Why are there no songs with lyrics like "when I was old...?" The recent discussions about millennials got me to thinking (with lots of song lyrics in my mind, including the Animals, Frank Sinatra, Exordium's In the Year 2525, etc.
Zager And Evans - In The Year 2525 Lyrics | MetroLyrics). We travel differently at different ages, and as technology evolves (or devolves, depending on one's point of view) we want and need different things.
To make a long story, short, when I first started traveling abroad in the late 1980s and 1990s, I was a grad student then assistant professor on a basic salary (depending where I was), and I still couldn't travel much since I had no money of my own or research grants. It started to change when I taught for a few years at Wellesley and Harvard, but they were minimal travel grants (like 1/3 of a plane ticket to Europe). When I got the tenure-track and tenured job at Colby everything started to change, but it was worse before it was better. While I was still in Boston, I not only taught at one/two colleges, but also worked full time at Mass Gen Hospital. So Colby actually made my financial situation much worse since I couldn't work other jobs.
Fortunately they gave grants of $3000 a year for research (which has pretty much remained the same). There were not euros in the 90s so it was easier, but now it's not and the euro is worth more than 1.37 times the dollar. So that's partially where I come to the stages of life.
- When we start out we do what we can and hopefully are as savvy as possible (for me that meant Delta and first Hilton then Marriott loyalty programs)
- This works till it doesn't -- it worked a long time, I have to admit, especially with Delta
- One reaches elite status in one or more programs, and expectations increase based on what one has received in the past
- People become loyal. It is a part of their being to rack up miles and points even when it is inconvenient (I did this both with Delta and Marriott)
- People get really elite status and think wow, I'm important -- until they're not
- FAST FORWARD to 2012-2014 with diminishing rewards and possibilities on both airlines and hotel programs
- DECISION TIME -- stay or leave?
I left Marriott (though never MRI) about two years ago. I have had about 2-3 total hotel nights in Marriotts in the past two years. I remained loyal to Delta throughout because they'd remained loyal to me. Suddenly they are not acting that way any more. The dollar has trumped the passenger. My letters remain partially answered, mostly not (and AMEX has been worse than Delta).
I think I finally got some messages through to Amex corporate heads today, attaching the Delta letter stamped EXECUTIVE PRIORITY, adding in my message(s) that it was a shame it is impossible to contact Amex via email despite one's status level.
All of this brings me back to the point that when I was very young, these were very good deals. But as I have gotten older, as the deals have decreased in value, as the costs have gone up, I have found my voice in many ways. I no longer stay at a hotel chain, but do get serious loyalty benefits, mostly through hotels.com. What I do with Delta largely depends on what Delta does with me. If they continue the path to 2015, I will use my Platinum Medallion Elite Plus status to burn up my more than 500,000 miles in the next year in order to get the best seats. If they consider changes in policy, so will I.
As for Amex, I'm done, unless I get a major apology, clarification about Skyteam Clubs, and what I get for my huge annual payment.
When you get older, you need more amenities, like comfortable seats on planes, comfortable beds and pools in hotels, and recognition that at least you have been loyal. That never mattered to me when I was young -- I was simply happy to be in places i'd never been.'
But now the days grow short, I'm in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs, and it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year
As you no doubt know, Delta just changed its FF program so you get less miles for flights, and it takes more miles to get a FF ticket. You can do much better redeeming FF on American if you are flexible about travel dates, and AA has a credit card through Citi with better perks. Plus, in my opinion, AA has an advantage hubbing through DFW and ORD instead of MSP and ATL. I haven't had much luck with United but will still take UAL westbound through DEN if convenient. UAL does have a good credit card with perks such as United Club passes. But UAL is not so good at being on time. That's one thing Delta does better. As for Marriott, as long as I get CL access, I'm a happy camper.
I've posted a lot about my feelings about Delta, especially as a loyal very high elite member for decades. It all worked till this past year. But I doubt American will be better -- I think it will follow the lead, as United did. I don't fly at all in the US -- only to continental Europe, so AA is not as useful to me because I need the Skyteam alliance or some equivalent airline. But as I broke my ties with Marriott (at least in terms of staying at its properties), I will book flights after I use up my half a million miles next year on consolidator sites, which have been wonderful for me with hotels.
Have you tried any of the Asian or Middle Eastern airlines? I keep hearing anecdotal evidence that some of them have superior service, routes, food, etc. I have not traveled on any, though. Most of my flights have been/are in North America or Europe and involve US-based carriers or British Airways.
Great post profchiara! It is sad, but true... the dollar is mightier than the loyalty. While I continue to hang on to my programs American, Hawaiian, Marriott, it becomes harder and harder to stay. But with lack of income, as you experienced at my stage, it's hard to break away. Free travel is the only way I can afford to travel after all, and there still are some ways to manipulate the system in my favor. Though how long those will remain has yet to be seen. Still contemplating jumping ship to another chain... but I do want to at least achieve lifetime gold here.
That was exactly my experience when I was young. The first several trips to Paris (except when I lived there from 1985-87 with my ex and we had an apartment) I stayed at fleabag hotels in the Latin Quarter that cost the equivalent of $20 a night without a private bathroom and often a 7 floor walk-up. In my mid 40s I graduated to loyalty programs for the very reasons you suggest. But now that I'm 62 and am paid well, I want something more -- especially as loyalty programs are cutting back so much.
Wow, that's really roughing it! The Mrs. would never go for that... She's a fan of full service hotels. Can't blame her, but it hurts the wallet, especially when money is lacking to begin with
I agree though. You had the struggles and now it's time to be rewarded. If not by Marriott, then someone else. Boutiques, a Canadian chain, a Hong Kong chain, etc. Who ever will fit your needs
Thanks, kharada -- at least in those grad school days (even though I was in my thirties from when I started in 1981 until I got my PhD in 1990 and somewhat beyond) -- I was able to make the treks up all those stairs. I hated the shared bathroom part, though! What I am actually finding since going from a loyalty program to independent hotels is that in many cases I am getting cheaper rates (not always, and sometimes I splurge). Plus, using the different sites like tripadvisor, trivago, hotels.com, etc., I can get exactly what I want from a room (and know what I'm getting in advance). That means things like sea or pool view, breakfast, free wifi and sometimes other amenities. If I'm just in a regular big city abroad, then parts of that don't matter so much, but when my research takes me to archaeological sites on Greek islands I definitely am willing to pay a little more .
Prof. - Read through the various responses to your original post and reflections upon appropriate songs you mentioned. I've been traveling since the late '60s, before there were any FF airline programs, before Delta and US Air existed, and used an Air Travel Card issued by the company for whom I worked. There were no reward points awarded by hotel chains, or credit card companies; therefore I gave no particular loyalty to any commercial travel company. I was a small fish in the big pond of world travelers, and 50 years later, still am - even with a few perks offered by airline, hotel and card companies.
Regret to hear that you've abandoned Marriott companies, but glad you're still contributing to M.I. dialogues. Personally, I've frequented other hotel chains - Holiday Inn, Hyatt, Wyndham, Hilton, etc. - yet favor Marriott when I can. I've flown other airlines with FF programs - US Air, BA, Air Canada, NW - but Atlanta is my nearest major airport and it's hard to not fly Delta. I've had my disappointments with Delta also, but still primarily fly with them. We all have to weigh the advantages of any companies' perks, but I don't think any of us will ever matriculate to a "big fish" with any of them.
"Man is the most miserable and the greatest of all created beings - suspended between two infinities." - Pascal