Will 2016 Be a Happy New Year For You?

his is the bittersweet time of year in which members of both FlyerTalk and InsideFlyer have mixed feelings: those who have achieved elite level status in frequent travel loyalty programs are thrilled or pleased that they have at least another year to enjoy that status; while others dread checking their frequent travel loyalty program accounts on January 1 to see that big “goose egg” which indicates that it is yet time again to start over in working to earn and achieve elite level status for yet another year.

Will 2016 Be a Happy New Year?

Those who face that dreaded zero in their accounts and vehemently despise it will most likely be concocting ways of earning elite qualification miles, whether by flying as a passenger wildly indirect routes such as from Atlanta to San Diego via London both ways — as I did several years ago, and it was less expensive than a direct non-stop flight — or by “mileage runs,” or even perhaps by simply needing to book multiple itineraries before the end of the year for doing business or visiting family members.

Additionally, frequent fliers are also devising ways to retain elite level status in their favorite hotel frequent guest loyalty programs for suite upgrades or executive lounge access. Even some rental car companies have loyalty programs where one can achieve elite status and drive nicer vehicles without paying more for renting them.

Why Bother Striving For Elite Level Status?

Why would anyone go through the trouble of achieving elite status? Some people point out that it can be silly to do so, especially when one does not take the opportunity to question the intrinsic and quantitative values of elite status. After all, if you only travel a few times and are lucky enough to secure that upgrade to the first class cabin in an airplane or that suite in a hotel, was the cost of time and money spent really worth it?

The answer is that it depends on such criteria as your travel habits, how much time you spent, how much money you spent, as well as the frequent travel loyalty programs of which you are a member and attempting to attain elite status. Loyalty programs with “rollover” options — such as Delta Air Lines SkyMiles and Marriott Rewards — can help by taking excess elite qualification miles and points earned the previous year and applying them towards your total for the coming year. After all, think about it — how often do you precisely reach the next elite tier without earning excess miles or points, which would otherwise be worthless?

The benefits of elite status help as well. For example, if an airline offers checked luggage free of charge for you and your family primarily because of your elite status, and you can secure an upgrade and eat a meal for each person — and this is done only a few times per year — the time and money cost could potentially be worth it.

Ahh, but if the equation was only that simple. With the proliferation of ways to procure elite status — some without even traveling at all — the answer is not always clear. Credit cards are but one way to procure elite status — if you are willing to spend the money and pay an annual fee, as well as adhere to the terms and conditions of the credit card. However, the annual percentage rate of interest on unpaid balances can also throw this option totally off kilter as well.

Then again, many frequent travel loyalty programs offer bonus miles or points, amenities, discounts and special offers of which only elite members are eligible to take advantage, which could further justify the effort to attain or retain elite status.

So what is one to do? Fortunately, help in resolving this quandary about whether or not to earn elite status is available in many places — and the good news is that there is no one expert with a single point of view. InsideFlyer and FlyerTalk are certainly two places where one can do the necessary research and ask the pertinent questions. BoardingArea has a plethora of knowledgable people — many of whom I know personally and respect — who will relate their opinions based on personal experience, as well as their points of view.

However, the bottom line is that only you can decide what is best for you regarding striking that perfect balance between convenience, comfort, cost and time regarding travel during the new year. If elite status happens to fit into your equation, then definitely go for it.

No Retrospective Again This Year

Although I have stated in the past that I do not believe in posting a retrospective article at the end of each year, it does seem that — as with 2013 and 2014 — the year 2015 has generally been unkind to the frequent traveler overall with perceived devaluations, reduced award opportunities, an increased amount of frequent travel loyalty program miles and points need to be redeemed for the same awards, increasingly restrictive policies, and more complicated rules. That trend not only shows no signs of slowing down; but it seems to keep accelerating.

I never did like the massive wave of retrospectives that many other weblogs, news sources, television programs and Internet web sites like to run. In that vein, there will be no “best of 2015” by me here at The Gate — although I do refer back to pertinent articles throughout the rest of the year. I never really understood the purpose of such retrospectives, as to me they are like those television programs which usually have at least one episode per year where it is considered a new episode but contains mostly clippings of previously-viewed episodes in an attempt to loosely tie together a story. They are called clip shows. Unless there is a good reason for it, I do not ever want to see The Gate emulate a “clip show.”

What Frequent Fliers are Discussing Pertaining to the New Year

In the meantime, here are some discussions about the new year about which frequent flier loyalty program members are posting their comments:

Summary

Bucking what would seem to be the obvious choice of a frequent flier, I plan to spend the transition from 2015 into 2016 quietly at home.

I look forward to seeing you in 2016 — the year in which The Gate will celebrate ten years since its inception — and thank you for reading and supporting The Gate for the past 9.5 years!

In the meantime — as I have posted in similar greetings I have used in previous years, my wishes and hopes for you in 2016 are as follows:

  • May you travel to every desired destination on your list;
  • May you spend quality time trying new things, openly engaging new experiences, and doing everything you have always wanted to do at each destination;
  • May your travels result in lifetime memories and stories to leave the listener engaged and envious enough to compel them to create their own travel adventures;
  • May your frequent travel loyalty program miles and points never expire;
  • May you continuously be awarded elite status every year;
  • May you always have lounge access at every airport and hotel property;
  • May your upgrade requests always be granted;
  • May you dine well on your favorite food and drink as well as sample new flavors and tastes from all around the world; and, most importantly
  • May your travels always be safe, interesting and fun — yet filled with adventure and spirit
  • May all of your dreams and wishes come true — especially those related to travel, miles and points
  • May you experience 2016 with the best of health and the most of wealth
  • May 2016 be the best and most successful year yet

The original image of Bratislava; New Year 2005; FireWorks by Ondrejk was used under the Creative Commons 3.0 license and is found here. Illustration and alteration of the image is by Brian Cohen.

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