Airline loyalty these days is not what it once was – frequent flyer and guest programs have changed significantly over the past ten years whereby it is much harder to earn elite status these days – and there are less benefits associated with your loyalty. Many travelers have been loyal to multiple airlines and hotels and with all of the changes being put in place with loyalty programs, many are wondering if they should be focusing only on one airline or perhaps, if their travels allow them, to continue to be loyal to multiple airlines.
Should you be loyal to more than one airline? Loyalty is a game – we always seek out the least expensive flights or hotel stays, and then see how they can earn us the most amount of miles/status/points/nights possible – whether there are promotions or elite bonuses involved, it is usually fairly easy to qualify with at least one airline and hotel for elite status.
Should You Be Loyal To Multiple Airlines?
Airline and hotel elite status qualifications are different – airlines require you to fly a certain amount of miles or segments every year plus potentially spend a certain amount of money with the airline in order to qualify for elite status. Every airline has their own requirements for different tiers in their frequent flyer program, but most airlines usually require some sort of flying (instead of just spend).
With most airlines, entry-level elite status usually starts at 25-30k miles flown each year – of course, you have to re-qualify. The entry-level elite status does not get you much other than perhaps priority check-in and boarding – usually lounge access starts at the mid-tier elite levels and above. Therefore, we believe if you are going to go for elite status with a certain airline, you should always aim for mid-to-top tier levels as they provide more benefits for your loyalty.
Why Be Loyal To Multiple Airlines?
If you are thinking about being loyal to more than one airline, make sure that your future plans will allow you to re-qualify for elite status with both airlines because it doesn’t make sense to qualify with another airline just to have elite status and then have it taken away after a year if you do not fly that airline anymore. There are several reasons why travelers might want to be loyal to multiple airlines:
- separate work travel from personal travel (your job might require a certain airline)
- have flexibility to fly more airlines and partners and then credit miles for those flights
- access to more award availability and award trip options through partnerships
- have the ability to apply your benefits on different airlines and alliances
- select flights that work best for you from different airlines and/or their partners
You should be loyal to multiple airlines if you understand their frequent flyer programs clearly and know that your future travel plans will allow you to easily qualify for elite status with both programs AND if you are going to use your elite benefits fully.
At the end of the day, every traveler has their own preferences and travel patterns and for some, splitting your loyalty across different airlines makes sense, to have access to more flights and partners around the world.
All in All
If your travel patterns allow you to fly multiple airlines from different alliances and rack up miles and elite status with multiple frequent flyer programs at the same time and you find the benefits worthwhile, then you should absolutely go for it. Being loyal to multiple airlines does open up more flights for you – whether that’s the flexibility of booking a flight that works for you best or if you want to fly one airline for your personal travel and another for work, there are plenty of benefits of having multiple elite statuses across different airlines and alliances.
The hardest part will be to re-qualify every year for elite status with multiple airlines. If you travel a lot for work and for fun, then perhaps it might be quite easy to qualify year after year. If you are unsure if you will make it, plan out your trips for the year and estimate how many miles you could potentially earn. Remember that some airlines award you status/elite miles for credit card spend – so you could consider applying for a card that will bring you closer to elite status for your everyday purchases.
You’ll always want to aim for mid-to-top tier elite status – that’s where all of the best benefits are. Entry-level elite status with airlines usually does not provide many benefits so it might not be in your best interest to fly with a certain airline to only keep qualifying for the entry-level tier. Remember that every traveler is unique, therefore everyone has a different strategy and travel pattern that works for them – always take a look at frequent flyer benefits and requirements prior to making any big changes to your loyalty strategy.