”
It may be too early to write the obituary for frequent-flier mileage runs — those legendary year-end flights that offer a shortcut to an airline’s coveted “elite” status — but it’s easy to see the end from here.
With Delta Air Lines and United Airlines tightening their loyalty program rules in 2014 to require more spending in order to get singled out for special treatment, many of these frivolous round trips could vanish after this winter.
It’s time to question one of the most basic tenets of travel: Everyone should participate in an airline loyalty program.
A tectonic shift in the world of travel rewards is forcing passengers to reconsider their allegiances — or whether it’s worth being loyal at all. Given the already hopelessly convoluted nature of these programs, I’m surprised it took so long.
Frequent fliers have been hardest hit. In recent months, both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines revised their programs so that only the biggest spenders get the best perks. Soon, flying often won’t be enough to reach an airline’s coveted elite status. Expect more companies to follow.