In the move Ferris Bueller’s Day off he says: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” What a great quote and one those of us who love travel live by. We get out there and enjoy all this big blue marble has to offer.
But at the same time how we do that is ever changing and airline loyalty is moving as fast as the 500MPH jets we fly on. It seems if you listen to bloggers, everyone is giving up on loyalty for 2018. Take a look:
- Confession: I Just Checked My 2017 American Elite Mileage Total For The First Time. “The end effect is that I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to earn airline status anymore.” – Ben, One Mile at a Time
- Why I’m Jumping Off the AA Elite Status Hamster Wheel. “Bottom Line – I think AA has cut too far to the bone with its loyalty program, and smart travelers — including the premium ones the carrier is trying to get — have way better options out there.” – Brian, The Points Guy.
- Breaking Up with American: A Frequent Flying Budget Traveler’s Dilemma. “After years of being loyal to them and the Oneworld alliance, paying extra for flights to ensure I kept my status, and championing them on the web, it’s time to face the truth: they’ve ruined their once-stellar loyalty program and given me (and basically everyone else) no incentive to fly them over any other (crappy domestic) airline.” – Nomadic Matt.
WoW – right! These are some mega bloggers and they are one and all giving up going for TOP airline status. I thought about switching to AA at one point but saw the writing on the wall that they were going to utterly gut and destroy their one major asset, the frequent flyer program, and that has proven so true. Why would anyone fly such a constantly delAAyed and sub-par airline as AA when you could fly Delta? – ZING! 😉
But that brings us around to Delta. What about Delta? When you look at the fact that Delta wants to sell 20×2020 that is to only have 20% of 1st class seats open for upgrades by 2020, is there any reason to chase status with Delta anymore? Or, will Delta not simply sell every single 1st class seat so “upgrades” will become the almost meaningless C+ seats (that are no bigger or better than the rest of coach) and only sometimes offer more perks than coach? I think both yes and no. Let me explain.
WFBF! (want first buy first)
Those who fly often and for business tend to pay a ton and buy only weeks or days out. They often pay a hefty premium even for coach travel. But here is the thing, by paying so much the price difference between coach and 1st can become very small. Delta has sold 1st class upgrades for under $10 in the past (yeah, that cheap). Thus a business traveler may see the buy upgrade as a no brainer (I would, for that kind of price). Bottom line is, flying on a Monday or a Thursday means your chance for an upgrade is going to be even more slim than it was before, and before it was VERY slim to begin with.
But business travelers are not just cheap. They often can justify a reasonable expense for an upgrade if it means they can get work done and have the space to do that. Or, they may want to be able to change flights and the fee to change vs. the cost to upgrade the ticket and then change free under the new 1st class ticket rules may make the upgrade a logical financial and business choice. Either way Delta can charge more and some will pay for this and especially so when the business fliers company is the one picking up the cost.
FCM = Your status matters little.
So back to the question on status. If you are a domestic flyer and fly for business and many times are just buying up to 1st class why chase status at all? Just get a co-branded Delta AMEX card (with a mega LTO offer right now btw) for many of the exact same perks you need when not booked in 1st class. Simple right? But I see something “funny” happening moving forward.
Leisure travelers – Time for you to chase status.
Err what? But why? There are many perks of status that extend beyond upgrades. For example, some like holding at least Platinum status for the perks of award travel flexibility. Others, even though they don’t fly each week, find flying Skyteam a few times a month merits holding some status level (say GM+) for those perks and features. Plus, with the +1 upgrade change many who are just a couple can enjoy amazing perks. But there is more!
Due to the changes already talked about, above upgrades are going to be harder and harder – but not always. When a business traveler flies as an individual on a Friday or Saturday I seriously doubt they would be as willing to fork over hundreds of dollars for an upgrade for themselves and their entire family when they are the ones paying out of pocket. Think about the big picture here. You have on off-peak times lots of open 1st class seats and no one willing to “pay-to-play” for the upgrades. To me this screams that, moving forward, leisure travelers could really enjoy the perks of elite status and maybe even top status. I find this just fascinating to think about!
I personally have my Delta Diamond status all set for 2018. I will, with rollover MQMs, Delta AMEX card spend, and flying in 2018 quickly reach Diamond again for all of 2019 and likely be set for 2020 as well if my flying patterns do not change. That is more than long enough to see if, by that point, it is worth keeping my Delta status any longer. My travel is a mix of business and personal (about 50-50) and I often have the flexibility to avoid flying on peak days and times to maximize my upgrade chances. I will clearly keep doing this in the current up-sell environment.
What do you think? Are you giving up on Delta or other airline status this year? Do you see my point that soon leisure travelers will benefit the most in the current sell-sell-sell world of 1st class upgrades vs complimentary “free” upgrades? Let me know in the comments below! – René