Is airline elite status really worth all the fuss?
Updated: Nov 30, 2018
As an international business frequent flyer, you're undoubtedly a member of multiple airline frequent flyer programs. But, is earning 'elite' status with airlines really that necessary or beneficial as it was just 5 years ago?
For years business travelers and travel aficionados alike reaped the benefits of frequent flyer programs. The formula was simple: fly a lot = earn a lot. Of miles and elite status levels that is. Some of the benefits include:
> Priority check-in
> Priority baggage handling
> Priority boarding
> Lounge access
> Preferred seating
> Complimentary upgrades
> Priority phone line
All cool and 'exclusive' perks that do amount to a lot of value if used often. Most airline programs used to reward flyers for miles flown, so international business travelers in particular (because of the increased earnings of business and first class cabins) and folks who purchased cheap international fares and flew them just for the flight distance were rewarded big time.
Then, airlines caught up and changed things around. Now, flyers earn miles at the rate that they spend money, regardless of the distance flown. I flew to China on multiple occasions last year on pretty cheap fares from the US west coast at around $500. So for a much longer trip, I earned the same as I earned on say a transcontinental US flight. That's a fail, granted I understand where airlines are coming from.
The problem is that by spending the same amount of money, we're now rewarded less. For instance, if you're an airline elite:
> How often have you been upgraded recently?
> How many times have you walked on your layover to your lounge only to find it closed because it's too crowded?
> How comfortable exactly is that 'economy plus' or 'premium economy' in your domestic segments?
Adiós, perks and benefits!
All of these benefits have gone down the drain. Airlines have figured out how to make money all sorts of ways, like up-selling the upgrade that otherwise would have been yours, or by selling a credit card (hint, hint!) with lounge access to that guy who entered the lounge right before they closed it and you got stuck trying to work at the gate.
You as an international business frequent flyer perhaps will argue against changing what you're doing because someone else is paying for your ticket. Your business class tickets are also more pricey, so you're still earning a decent chunk of miles, along with your qualifying miles for elite status. From your perspective, you lose even more perks if their company stops either flying them on premium cabin or flying altogether. But is that how you should look at it?
The success of your company is your success. The savings of your company could potentially result in your own growth, in your own performance bonus, in your own benefits. So you tell me, between spending north of $3,000 for a business class ticket with elite level perks and spending under $500 for the same seat and the same perks, which one would you choose for your company? It's a no-brainer. Points and miles can do this for your and any other organization.
But do YOU need to lose in this equation? Absolutely not! In your personal life, you use the same balancing tool that your organization is using to save money, while still reaping elite level perks: points and miles. Which now you can earn from your office and not by travelling, with the use of business credit cards.
So how can organizations leverage travel loyalty programs to their advantage through the use of business credit cards? I will discuss this in a future post.
You can also schedule a free consultation for your organization here.