Delta Air Lines, the airline that loves to destroy loyalty and has the world’s worst frequent flyer program, once again proved to loyal flyers this week that they have no reason to participate in SkyMiles – after announcing a series of negative changes, Delta has once again shown the airline world that they only care about one thing: your money. With so many airlines announcing negative changes to their loyalty programs in the past few years, many are wondering… what are the benefits of not being loyal to an airline or hotel?
Frequent Flyer/Guest Program Loyalty is Addicting
Participating in a frequent flyer or frequent guest program is addicting – rather than flying nonstop when you want, you might actively seek out a flight with a connection on your preferred airline, to earn more miles or just because that airline is “your” airline – we use emotion rather than logic to justify our reasoning. I know I do this too. Being loyal to an airline or hotel is addicting – we always look for the best deals that will earn us the most amount of miles for the least amount of cash.
Year after year, we aim to re-qualify for our favorite airline or hotel elite status and we might even take unnecessary flights or book hotel stays that we don’t actually need, just to qualify yet again for elite status which, theoretically, is supposed to be worth it for the perks offered. Is elite status still worth it? It really depends on how much you travel and what benefits and perks you maximize.
Loyalty Can Cause Us to Miss Out
Loyalty can cause us to actually miss out on experiences in life – we might always stick with one hotel chain and refuse to stay somewhere else, even if a non-chain hotel provides better value and is nicer. When I’m done with qualifying for the year with my hotel chain, I generally book local hotels on Expedia – those that are more boutique and not affiliated with any major company. And lately, I’ve had better experiences at smaller hotels than when staying at a major hotel where I’m top-tier elite.
The same goes for flying – if you are loyal, you will generally fly your desired airline even if it is more expensive, involves a connection, or has a flight time you don’t want. Since you are loyal, you would rather fly your preferred airline instead of a nonstop flight on another airline where you don’t have any status – even if that nonstop flight fits your plans perfectly.
Benefits of Not Being Loyal
What happens if we ditch loyalty completely? Sounds scary, right? We suddenly end up with no status, no perks, and travel like the rest of the public. It doesn’t sound fun to no longer receive priority check-in, screening, boarding, or preferred seating. However, airlines have gotten much better at pricing things like priority boarding and upgrades for more reasonable fees than in the past.
For example, in the past, domestic First Class was extremely expensive and therefore it usually was filled with complimentary elite upgrades. These days, however, First Class is much more reasonably priced and comes with most of the benefits that elite status has – what if instead of having status, you upgraded to First Class when it made sense to you? Sure, it might sound expensive – but if you are taking a few mileage runs anyway, ditching those and ditching status may actually save you money.
The biggest benefit of not being loyal to an airline is, of course, being able to select and fly an airline based on the cost and the time schedule that works for you. You might also fly an airline over another because the flight doesn’t involve a connection or a flight might have your preferred aircraft type. When you aren’t loyal to one company, you suddenly have more choice and are able to select what works best for you, with logic rather than emotion.
Another huge benefit of non-loyalty, is it can save you money – we no longer have to chase elite status and book more expensive fares or stay at chain hotels just to get those miles or nights. Non-loyalty encourages you to use logic and save money, and of course, book the flight or hotel that works in your favor.
You Can Still Participate in Loyalty Programs
Even if you aren’t loyal to one airline or hotel, you should still participate in loyalty programs to collect miles for flights or points for hotel stays – it costs nothing to do this and you can potentially still use these rewards up in the future, when it makes sense. You can have multiple airline and hotel accounts and simply credit flights and stays to each of those programs – you may not build up enough to have elite status, but you can still use miles or points in the future for flights or stays.
You should still use a credit card that earns points with transferable bank programs – you can then move those points to airlines or hotels that make the most sense to you and offer the best value. This is the case whether you are loyal or not, always use a credit card that gives you multiple ways to use points instead of them being tied to one program.
All in All
With airlines constantly changing the rules of frequent flyer programs – including elite status requirements and benefits offered, many are wondering if loyalty still makes sense – especially if you do not qualify naturally with all of your flying. There are benefits to both being loyal and not being loyal – while it is nice to receive perks on every trip, it is also nice to be able to select an airline based on your preference. The only one who is able to make the determination of whether or not to continue with loyalty to a specific program is you.. be sure to carefully analyze your travel patterns and make the call on what will work best for you in the future.