Even as I type this something bizarre is going on as there are three black rectangles on the right hand side of my screen under section, title and message, so this may or may not post.
I am speaking about loyalty in general. As most of you know I gave up my Marriott loyalty a few years back (except for occasional stays) because of reduced benefits, few hotels where I was staying etc. And now I have given up Delta, which is not even bordering on the outrageous but way beyond it, even according to Diamond Medallion members (just check out FlyerTalk), in its arrogance towards loyalty members at the highest levels. As a Platinum Elite Plus for the next 12 months I have used up all my FF miles but 16,000 on three FF business class flights to Europe through next December and have not booked any new flights -- nor have I used my Amex Reserve Skymiles Card, which I will cancel next November (I have already paid through then and I doubt they give back part of the huge fee).
Marriott's problems are dwarfed by what Delta has done, including changing things without notice to any members (check award levels in FlyerTalk, among other topics).
And then today I read this:
All of this -- to me -- means that loyalty programs are DEAD. Delta seems to be overtly trying to kill its Skymiles program in death by a thousand cuts, while other programs are doing it less obviously. But as I have done in the past I will now continue more overtly. I will no longer be anything to Delta after February 2016 despite 40 years of high level loyalty, and I will lose all my benefits unless I fly enough of their flights (about 3 revenue to Europe needed) to make Million Miler. But you know what? I'm not even going to try, because there won't be anything to get from it. Instead, I will book everything through consolidators and travel sites.
I give one thing to Marriott -- today I got a Silver Lifetime Status card. I think I earned it in terms of stays, though I realize it means almost nothing considering I stay 1-2 times a year at Marriotts, never get to use my MR Chase Rewards or other certs because they are not of the level required in Europe, etc. But I appreciate the level of recognition.
But I am so, so gone from loyalty programs. We all once believed in them and bought in. As a Delta 100,000+ miles a year flyer who will be nothing next year, I have learned my lesson.
There are certain brands where consumers are fiercely loyal: Apple Computer, Harley-Davidson, Ford. And yet those brands don't offer loyalty rewards. They have even screwed over their customers with product recalls and bad customer service, and yet they still have a strong loyal following.
It's interesting that in the travel industry, loyalty has to be bought with benefits.
I suppose the solution for Delta or Marriott is to put it's primary focus on earning loyalty. But that's hard to do in an age where many people book their travels from a consolidator.
I am trying out the Platinum challenge and just checked into a Marriott hotel in TX. The front desk had no idea I was a platinum challenge member, and all they offered me was complimentary wifi. At Starwood I was treated much differently. Today I was given a dark hotel room which I switched already. I thought the reason for the platinum challenge is to enjoy platinum benefits while achieving 9 stays in a 3 month period. Do I need to rethink my switching form SPG?
The platinum challenge is VERY different from the taste of platinum. In the former, you have NO STATUS, but in the latter you have Platinum status, while you complete the challenge. Theoretically, the hotel should offer you a lot so that you feel loyal and stay on the track for Platinum and renew it. However, the hotel has no idea you are on the challenge. Why would they treat you--a non-Platinum--as Platinum?
certainly can't disagree with you Prof.I feel the same way with USAir / American. I have two million miles going on 2.7M when they merge and I don't ever see anything other than getting on early which I can do on SW for $12.50 . I do stick with Marriott since I am lifetime Platinum and enjoy the concierge privileges. If they drop that I will be a goner
My side of the loyalty program is pure greed. I get something from it. If I get something more by staying loyal to Marriott than I would if I bounced from hotel to hotel then I stay. As long as I'm treated nicely I see no need to look around. In my case, I convert my Marriott points to UA miles and get 3 or 4 First Class Upgrades on international flights every year. I wouldn't get that if I wasn't getting the points.
So I stay loyal as long as 1) they're treating me right (and I have had zero significant problems with Marriott) and I'm getting something out of the loyalty program.
My perspective is that of a non-frequent flyer (at least a non-uber flyer) and strictly leisure traveler, having only stepped up my travel game as recently as the past 5-6 years (yes, a late bloomer). I happened on to the loyalty scene around 10 years ago, about the time that the recession hit. During that period, airfares were a lot lower than they are now and the airlines hadn't yet started their nickel and dime business model that we have now grown to reluctantly accept. Additionally, hotels were offering sweet deals to win our loyalty and we were actually treated with tangible appreciation at the front desks.
Since then and happily for most of us who can afford the luxury (some luxury, anyway) of travel, the economy has strengthened, and as you so well stated, loyalty programs do seem to be slowly fading towards the proverbial death by a thousand cuts. The loyalty perks in the lodging industry (room upgrades, complimentary wifi when non-elite members must pay, complimentary full breakfast 7 days/week, free lobby coffee, early check-ins/late check-outs, bogos, points redemption (real) deals for gift cards, platinum arrival gifts, the elite offers and deals, generous cancellation policies, now it even looks like the birthday elite night is being eliminated) of elite status have been slowly reduced to what we see today - much less than it was, while the loyalty points and certs that we've earned have significantly depreciated. And throw in the attitude at some properties which would deny room upgrade opportunities to any elites staying on points or certs. Even the megabonus promotions have now depreciated. Now with Delta, we see that it is going to become much more difficult to achieve elite status. I'm not sure if AA will follow, but with the merger I can't help but wonder how much more difficult it will be at least, for elite flyers to get the upgrades that mean so much to so very many.
For me however, loyalty programs are not dead, not by any means. While they may offer less than they used to, they still offer something. In the case of lodging, if nothing else (absent elite status) I still earn points towards free stays when I spend with Marriott. Sure, as a leisure traveler it takes a long time to accrue enough points to be meaningful. At my rate of spend, it would take about two years to earn enough points for a 5 night category 9 stay, but it's certainly better than nothing! Additionally, I'm vested enough at this point that I will continue to pursue Marriott stays whenever possible in order to achieve lifetime elite status. Once lifetime status is achieved, of course my travel destinations will be less driven by whether or not there is a Marriott close by or even if there is, if I'm looking for a different type of lodging experience (ie. condo rental or boutique property), I will be more driven by what I actually want rather than what I can achieve through loyalty. The same goes for the airlines. Even as a non-business traveler, flying is a very necessary part of my life. I will always fly. That being the case, why not stick with a particular airline when reasonable and earn miles that will add up to a free flight? Even if it's fly 6 (or even if it's 12) times, get one free, that's one more free flight along the journey that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Who I fly with is largely predicated on my travel patterns, that is, where I live and where I need to go. Certain airlines offer more cost effective and/or convenient routes for my travel needs than others. As long as I live in Central CA, I'm going to fly AA to Nashville and I'm going to fly AS to Boise and San Diego and Seattle and Cabo and Kona and WDC, because those airlines offer the routes and pricing that fit my needs and make the most sense (having the strongest presence in my locale.) Additionally they are in the same alliance, so it's a no brainer. I'm going to get miles for doing what I would do anyway. I may not get the status perks (well, okay on Alaska I am, but that's a totally different animal, being a much smaller market than UA, AA or DL). Alaska may eventually go the way of Delta, but even so, if I'm going to fly them anyway (because I am going to fly when I need to), I may as well get miles that will eventually add up to a free flight.
In your case, where all of your flights are overseas, I agree that it's quite a bit different. It can be tricky to make loyalty work. You're not just dealing with domestic carriers, but foreign carriers as well. Air fares are expensive and you'd have to make a lot of flights to get enough miles to add up to a free ticket, even economy. And your choice of airline would vary depending on where you want to go. For instance, if you want to go to Germany, you'll get a better deal and a non-stop on LH as opposed to flying on AF (which will stop at CDG first), and vice versa. Unfortunately, the two carriers are not in the same alliance.
In my case, the aircraft is just as important to me as the itinerary and price, and aircrafts vary from one carrier to the next. So playing the loyalty game with regards to non-uber foreign travel gets more complicated. I prefer Qantas for when I go see my sister (because of their in-flight service and the aircraft type), but I certainly won't go often enough to ever earn enough miles for a free RT to SYD and back (plus the miles disappear if there is inactivity for 18 mos. or more, and I don't go to Australia but once every two years at the most) and also, I can't fly QF to Europe. But as Qantas is in the same alliance as partners AA and AS, I can fly Qantas and plug my AA or AS FF# in, and then the 15,000 trip miles will mean something. Right away I have enough miles for a domestic one way super saver award ticket on either AA or AS. One thing that concerns me about consolidators (where airlines are concerned) is that if I have to change a flight, not only do I have to pay the airlines change fee, I also have to pay the consolidator's change fee. And if there is a fee to pick a seat assignment, I have to contact the airline anyway.
Anadyr once aptly wrote that "Nothing is forever and while we may assume that the status quo will remain the status quo, they may change the game, always to the advantage of the game maker and never the player." Just because they have the advantage doesn't mean that I'm not getting anything by playing along. It only means that they may be getting more out of the deal than I will, though I am still receiving something. If it's a good fit, I may as well play.
At the end of the day (loyalty program or no), I will fly and I will lodge. If I can get a free night or a free flight out of the deal, no matter how infrequently, why not?
All excellent points, pluto. I am still going to fly and stay, but especially with the draconian moves at Delta, I am going to find the best price and schedule on expedia or a similar site, as I have been doing for hotels these past few years. Most of them have their own loyalty programs, which means at least I get something (and sometimes fairly lucrative, including breakfasts, wifis, upgrades, and free nights)even though I'm not staying at one brand or flying one airline. And since I will have used all my FF miles for business class Delta/KLM/Alitalia.AF free flights this year, I will only end up with Silver Elite status, which basically means no status at all at Delta (even Platinum is starting to feel like no status at all but at least this year I get some of the benefits). The first casualty since Delta doesn't seem to care will be my $450 Amex reserve card. It's worth less than nothing to me if I'm not buying my tickets on Delta.com next year.