Hey all you elite fliers out there, the ones enjoying the perks of elite-hood, wish I was one of you, but as this article points out, nothing is forever, especially for us who are elite wannabes in the world of airlines.
Here's a telling quote:
"Even though these moves (putting a dollar spent amount on achieving elite status) are giving rewards-point nerds a case of heartburn, they’re fundamentally a good sign for America that shows economic recovery is underway. That’s because elite status is a way to extract some useful value out of unsold inventory.
With hotels the issue is often seasonality. You want to build enough hotel capacity to make big profits during the high season. That leaves you with extra rooms when demand is less robust. But an empty hotel room is barely any cheaper to operate than a full one, and since the cost of a hotel room is only one piece of the overall cost of a trip, it can get hard to fill rooms even with aggressive discounting.
In both cases, deploying excess inventory as giveaways to members of loyalty programs is a good way to get some value out of that excess inventory. Bumping a few passengers up to better seats or better rooms when they’d otherwise be empty has no real cost to the airline or hotel. But it does help get the frequent traveler addicted to the brand he has elite status with."
Remember me back there in the middle seat, between the crying baby, the indifferent parent, and the Sumo wrestler in my row.
Have a complimentary drink for me, and should the FF programs get even stingier and (gasp) begin to diminish the value of the program to elite flier as well, don't say I didn't warn you! Fuller planes, more money to spend, consolidation of airlines into a handful and a pricing scheme that no one understands--it's the perfect storm.
Those of us who are currently uber-level in Loyalty programs, both Lodging and Air travel, would likely say (I know I would) that upgrades are much more plentiful than in the past. I believe that these companies are making sure that their very best (active) customers are getting the upgrades, and this could be seen as a bummer for those in the next tier down that seem to be getting less and less upgrades. Yes, I would have hoped that my Lifetime status would mean free upgrades in perpetuity, but I will take gladly take them now and worry about tomorrow in the morning......I believe THAT is the sad reality.
The airlines make their profits on premium class customers and top tier loyalty members. They want to reward you as you climb the ladder but given a choice on who to please....well yeah.
Now the exception to this that I have witnessed is with soldiers traveling in uniform. I cant say for other airlines but with American, they extend them the same on board perks as the execs. Upgrades when available, priority boarding, free snacks, etc.
When the benes start to erode while I am traveling as much as I do to maintain my exec plat status with AA, I will simply cut back or just stop traveling. I make an active decision to be on the road in my job because I enjoy the travel and my family enjoys the vacations but its only worth it when the rewards justify the costs. I can see that lower tiers could have changes but I cannot see companies dorking with top tier programs as those folks generally represent a great deal of revenue. The fact that we see and hear more about these "elite" top tier programs I think just highlights that companies and members value that level of spend/commitment.
Like Shoeman, I have not had any issues in the past few years, in fact I see more and more perks at my level than before. I always buy coach class, cheapest flight I can and I have only flown coach a few times over the past 300+ flights when there was more than one class of service. Even then, I missed an upgrade on a JFK-LAX run and the crew, who recognized me from the previous 8wks on the same flight served me a meal in economy plus. I've found good upgrades in various Marriotts as well, both domestically and internationally.