Frequent Flyer Failures

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

16 February 2017

Frequent Flyer Programs. Backwards.

Frequent FlyerFrequent flyer programs are so much a part of my life that I can recite from memory my United, American, and Delta identifier numbers. It happens when you fly as much as I do. Despite the perks that airlines tell us about their frequent flyer programs. I hate all of them equally.

My ass belonged to United. A few years ago, I was a Global Services member in the United Mileage Plus program. It’s top-tier.

Frequent flyer programs have it all wrong.

Flying from my hometown (Greensboro NC) is not an easy task. We are not a hub city; we are a feeder hub. Everyone flies out of GSO. American, Delta, United, Frontier and others. From here, they fly to hubs like Dulles, O’Hare, Charlotte, Atlanta and Philadelphia. We have choices at Greensboro. Sadly, all of them are bad.

Hubs are not competitive

Frequent FlyerIf you fly on United, everything connects through Newark and Chicago. American— Charlotte, Philadelphia and LaGuardia. Delta… mostly Atlanta.

The costs are high and the inconvenience even higher. I remember once I flew from Greensboro to Chicago to Denver just so that I could catch a flight to Houston and then to Oklahoma City. Thank God for frequent flyer programs because THAT is a lot of miles.


“Frequent flyer programs are backwards. They don’t make me more loyal. They just create greater resentment.”

So why did I switch from United to American?

Easy. Three million miles on United and an average of 115,000 miles a year does not prequalify for the top-tier in its frequent flyer program. The airlines all switched from measuring your value to the airline from miles flown to dollars spent. (Read about affinity programs here).

Think about this backward thinking.

Being an elite premier member in any frequent flyer program puts you first in line when boarding and some complimentary upgrades when the seats are unsold. This means the higher your status, the less likely you are to buy a first-class seat. But the less you spend (on buying first class seats), the less likely you are to keep your elite status. This is crazy thinking.

Other rewards programs are different.

Frequent FlyerSpend money in many rewards programs and you quality for discounted rates. This means the more you spend the more you save. Make sense?

Any frequent flyer program that guaranteed me the fairest costs and a discounted savings would earn my endless loyalty. Gouge me and measure my value to you based upon how much I spend and I will divide my loyalties between easiest route and cheapest fare.

It’s just an example of another systemic problem with airlines today. They don’t know what they’re doing and they have no idea what business they are in.


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