Hotel and airline loyalty programs were designed to promote loyalty to the particular brand. Unfortunately it seems more and more, most programs do not actually promote loyalty and actually even punish it. Most hotel and airline loyalty programs now have switched over to revenue based. This means points and perks are based mostly on how much you spend versus how much you fly or stay.
Most business travelers don’t even pick the airline they fly or hotel hey stay, its done for them based on many factors. This is NOT loyalty, its business. Most companies pick flights based on refundable fares or cancel-able rooms, which is usually more expensive. In my opinion loyalty is spending $50 more dollars on Delta over American or United because you are loyal. Loyalty means driving 3 and a half hours to Dallas from Oklahoma city to fly a good deal from Delta when its cheaper from your home airport on another airline. Furthermore, loyalty is changing your travel plans and staying in another city to stay at a SPG property, or planning your trip around aspiration SPG properties. This is loyalty.
Now I understand that these companies are ultimately businesses and need to make money, but the thing is they are making boat loads of money and in many cases more than they ever have. To make changes now that are ultimately to penny pinch is ridiculous because in the end it will erode loyalty, in a time they are doing very well. Right now the travel industry doesn’t really need loyalty , but the pendulum always swings and it’s going to cost more in the end to rebuild loyalty when, ultimately they will need to do it again. If the travel industry , particularly the airlines wpuld stop devaluing their loyalty programs now, when times are harsh, they will have a built-in cushion on loyals, but as things are going, they will be scrambling for loyals and pouring money at us to get us back, costing more!
Even in hotels, although it’s still much easier for us leisure travelers, there are still many changes that are leading in the wrong direction. little things like lounges being closed on the weekend at many SPG and Hilton properties, where elites and paid executive/club level guests, get free breakfast and evening cocktails etc. Many hotels close these after the business folks go home, which is basically saying to us leisure travelers, we aren’t as important.
Luckily , most hotel loyalty programs still have a night or stay requirement versus a spend requirement like airlines do, but I’ve seen indications some are itching to change this. Lets hope not.
As you may have noticed lately, US airlines have really been in a PR MESS! For the last few years , all 3 of the big 3 US carriers ( American, United and Delta) have made many negative changes, not to promote loyalty, but to save them money. Keep in mind, all three loyalty programs are profitable in of themselves. Thats right, the actual loyalty program makes them money, it does not cost them. This comes as a surprise to many that would think it would be a cost to them. Because of credit card licensing deals, selling miles to hotels and other “partners” , the fact that many people never redeem points, etc , mean they make money from a loyalty program that they keep devaluing. This too is changing, since American Airlines (my former loyalty program) gutted their program a year ago, and before, the value and profit of their loyaty program has gone down. American Airlines AAdvantage used to be the gold standard, and everyone wanted to collect miles from them, but they have made it now, that no-one wants anything to do with it.
With all this said, one has to ask, if you make money from a program that produces loyalty , and when you make cuts to it, and loyalty and value go down, then why would you cut it? Are airline executives so short sided? Do they only care about the current day? This must be the case! In mine, and many others opinions, the changes will ultimately hurt them.
Now we have all the bad press about United dragging an elderly Doctor off a plane because they needed the seat for an employee , and more from Delta and American, can airlines keep going with some of the worst customer service in history, and on top of that , no incentive for a person to fly them over another? I don’t think so, but I guess they must learn the hard way.
All this is bad for us leisure travelers in the short-term, but as I said the pendulum usually always swings back. Especially from such drastic changes. In a few years or less we may see Loyalty programs begging us to come back.
Its sad, because I am die-hard loyal to a few programs. SPG is my primary hotel program, and if it wasnt for me burning IHG, and Hilton points right now, I usually stay them almost always. I speak well of them on here and on social media, and to all my friends or anyone that will listen. I can honestly say I personally have persuaded many of my friends to be loyal SPG people. This is Loyalty! If SPG changes with the ongoing merger, then what happens if a bunch of people like me stop doing that? Word of mouth loyalty is very powerful!
I am also loyal to Delta this year, although I have many gripes with them, they are the best of the big 3 , (although that’s not too high of a bar). I may not re-qualify for platinum this year because I do not spend a lot on airfare, and even though I have a home in Mexico ,Delta seems to not want to change my address (foreign addresses don’t have spend requirement), this I need to talk to my attorney over, and I will, but I shouldn’t have to. Loyal passenger and loyal guest should be rewarded, NOT just business travelers that spend alot and could care less or have little control over who they pick.
If you just google “airline loyalty: you can see many articles and posts about this.
Thanks for reading!