What is Good is All Relative When You Do Not Know What You Have Got Until It is Gone
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone
T he entities who administer frequent travel loyalty programs may not have paved paradise and put up a parking lot as sung by Joni Mitchell in the 1970 song Big Yellow Taxi — unless you count Terminal 3 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as paradise, which was essentially razed and paved for a parking lot to replace it — but what is good is all relative when you do not know what you have got until it is gone…
…and the airlines and hotel companies are banking on just that.
Simply put, when human beings are used to something, we typically get complacent. We eventually do not appreciate what we have that is good for us.
In terms of frequent travel loyalty programs, it could be that upgrade we consistently get as a benefit as an example. How many times have you seen over the years members of Milepoint or FlyerTalk practically brag that their upgrade percentages for the year are at 100 percent; or ask the rhetorical question “What is economy class?” or “There are seats behind that curtain?” with the implication that so much time has elapsed since they have sat in that cabin whenever flying as passengers on airplanes?
I personally have seen an increase of postings such as “this is the first time I have not been upgraded in years” recently — especially as airlines attempt to monetize the premium class cabin as much as possible instead of giving away those seats as upgrades to elite members of their frequent flier loyalty programs.
That is good business — right? After all, airlines are for-profit entities.
Well, that depends: if you are of the point of view that more revenue — and hopefully, more profits as a result — is a priority, then it is good business.
Then again, if you are a customer who remembers part of the selling of being an elite level status member of a frequent flier is the potential for free upgrades, then no, as you might likely feel like you have been deceived — which could ultimately foster distrust in the airline itself.
It is no secret that benefits have for the most part been dwindling in frequent travel loyalty programs. Upgrades do seem to be more elusive. More miles or points than ever are required to be redeemed for award travel for the most sought-after flight routes or suites at popular resort properties — never mind that fewer miles than ever can be redeemed on that sought-after vacation route between the exotic locations of Newark and Indianapolis in January — and that is only if that award option is even available.
Airlines and lodging companies take away the perks and benefits in order to save money as part of their record profits financial quarter after financial quarter to proudly show to their stakeholders…
…but as I have indicated multiple times in past articles over the years, the booming economy for the travel industry will not last forever.
That is when what is colloquially known amongst frequent fliers as the “giveback” where a perk or benefit is returned to a frequent travel loyalty program by the entity which administers it — and the typical reaction is excitement.
While not exactly excited per se, René de Lambert of Delta Points reacted favorably to the news in this article posted on Thursday, July 14, 2015 that members of the two highest elite status levels of the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program can once again upgrade on transcontinental flights between New York and either Los Angeles or San Francisco — an example of a “giveback” — albeit only with the use of particular upgrade instruments…
Now some tiny good news, but in all honestly it just fixes what has been a complete #FAIL anyway, that is, soon those who have Regional Upgrade certificates can use them for all transcon flights. I was informed:
“For Diamond and Platinum members we are introducing greater flexibility with your Medallion Choice Benefits. Effective July 21, 2015 you can use Regional Upgrade Certificates in addition to Global Upgrade Certificates for a Delta One™ seat on eligible transcontinental flights between New York – JFK and Los Angeles – LAX or San Francisco – SFO. Regional Certificates are part of the wide array of Choice Benefits Diamond and Platinum Medallion members are able to select upon status qualification.”
Again, good news but something that should have been in place since the outset. Now if Delta really wanted to make a change and make the Regional Upgrade certs worth so much more they would allow them to be used from ATL & MSP to Hawaii instead of needing a Global Upgrade cert. Ah well, give them credit for fixing something that needed to be fixed!
…but then Delta Air Lines taketh away again, as he wrote in this article the very next day:
Now we learn that even those who spend the most with Delta, Diamond Medallions, are having a big perk cut, that is, complimentary upgrades to and from LAX/SFO to JFK.
Thanks Delta! Once again we see loyalty, trust and integrity flushed down the drain.
We might all be able to agree that the perceived devaluations amongst airlines and lodging companies have been quite significant in recent years — perhaps significant enough that when the economy does once again falter, some “givebacks” will be thrown back at members of the frequent travel loyalty programs to entice them…
…but do not expect all of them to return; or even half of them to return. I anticipate that what the airlines and lodging companies are hoping to do is have you excited that a few perks and benefits have indeed returned when they once again need your business — excited enough that you will return without being disappointed that other perks and benefits had not returned.
Think about it: how many perks and benefits have been significantly reduced or eliminated where you asked yourself why they were cut in the first place? How many times have you read fellow frequent fliers post that those particular perks “did not cost them much money in the first place”?
Airlines and lodging companies do not want to once again be in the unenviable position of being forced to “give away the store” and lose billions of dollars when they need your business again. For airlines, it of course helps that there are only four major airlines left in the United States, with a few low-cost carriers in the mix — and that will help prevent them from suffering financially in the future as much as they did in the past…
…so they take away benefits and restore one or two as a “bone to throw” at you; and take away more benefits and restore an additional one or two in what may seem to be a perverse game of psychology on customers — all in the hopes that you will be happy with the few benefits you will once again be able to enjoy and forget about the good old days…
…especially when the economy worsens — which eventually will happen.
I, for one, will not forget. Will you?
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.