Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Maintaining Perspective in Life: Do Frequent Fliers Need to Adjust Expectations?

An announcement was released during the investor relations presentation of Delta Air Lines yesterday that within the next eight months, seven seats will be removed from the Business Elite cabin of its fleet of Boeing 777-200 aircraft and replaced with 30 seats in the economy class cabin” is what I wrote in this article which was posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013. “This, of course, elicited the response by some FlyerTalk members that this news negates the perceived benefits announced two days ago with the introduction of Global Upgrades and Regional Upgrades, of which there will supposedly be fewer opportunities to use these upgrade instruments.”

I then asked: “Does it?”

The answer: that was apparently only part of the equation.

Along with a number of other changes implemented over recent years, René de Lambert of Delta Points points out in this article posted yesterday the lament of how the upgrades to the premium class cabin of Medallion elite status members of the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program “will suffer more than ever.”

Of course, frequent fliers — especially those who do not contribute significantly to the bottom line of an airline — will not be happy and complain that there will be even fewer upgrades than before, as René de Lambert has done.

Meanwhile, Keri Anderson of Heels First Travel reported in this article — also posted yesterday — that Avis has launched a new frequent renter loyalty program based on revenue instead of being based on the number of times you rent a vehicle.

Do you abhor resort fees as much as I do? If so, we are out of luck — for now, anyway. “Mandatory hotel resort fees that aren’t wrapped into the advertised nightly rate can be frustrating but they don’t represent a deceptive business practice”, Hugo Martin of the Los Angeles Times reported in this article. “That was the response from the Federal Trade Commission to a nonprofit group that complained last week about the expanded use of mandatory resort fees by hotels.”

If it seems to you as though the frequent flier keeps losing out on benefits while spending more money to travel, you are not alone in that thought — although there are those people who would disagree with that thought as they would benefit from such changes; and I expect some of them to respond to this article — which brings me to a question I have asked numerous times in past articles over the years:

Is an adjustment in expectations in order?

Whenever I fly as a passenger and I purchase a seat in the economy class cabin, that is what I expect to have. If I am upgraded to a better seat free of charge — and, being human, I do hope for that — I consider it a bonus. If not, it is not the end of the world for me.

I think it is important to be reasonably comfortable while sitting on an airplane — no matter the cabin to which I am assigned. If I am indeed reasonably comfortable, I do not miss the upgraded seat — especially when those sitting in those upgraded seats are served something covered in melted cheese.

Blech. I would rather starve.

Expectations eventually lead to disappointment. When expectations are lowered, experiencing disappointment is less likely to occur. It is that simple.

When an experience is beyond expectations, it is a welcome and pleasant surprise about which I seem to be more appreciative.

Perhaps we frequent fliers simply need to adjust our expectations when traveling. It is not an easy thing to do — but if I can do it, anyone can. If that is not possible for you, perhaps you need to consider either reducing or eliminating travel — especially as the entire loyalty “game” in travel has changed considerably and it is generally not as much fun as it used to be.

Of course, many of the travel companies have been enjoying record quarterly profits in recent years due to such things as ancillary fees, which has helped to rake in billions of dollars in revenue.

I recently endured an ongoing personal situation which lasted greater than a year; and because of it, I have adjusted my perspective in life. After all, does a missed upgrade really mean all that much? Like the sale of a seat aboard an aircraft, the experience of a missed upgrade is pretty much just as perishable. Think about it: when was the last time you experienced a missed upgrade and had it haunt you for an extended period of time?

Regardless, I am reminded time and time again that even that ongoing situation which I experienced — as miserable and incredibly difficult as it was for me — paled in experienced to the personal experiences of other people I know which I cannot imagine experiencing myself:

  • In the past year, two people revealed to me that they were losing a significant amount of their hearing — a loss which both have been diagnosed as irreversible
  • A friend of mine who just celebrated the anniversary of his wedding to his wife of many years has a daughter who — because of the careless mistake of a doctor upon delivering her at birth — is severely disabled with virtually no hope of ever improving
  • A former travel “blogging” colleague went through a potentially life-threatening experience which I would rather not share the details here — but it was serious enough that it was not certain as to whether this person would survive, which thankfully this person did


While the communications with the aforementioned people — and there are more people whom I have not mentioned in the above list — did not alleviate the actual ongoing situation which I went through, it did help me adjust and maintain a better perspective in life. Things could always be worse. Missed upgrade opportunities? Please — I have more important things about which to worry. While it was nice and certainly appreciated, do you really believe that that upgrade I received on my flight home years ago after witnessing the death of a loved one really made me feel better?

How do you maintain perspective in life so that you better manage your expectations? Please share your thoughts, experiences and advice in the Comments section below so that we may all better maintain perspective and manage our expectations in life.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

  1. My wife and I are on our first European summer vacation since I started Loyalty Traveler in April 2006 and we traveled to Amsterdam that summer. She had three major surgeries and cancer in the past nine years.

    She hates air travel. We have flown all economy class.

    Experiencing Europe again during a no rush, summer vacation…priceless.

    We don’t take the opportunity to travel for granted. Circumstances can quickly change that put thoughts of business class upgrades and airport lounge access on the back burner.

    1. I have been reading your articles pertaining to your trip to Europe, Ric Garrido; and it seems as though you are having a fantastic time.

      As for circumstances quickly changing, that is almost always in the back of my mind. I am so thankful that I do not even take aspirin — let alone be too unhealthy to travel. I never know when that might change; so I try to travel as often and as smart as possible.

      I am so sorry to learn of all of the trouble your wife has been through over the past nine years. One major surgery is more than enough — let alone three of them; and a diagnosis of cancer had to have been frightening…

      …but I am thrilled that she is well enough to experience Europe with you at your own pace. Priceless? May it be one of the most enjoyable and memorable times you both spend together.

      Safe travels to both of you.

  2. I have been reading travel blogs for years and never have posted a comment, but I was moved by this article. To your point, I love getting upgraded, getting/using points for travel, etc., but our lives should not be centered/focused on that, and things change (in this case, travel loyalty programs are not as fun nor as lucrative as they once were). So time to lower expectations and focus more of our energy on those things that really matter, I.e. family, friends, etc.

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughts and taking the time to comment, Tom. I truly appreciate it.

  3. Yes, Rene is quickly becoming tiresome. He prides himself on getting status as cheaply as possible and swears he will spend as little as possible with Delta, and he has the nerve to complain when Delta addresses his (and other like-minded peoples) behavior? I guess it’s his right, but the act is wearing thin.

    I agree with you in general that many people who play the points game, including MS, are too busy figuring out how they can “game” the system. I wonder how many of those folks actually have real jobs. Or is “blogging” their real job?

    1. I want to clarify that I was not attempting to portray René in a “bad light”, Darth Chocolate. Rather, I used his article simply as an example that one airline is indeed continuously increasing the difficultly of the ability for its frequent flier loyalty program members to use one of the advertised benefits of earning elite level status which is important to many people: upgrades. René is indeed correct on that issue.

      This article simply addresses the accordingly increased expectations that some people — not necessarily René — have regarding upgrades: do not expect them; and if they come to fruition, excellent. If not — well, no one is really worse off than before.

      I suppose we all “game” the system in one way or another for our benefits — just as companies “game” the system for profits. The question is: how far is too far on either side of the “gaming equation”?

  4. Maybe it comes with age and life experience, but I often wonder about people’s perspective in this hobby too. Thanks for addressing it in such a thoughtful post. And, I am well traveled in part because I take nothing for granted. My health or life circumstances could change tomorrow. I feel fortunate to have seen a huge chunk of the world so far and doing so with less money and more comfort, but it is not an entitlement and I appreciate it as such.

    1. You pretty much succinctly summed up what I was attempting to convey in the article, smittytabb. There are many people who never leave the country in which they reside — let alone see the world like you and I have done.

      Like you, I am grateful for all of the travel I have already done and feel fortunate for doing so; but as long as I am able to do so, I am nowhere near done…

  5. Amen!

    I learned a new phrase the other day: “Champagne Problems.” When I hear some well-dressed, well-fed, apparently healthy traveller on a rant about not getting an upgrade or their first choice of meal, they’re complaining about a champagne problem. What I feel for them is pity, not for their lack of an upgrade, but because their limited perspective is making them (and their seat mates) unnecessarily unhappy.
    It is a perspective that came to me slowly with age, but folks, most of us have it pretty damn good most of the time. Maybe my attitude is pollyanna-ish, but I seem to be happier than a lot of folks around, so I’ll take it!

    1. Some people also call it “first-world problems”, Jake.

      Rather than expect more upgrades, sometimes I think about all of the upgrades I have already experienced — realizing that there are many people who may never experience them for themselves.

      Ironically, I am most comfortable at home. Sure, a suite at a fancy hotel would be nice. Yes, I do enjoy a lie-flat seat with a multi-course meal in the premium class cabin of an airplane on an international flight. I certainly like when I am given amenities and benefits for free — who would not?…

      …but none of those experiences — aspirational as they are; and as much as I enjoy traveling — can compete with the overall comfort I feel and experience when I am at home.

  6. Complimentary upgrades are great, but not a necessity, for me. Similar to you, if I bought an economy class ticket, then that’s what I expect to receive. It’s also important to understand airlines are for-profit companies and ultimately need to make money. If that means selling upgrades for a cheaper price or replacing 7 business class seats for 30 economy seats, then I applaud them!
    There are bloggers out there who would only travel to Australia or other far-flown places in business or first class — and good for them — but I personally think the only way to truly appreciate business class is to fly economy first. The loyalty program hobby is great but seeing the current trend of releasing lesser award space or limiting award space only to elites, it’ll be harder to redeem points for that seat. Being a part of this hobby since 2009, the word “loyalty” has definitely evolved from its original definition the past few years.

    1. Please allow me to overly-generalize what you commented, Joey:

      We cannot appreciate the good unless we experience the bad.

      Flying as a passenger seated in the economy class cabin is not necessarily bad as some people like to describe it — I do have a trip report I am in the middle of writing which will dispute that statement — but I know I appreciate an unexpected upgrade into the premium class cabin whenever that opportunity arises.

      Now imagine a world where there is only good and no bad things happen. Most of us would not appreciate the good — rather, we would all expect it — and there would be many more people in the world who would be spoiled rotten…

  7. I read the post and now I can’t get the SNL skit out of my head…”Lowered Expectationsssss …”

  8. Agree with you. We pay for economy — and usually less than just about anyone else on the plane — so getting upgraded and the myriad of other benefits we take for granted (look at those lines at check-in next time, or going through security, or just boarding first and having a place for one’s carry-ons) are all icing on the cake. After all, we’re also getting miles to redeem so we can actually “buy” a ticket in the front cabins of those exotic non-American airlines. Yes, I’m getting rather tired of reading the First World Complaints on blogs about whether F on EK’s A380 is better or worse than F on EK’s 777! Even with the erosion of elite tier benefits, and earning of RDMs for those of us who don’t have generous employers, we’re still doing better than most of the people with whom we share our flights.

    Can I really complain when I’ve paid a legitimate fare of C$450 to fly to/from HKG…and have my upgrades clear on AA’s new 77W? Particularly when I just got an email confirming my return upgrade on the refurb’d AA 767 from MIA-ORD on a U$129 r/t fare!!

    1. Legitimate fare?

      Never mind that: how about when passengers flying on a mistake fare complain that they did not get upgraded, DavidB?

      If I were traveling to Iceland for $61.00 as an example from a real mistake fare years ago and it was honored by the airline — and I would earn miles on top of that — the last thing about which I would complain is not getting upgraded.

      To me, the travel itself is what is most important. The miles, points and frequent travel benefits are secondary — or, as you so appropriately say, is “icing on the cake”.

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