Should the Pausing of Elite Level Status Be Limited to Pregnant Women?

P ertaining to the ability to place elite level status on hold with airlines such as Qantas, Virgin Atlantic and now Iberia, “This is a topic that interests me as I have a couple of young children and, on both occasions, my wife lost her British Airways status when she went on maternity leave”, according to this article written by Rob — more popularly known as Raffles — of Head For Points.

Should the Pausing of Elite Level Status Be Limited to Pregnant Women?

The comments posted by readers of that article echoed some of my initial thoughts. For example, reader Julian opined:

Firstly, this seems to be an extremely odd promotion as there are a number of reasons someone might need to stop flying for a while and many of them will not be down to choice, unlike having children. I don’t see why having children is in some way more worthy of having status paused.

Secondly, well done Iberia on the extreme sexism in this case. Apparently men aren’t allowed time out to look after their children, this is a great step back 50 years.

Thirdly, they talk about pregnancy, how about adopted babies — a far more worthy cause than overpopulating the planet more, yet they don’t get any recognition, despite the fact it is just as much work.

Reader MozzaUK agreed with that sentiment, asking:

Why should parents get exemptions, yet single people and those who don’t want children get penalised if something happens and they need to pause there flying for a year due to health issues or other personal issues.

Those are indeed very good questions — and there were other issues brought up by readers of Head For Points which were worthy of thought.


As with maternity leave from work, I actually support the option for pregnant women the ability to put their elite level status on hold; but also as with excused time off from work, why should customers with a temporary disability or an unexpected serious situation occurring in life not be able to take similar advantage of such an option? What if, for example, someone accidentally fractured his or her leg and could not travel for nine months?

I have lost elite level status with the frequent travel loyalty programs of both airlines and lodging companies in the past due to extenuating circumstances beyond my control. Of course, there were times where I regained that elite level status; but I have had to start all over again — which, of course, deterred me from attempting to regain elite level status in certain frequent travel loyalty programs. Marriott Rewards is one of those programs because — for me, anyway — earning elite level status in that program is more difficult than others and was not significant enough for me to keep when I did earn it.

Then again, allowing a plethora of different reasons and excuses for placing elite level status on hold can potentially be ripe for abuse unless certain restrictions are in place. Similar to requesting an elite level status match with a frequent travel loyalty program, perhaps there should be limits in place as to how frequent placing elite level status on hold can be requested, with a maximum number of times permitted during a lifetime — similar to the usage of personal time off from work for whatever reason.

Of course, the reason should be significant enough to warrant pausing elite level status in a frequent travel loyalty program. A paper cut on the pinky finger simply would not — er — cut it as a reason.

In any event, life happens. Does that mean that a frequent travel loyalty program should be forgiving as a result — and if so, would it mean the retention of valuable customers due to loyalty?

Source: Ken Hammond of the United States Department of Agriculture, Image number: 02cs2059 (cd2888-53), via Wikimedia Commons.

4 thoughts on “Should the Pausing of Elite Level Status Be Limited to Pregnant Women?”

  1. Mark says:

    From an Australian perspective, ‘family-friendly’ is all the range – and Qantas goes beyond pregnant women, the policy includes adoption and fostering. But this is not about medical issues, it is about child rearing. All easily documented and verifiable stuff.

    Keep in mind, even someone with children won’t get a pause if they have an accident either.

    As for extending it for other non child bearing reasons – Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo club recently introduced a membership holiday idea – you can do it three times in a membership lifetime.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That information is good to know, Mark. Thank you.

  2. Raffles says:

    Thanks for picking this up Brian. To be honest, I was surprised at the amount of ‘anti’ feeling that it generated as I assumed this was something which should be offered naturally and would not stir complaints.

    Since (at least in the UK) you cannot legally take 9 months of paid leave for anything other than having or adopting a child, I’m not sure why airlines should offer exceptions for anything else! Otherwise we’d have people asking Marriott for a ‘break’ because IHG has a good promo this quarter …..

  3. DavidB says:

    Pregnancy is a planned interruption to one’s life among this sub-set of the population. And while it may be a “family friendly” practice to provide such a “time out”, would the same consideration be given for an unplanned debilitating illness that also grounds an elite for half a year or more? Having gone through such a circumstance a few years ago (becoming the caregiver for a dying family member) and losing top tier elite status and not “appealed” for special consideration, I re-qualified within a few months of the start up of the following year, out of my own pocket. Caregiving our elderly parents is becoming as major an issue for the “boomer” generation as much as childbearing/childcaring is to the Millennials (and Gen-Xers I suppose). So while I have nothing against family friendly policies of governments and companies, these need to be put into the proper context of today’s realities (for we rather privileged First Worlders).

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