Chris Elliott is a frequent flier program skeptic. Who would’ve guessed? His latest article once again is nothing but paragraph after paragraph of utter garbage, and that’s putting it nicely. In the article, Chris more or less argues that the only types of travelers that should take part in loyalty programs are managed business travelers — those with preferred vendors. As far as Chris is concerned, loyalty programs are a scam and complete waste for everyone else. He argues it causes us to act irrationally. And there’s no doubt it often can cause us to act irrationally.
What Chris completely forgets to mention (which isn’t surprising given his target audience) is that you just have to be smart about using loyalty programs. In many cases it does make more sense to fly the airline you’re loyal to or stay at the hotel chain you’re loyal to, even if they’re more expensive.
Even for a simple domestic trip, I’m willing to pay an extra $100-200 to fly United over another non-affiliated airline. Why? I get elite check-in, elite security lines, free checked bags, free upgrades, lounge access, miles, etc. While there are cases where it might not make sense to fly United (if they were $250+ more expensive than the competition, for example), often it’s smart to pay a premium to fly your preferred airline. Seriously, think about the value of all the things you’re receiving in exchange for your loyalty, and then do the math. If it works out, fly your preferred airline, if it doesn’t, don’t.
Same goes for hotels. It can make sense to stay with your preferred chain, even if they’re more expensive. With Hyatt I get free internet, lounge access, free breakfast, bonus points, etc. That’s incredibly valuable to me, because it saves me a lot of money.
But Chris still argues that “more often than not, the loyalty goes only one way.” For the savvy traveler that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’d love for Chris to take a look at the Hyatt promotions going on right now and tell me that the loyalty only goes one way there. I’d love for Chris to take a look at the value you get as a top tier elite at an airline and tell me that’s not worth anything (let alone a substantial premium).
And Chris argues that the benefits we get as elite travelers are services that should be offered to everyone anyway. C’mon now, really Chris? Yeah, you’re right, I think everyone should get suite upgrades, club lounge access, free internet, and bonus points at hotels. And I think when flying everyone should get free checked bags, lounge access, free upgrades, priority security and boarding, etc. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that plan?
Sorry Chris, now more than ever, loyalty goes both ways.