Are Frequent Flyer Miles A Tool Of Inequality?

A Twitter user named Amanda Kolson Hurley has started quite a discussion in the past few days regarding frequent flyer miles.

Her claim? That frequent flyer miles are a tool of inequality, and that the system is “ridiculous.” As she Tweeted:

Frequent-flier miles are a tool of inequality. People who fly a lot for work (so overwhelmingly have high-status, well-paid jobs) then get free vacation travel for their families. It’s ridiculous when you think about it.

I wrote this post yesterday and was going to publish it today, but go figure in the meantime, after debating people on this topic for days, she deleted the original Tweet. I’ll still share my thoughts on this, because I think it’s a topic that’s interesting to look at in general.

While we’re on the topic, can I just briefly point out how annoying I find it that she decided to delete the original Tweet? She knew she was making an incredibly controversial point, then the topic became more popular than she was expecting, and then she deleted it?

I get people on the internet can be rude (maybe I’ve just been blogging too long?), but what did she expect when she started a controversial discussion on Twitter? And if she don’t like the direction the discussion is taking, can’t she just step away? Anyway…

So, why is Amanda dead wrong regarding frequent flyer miles?

Incorrect assumptions about people who travel a lot for work

Amanda is perhaps correct that people who fly a lot for work “overwhelmingly have high-status, well-paid jobs.” At least in the sense that they’re mostly college educated professionals, which puts them in the minority in our country.

But to me that’s not what’s relevant here. Among people with professional jobs, there’s not necessarily a correlation between those who travel a lot for work and those who don’t. There are “high-status, well-paid” professionals who never travel for work, and “high-status, well-paid” professionals who travel for work every week.

If anything, often more senior executives don’t have to travel — people will come to them. So I don’t think the correlation between traveling for work and having a “high-status, well-paid” job is relevant.

Frequent travel takes a toll on your life

Amanda seems to think that the average person who travels for work all the time is putting up their feet in first class and having a great time while traveling.

Not only is that typically nowhere near the truth, but it also doesn’t even begin to address the huge toll that frequent business travel takes on peoples’ lives — it’s terrible for your health, terrible for your social life, and terrible for your family life.

Sure, if you ask someone who is new to frequent business travel what they think, they may like it. But for most people it gets old.

People who spend a lot of time away from home are making a lot of sacrifices. Their families are also making big sacrifices by supporting it. So a small reward like frequent flyer miles is hardly something to get upset about. If anything, the families of frequent business travelers deserve it.

Frequent flyer programs aren’t costing consumers or companies anything

Frequent flyer programs, at least in the US, are mostly profitable businesses in and of themselves.

When it comes to rewarding people for travel, they’re a marketing tool. They’re intended to incentivize people to choose one airline over another. However, the truth is that they’re not really costing anyone anything. The employer isn’t paying extra for you to earn miles, and similarly, the airline doesn’t charge you extra to earn miles.

The airlines have been able to create programs that are lucrative, and thanks to their credit card agreements and other partnerships, they make money on these programs. Without the airline association, chances are these programs wouldn’t be as successful.

You might say “well couldn’t they pass on the savings to passengers if they eliminated them?” No, they’d probably spend that money marketing in another way. Or are airline advertisements also a tool of inequality?

Companies spend money to attract customers. That’s what frequent flyer programs are. It’s no different than Starbucks’ rewards program, or any other.

You can travel “for free” as well

Amanda is very much taking a victim mentality when it comes to frequent flyer programs. Frequent flyer programs are a tool of inequality, and only rich people can get “free” vacations with their families. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you maximize your credit card rewards you could travel in first or business class internationally for next to nothing. Maybe Amanda should start reading the blog. 😉

Though I guess an argument could also be made that credit cards are a significantly bigger tool of inequality than frequent flyer programs. Generally people who are better off have more access to credit cards, and isn’t the cost of purchases being raised by a couple of percent due to merchant fees? It’s quite literally those without access to credit cards subsidizing those with credit cards.

Similarly, isn’t Starbucks Rewards a tool of inequality? To put that into a Tweet:

Starbucks Rewards is a tool of inequality. People who drink a lot of expensive coffee (so overwhelmingly fairly well off people) then get more free coffee. It’s ridiculous when you think about it.

Or not…

The one aspect of frequent flyer miles that is unreasonable

There’s one major concern that people should have about how people use frequent flyer programs when traveling on their employers’ dime. Specifically, with most airlines now awarding miles based on how much you spend rather than how much you fly, it encourages people not traveling on their own dime to overspend for their own personal gain.

It’s tough to say how many people really do that, but that is an issue, because people have the incentive to spend more than they need to in order to earn more miles. You’d think more corporations would take issue with this.

Bottom line

There are lots of sources of inequality in the world. How you feel about that inequality probably varies significantly based on your political leanings. Regardless of your general philosophy on this stuff, hopefully we can agree that the inequality created by frequent flyer programs is pretty close to being at the bottom of the list.

It’s not only rich people who travel a lot for work, and quite to the contrary, constantly being on the road is tolling and largely undesirable work. Being away from your family can be tough, and for the most part business travelers are on much tighter expense accounts than in the past. It’s not as glamorous as you may assume.

If someone earns enough points from their business travel to take their spouse or kids on a trip at some point, given how much time they spend apart from them, I say that’s a darn good thing.

And best of all, you really don’t have to be rich or travel a lot for work to earn rewards that can get you “free” travel. A single credit card welcome bonus could be enough to get you an international business class trip. Give it a try, Amanda, and report back to us!

Comments

  1. What a load of garbage! The frequent-flier system is extraordinarily fair. Those who fly a lot get rewarded for it, plain and simple.

    You want a high status, professional position that allows you to fly a lot? Simple – pay attention in school!

  2. Her animosity is just the same brand of envy that makes people think it’s ok to raise taxes on the “rich” to support something expensive they want to see happen but can’t pay for themselves. People justify this to themselves by picturing “the rich” as all skiing behind their own yacht and able to afford to buy them some treats. Frequent flyer miles are intended as a rebate on spending. Whether it is the spending your company does or that you do yourself doesn’t matter to the airline. But the key here is that SOMEONE needs to spend to get some of that spend rebated. Kind of like how folks treat “tax cuts for the rich” as some kind of present to rich people, rather than what it is.

  3. I have found that there are three types of people in the world when it comes to travel.

    The first group tends to be incredulous about anybody who claims to travel more than once a year on their annual vacation. The concept of the road warrior trudging from city to city, anonymous hotel to anonymous hotel and living out of a suitcase is just as alien to them as martians selling ice-cream.

    The second group are the “oh, you’re so lucky to travel so much” people. These are the folks who think that a business trip to Europe with a redeye outbound and a day full of meetings is somehow similar to their dream vacation that features gondolas, rose petals and a masseur with fragrant oils.

    The third group are the grizzled veterans for whom nothing can raise an eyebrow. You flew 100,000 miles in a week? No big deal, I did 200,000 miles once. Had to change camels in Timbuktu on the way to Lesotho? Well, I took a flying cockroach to Nauru.

    The grass always seems greener on the other side.

  4. Non-business flyer here. Another point: The companies of business flyers paying full fare and up front essentially subsidize the economy cabin for the rest of us.

  5. You could argue that it is poor public policy that the IRS chooses not to tax frequent flyer “income”, since it is in fact earned by a lot of well-off people and other fringe benefits are taxed. But it’s not clear that the person who posted on Twitter had even gone that far in the thought process.

  6. I agree with her general statement, the miles created by business travel are a fringe benefit and not taxed. When you take a job that requires a lot of travel (being away from your family etc.) you are aware of it and it is part of your job duties. What about truck drivers? They are away a lot too and there are plenty of other jobs (shift workers etc.) that are hard on your family.

    While I enjoy the miles I get for my business travel (and would fight hard to not get them taxed 🙂 ) this is something ‘for free’ that in average higher compensated employees are getting.

    There are other means to get miles and her tweet was a generalization but there is a core of truth in it. I do agree with you that there are plenty of other sources of inequality higher on the priority list.

  7. I thought the main complaint about frequent-flyer miles in general was that they can be seen as a form of income (because your employer indirectly gives it to you when they pay for your ticket) but it is not taxed?

  8. “ it’s terrible for your health, terrible for your social life, and terrible for your family life.” And that is exactly what has been forgotten.
    I was on flight when my grandchild was born and took days to get home as hard as I tried. I just arrived to client when my dog died and had to get back to airport, than spending countless hours at airport to figure out how I can get back home.
    Have you ever been sick suddenly with high fever in far away hotel room?
    My child just yesterday was taken to ER as I was landing at midnight. If I had no family that supports me as they do, there would be no free vacations. Or probably no free Starbucks either.
    It is nothing more than being envy of the free flights from her part . The price we pay, us the “business travelers” is much higher than a $1000 “free” ticket. Seeing a person driving an expensive car living in an expensive house. Lets hate that person. Lets forget that the person owning them puts in 80-100 hours a week away from famies while slowly getting ulcer, heart disease from all the stress, the pushing the showing…

  9. Unreasonable? When Loyalty programs rewarded flyers exclusively for the number of miles they flew there were also those who took the most circuitous and thus least efficient flights available. I think companies are far more likely to monitor the price they pay for flights than the number of segments or miles (and time) it takes them to get to their appointed location. Loyalty programs now tend to reward behavior that is profitable to them and improves their bottom line, Unreasonable?

  10. The great irony I’ve found with friends who travel constantly for work (and by doing so earn a lot of points/miles and status perks), is that when they do have vacation time, the last thing they want to do is travel!

  11. I have two friends who travel quite a bit for work. Both have top tier status but have to fly out of a hub and most times, well at least 50% of the time, do not get upgraded. They live on airplanes and at airports. I don’t envy them a bit and they deserve every mile they get

  12. @German expat but it’s not really free is it? Everything is included in the ticket that you (or your company) pays with the hard earned money, from the service of transporting you from A to B, to the value of the miles and status you are awarded. And while I see where you’re coming from it wouldn’t be fair at all to tax miles. Are you taxed for the gifts you get?

  13. That’s the problem with most millennials, they’ve been brainwashed or raised by shitty parents to believing in the victim mentality. Perhaps she should have chosen a better degree – maybe a STEM degree instead of some bullshit transgender studies, peace studies or psychology major, then she could be spending 80% of her time on the road taking advantage of such perks as;

    Spending untold hours in shitty airports, like the 59 minute layover turns to 4 hours in PHL.
    Spend 17 hours getting from DFW to HKG for a 1/2 day meeting just to turn around in the AM.
    Eating absolute crap while spending all those hours on the road.
    The chronic jet lag, increased radiation and weaker immune system.

    I could go on and on, but why? If I disagree with her, I’ll just be branded some kind of “-ist” and have protestors hassling me while I eat Taco’s at an airport restaurant.

  14. Oh, Lucky. I love the blog, but you’re so far off-base here. Comparing senior executives to lower-level employees is definitely not the relevant comparison – both of those jobs are high status when compared to the universe of jobs that Americans have. Similarly, “get a credit card and start playing the miles game” is simply unrealistic for virtually everyone who is actually in a lower socioeconomic position: many (if not most) won’t be approved for another credit card, or at least a credit card with miles bonuses, and learning the rules of the game takes a lot of time that people working multiple or hourly jobs to support kids simply don’t have. I don’t think all of that makes frequent flier miles fundamentally problematic, or that somehow they’re tools of oppression, but such a tone-deaf “but business travel is hard!” response simply makes her argument for her. All work is hard – but a business traveler gets an extra perk that, say, a truck driver doesn’t.

  15. Well, good thing that in some countries in Europe this has been noticed and you must pay (income) tax for your (award) work miles when used for non-work. So those usually are used for worktravel in form of award flights and upgrades to avoid taxes.
    @Ben Holz, yes also there is tax for the gifts. In Finland for gifts worth over 5k it’s 8-33%.

  16. Oh, this is a great topic which I think every frequent traveller has dealt with to some capacity.

    “ it’s terrible for your health, terrible for your social life, and terrible for your family life.”
    Lucky sentence pretty much sums up frequent travel nicely. But the emphathis is on “frequent”. I travel almost every week on mostly short intra-europe trips. Travel like this is really draining and when it comes to collecting miles it isn’t the most efficient option. I mostly get on a place at around 4pm, arrive somwhere at 6-7pm will be in the Hotel by 8-9pm. All day meetings, then head back to the airport for a 8pm flight home -> where I will arrive about 11pm… Hardly a vacation and I barely meet the Lufthansa “Frequent traveller” requirements.

    Then there is the other side of the coin. My father still travels for work, but much less frequently. This year he will have made 5 trips to India (from Germany) – of course all in Business Class. The work week starts out with a couple days of acclimitisation (sightseeing, lavish dinners etc). and then maybe there will be a couple days of meetings. He will easily make the Senator status without a fraction of my hassles. This is the kind of travel which people are jealous of and it certainly exists.

  17. I don’t wholly agree with her but I think she does have a point. I think comparing it to Starbucks reward scheme is sort being blasé about inequality as that is significantly more accessible than flying. I know credit cards in the US are mode rewarding but quite a look people do not have access to these, so can’t take advantage of the bonuses you talk of.

    My biggest issue with the direction of FF schemes though is they don’t actually reward loyalty. The people who get the most out of the schemes are forced to fly particular carrier by their company through a corporate deal often full-flexible tickets. These are people are not actually loyal as they don’t have a choice in who they fly and there is not real an emotional attachment to the brand. Rewarding these people as oppose someone who saves up for a special trip and chooses to fly you regularly by their own volition is also counterintuitive from a marketing perspective as you are not rewarding those who are actually truly loyal to your brand.

  18. You make great points (no pun intended), except for the first one: she says that people who travel a lot are well-off not that all well-off people travel, there is a difference there. Anyway I take it as another company benefit and not see a problem with it. Of course the higher you climb the more benefits you’ll while making more money at the same time. What are Airlines supposed to do give miles to poor people who don’t fly and take away from frequent flyers? Welcome sky communism!

  19. Meh – I had once had to change sled dogs in Ely, smell a durian on a flight out of New Delhi and do an emergency landing in a smoke filled plane in San Antonio. My kiddo lost the toe of his boot to an ill-tempered mule in Texas, got bit by a fish in the Bahamas and bruised by a manatee in Florida.

    “The third group are the grizzled veterans for whom nothing can raise an eyebrow. You flew 100,000 miles in a week? No big deal, I did 200,000 miles once. Had to change camels in Timbuktu on the way to Lesotho? Well, I took a flying cockroach to Nauru.”

  20. Completely agree with the thought that current FF spend-based programs incentivize people to buy a more expensive ticket than the one they’d otherwise purchase. Very surprised corporate travel programs haven’t taken the airlines to task on this.

    Don’t agree FF miles are income. Aside from the fact that the programs actually earn money for the airlines, as Lucky says they’re marketing and any cost is factored into the cost of the airlines operations and ultimately into the price of the ticket. So, as marketing, in the same way that the $20 you received as a mail-in rebate isn’t income, neither are FF miles.

  21. I would say the vast majority who do travel for work can be considered as “well off”. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily wealthy, but the types of jobs that entail travel are ones that have a comfortable salary and certain privileges.

  22. Talking the world of air travel in isolation, yeah, of course frequent flier programs are a tool of inequality. The top tier elite always gets to board first, and Amanda has to wait. But that’s a very narrow way of looking at it.

    Looking instead at the entire world, and frequent flier programs as one small sliver of it, then it’s just the opposite. Frequent flier programs are a tool of equality. Without them, only the wealthy would be flying in premium cabins. But thanks to elite status, many typical corporate employees – who on average probably earn a bit more than the national average, but not near enough to regularly splurge on first class – get upgrades, and sit next to the one percenters. Thanks to frequent flyer partnerships, especially with credit cards, even non-frequent travelers can find themselves in business class over the ocean.

    Frequent flyer programs are a too of egalitarianism.

  23. So,to summarize you’re telling her to step out of the cross because somebody else needs the wood.

  24. @Bgriff’s comment about taxation is the heart of the issue and where you have to tread carefully with the “reward for the burdens of road warrioring” argument. IRS decided back in the early 80’s that frequent flyer programs weren’t compensation. Had they decided otherwise, the programs wouldn’t have survived, given the hassle factor and the very high tax rates of the era. If you’re going to argue that frequent flyer points are earned as a reward for the burdens of business travel as a form of indirect benefit from the traveller’s employer, you’re really arguing they are compensation. Compensation is supposed to be taxed and frequent flyer points are not, which lends credence to the argument they are unfair.

    These days of course a lot of points in the US are earned from credit cards, not flying, and the road warrioring argument doesn’t apply for those points. The “unfair” claim seems a lot weaker to me for credit card points. The points are offered as an inducement to open the card and credit card companies wouldn’t do it if they weren’t making money on the promotions. Ultimately, the consumers of the card are paying for those points one way or the other.

  25. I’d like to point out that the person I know who travels the most, and who has top tier elite status on two airlines, is not an executive or even wealthy. He provides basic on site support for large machinery in mostly rural areas. He stays in low-range motels most of the time because that’s all that’s available near the company’s customers. He is solidly “upper lower middle class” income-wise.

  26. American ff flyer programs are setup so that elites get strongly tied to each of their programs and would be for life without status matching. But they just reflect our attitudes in the broader society.

    Americans have turned into a class society. Already the guy in the white house acts like a dictator, has garish tastes, had a harem (though not legally recognized and not all at the same time), and is so vain that he would love to be called a king. The tax system is setup so that wealth is embedded in the family for generations and generations. There is no point for compensating labor when it’s better to be born into the right family than to work hard. Generational upward mobility is less in the USA than in some “socialists” European countries. Which party promotes these policies? Republicans. And they also want to take away your healthcare. They are murderers, thieves, people that want to turn you into slaves etc. In other words they want you to take us back to colonial times when a few people lorded over a vast majority. Republicans are a danger to your life.

  27. @ Ben Holz “And while I see where you’re coming from it wouldn’t be fair at all to tax miles. Are you taxed for the gifts you get?”

    If your employer paid for the gift, yes. Anything of value you receive from your employer is taxable income. Any other rule would permit tax evasion.

    @ khatl “Don’t agree FF miles are income. … So, as marketing, in the same way that the $20 you received as a mail-in rebate isn’t income, neither are FF miles.”

    Not the same, unless your employer paid for whatever earned the rebate and then allowed you personally to keep the rebate check. And in that case, it would be taxable income as well.

    The fact is, frequent flyer miles are one of very few exceptions to the rule in the US that anything of value received from your employer (or because of your employer) is taxable income.

  28. I should maybe clarify that I mean anything you receive from your employer for your own personal benefit is taxable income.

  29. As someone who works for an airline, I find this “Amanda”’s comments redundant. Most of my HVG on board are due to the company paying for their travel. They still get into their 1980s Volvo in the carpark after flying J class. Saying that only high paid executives travel is just not the case. Status with an airline and a company charge card does not equal great wealth. It means you are good at your job and missing your family whilst you are away for not always good financial remuneration. Just a thought.

  30. This is just a typical example of victim culture and the limitless opportunity to reveal one‘s own stupidity on the internet. Without twitter, the OP would have just told this to someone she knew and it would have been refuted quickly as nonsensical sh*t. Now it‘s out there for everyone to see and even spawns a „debate“ on the topic…

  31. In order to be taxable as income, points would need a fixed value and some sort of liquid market. Airlines couldn’t then just devalue them (or they might need to reimburse the taxation?).

    Alternatively, they could be taxed as they are redeemed when the value would be fixed for each transaction (that would suit me, since I never redeem them). But it strikes me as a lot of hassle for not much benefit: would you need to tax room upgrades for hotel FF programmes? What about that “welcome amenity” – should that be taxed? Lounge access at airports for those with status? The food they then consume in the lounge?

    Wouldn’t it just be easier to tax things which we want to discourage (I dunno – energy consumption?); or things which aren’t easily evaded (land tax)?

  32. Really enjoyed the article except for the commentary against revenue based earning of ff miles.

    While it used to be great when i’d earn 25,000 miles on my $600 flight to Asia, if the ultimate goal is to reward their most valuable customers then certainly someone spending more money on flights should be rewarded more than someone taking longer, cheaper flights (note that i’ll be booking a $700 flight to Columbus, Ohio later on this week).

    As for revenue based mileage leading towards business travelers booking more expensive fares for more mileage, well, i suppose thats what a corporate travel policy is for. It’s no different than someone who stays at the more expensive Hilton vs the less expensive Marriott because they want to earn points. And for many frequent business travelers, it’s much more important to book the most convenient flights rather than to book the flights that earn the most miles. (Yes, when I was 24 and single I once booked MCO->SLC->EWR rather than MCO->LGA, now that I’m 37 with a family and 15 years of corporate travel, i book the flights where the timing makes the most sense, regardless of cost or mileage opportunity.)

  33. “Looking instead at the entire world, and frequent flier programs as one small sliver of it, then it’s just the opposite. Frequent flier programs are a tool of equality. Without them, only the wealthy would be flying in premium cabins. ”

    Not only just in premium cabins. Yeah, we flew to SCL in J with AA miles, but my Southwest Companion Pass has enabled me to take my daughter and nieces to places such as the Grand Canyon, Busch Gardens, Washington DC, Cancun, Belize, San Francisco, etc. On a salary of $55,000.

  34. The whole discussion of FF miles being income is ludicrous. If we do that, then we should tax discounts, coupons and anything bought for below MSRP as income. Caught a deal and bought a $400 gopro on Amazon for $300? Then that is $100 income too. Rebates are not income.

  35. This whole “inequality” schtick of the far left is perhaps the most blatant admission that they want nothing short of full-on communism. The only way you get the kind of equality that they are after is “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” These guys are willfully blind to the absolute truth that we are all unique and are endowed with distinct traits, characteristics, capabilities, etc. Equality under the law is desirable. Forced equality in every facet of life is tyranny.

  36. Tax the points received while working, then it would be fair 🙂

    I don’t know why people would say flying for work (especially domestically) is glamorous.

    You don’t get to travel to the places you go, and how is it a “high paying” job? How much does the junior sales person flying to Idaho to present yet another boring powerpoint really make??

  37. As much as I relish my airline status, I often think of it as a “dubious” distinction, having achieved it by many hours of missing my family, long layovers, bad airport food, itchy hotel sheets, foul-smelling taxis, and rude waiters. And that was just last week.

  38. I think inequality exists between who uses cash vs credit cards. If I go to grab something from a fast food place for a quick lunch I whip out a card which gets me bonus restaurant points. The guy who can’t get (or shouldn’t use) one pays cash and he, along with other cash payers, subsidize the rewards of those who use cards.

    That being said, who cares? There will never be anything remotely close to complete equality of outcomes so people can either better themselves or simply complain. Amanda is squarely in the complain about it category.

  39. @lucky: “constantly being on the road is tolling and largely undesirable work.” Excuse me? Perhaps company-paid travel is largely undesirable for YOU, but many people including you choose a life of constant travel knowing full well how tolling it is on health and social life and family. It’s not at all undesirable though. The rewards earned more than offset the tolling nature of such jobs, and the business travel maximizers love their millions of tax free points they can use on their personal vacations. If they didn’t, nobody would want such jobs. Also, your claim that “there’s not necessarily a correlation between those who travel a lot for work and those who don’t” is ridiculous. That’s not even the variables she is asserting a correlation between. When talking about business travel point income vs business traveler salaries, there is definitely a correlation between those variables. Most companies will say lower ranking employees can only fly economy while higher ranked ones can fly business on long haul flights, for example. This common practice certainly accelerates the points income of the already higher-ranking (higher paid) employees. It is completely irrelevant that some senior executives do not travel.

    @khatl: You ignore the fact that when miles are used for personal travel, value is being transferred from company to employee, just like a paycheck. This is normally a taxable event, but since miles are funny money, it’s difficult to compute the value. I would argue that is the only reason they aren’t taxed.

    @Endre: You say people shouldn’t be envious of “a $1000 ‘free’ ticket”… Usually business travelers accrue FAR more than enough miles to redeem a single $1000 ticket. If you are a maximizer AND a business traveler, you might redeem 5 or 6 figures worth of free tickets every year. (Which are truly free in that you don’t pay any base fare, so no need for scare quotes there.)

    Frequent flyer programs allow those whose companies spend a lot (which absolutely correlates high paid employees) to reap maximum reward. Then you have the CC/points maximizers, who may be able to achieve perks similar to those of a business traveler using all the tricks from this blog and others. But the vast majority of travelers are flying on the cheapest ticket that Expedia found for them and have 0 to 10k miles in their FF accounts. If you don’t care to maximize, especially if you fly domestically in the US, you will almost certainly hate flying and be envious of “how the other side” travels.

    Amanda has a completely valid point. Everyone chooses their business travel lifestyle knowing it will separate them from their family. Am I supposed to feel pity because you are away from family all the time, meanwhile you are earning millions of miles that can be used to buy luxurious business or first class seats that would otherwise add up to 2x, 3x your salary? (Perhaps if you’re not a maximizer and only redeem miles earned from business travel for economy standard awards to Hawaii, then I would pity you.) Many business travelers who earn millions of miles from their flying DO constantly redeem them for premium cabin leisure trips for themselves and family. It absolutely contributes to inequality and makes it nearly impossible for the average person to ever fly business or first class, unless they are a maximizer, which in itself is a fairly tolling, isolating hobby 😉

  40. @Ben (not Lucky): “The companies of business flyers paying full fare and up front essentially subsidize the economy cabin for the rest of us.”

    That simply cannot be true. If the economy cabin didn’t make money for the airlines, they would simply get rid of them. They are not providing us with economy seats out of the kindness of their hearts. Airlines try to find the right mix of premium and economy that maximizes profit – sometimes it’s an all-economy configuration (e.g., Southwest, RyanAir), sometimes all-business (La Companie), and sometimes a mixture (most other airlines). In all cases, they choose those configurations according to the market.

    The idea that one passenger is subsidizing others is nonsense: the passenger who buys a last-minute business fare pays a lot of money for the privilege of completely flexible travel plans that the airlines must accommodate (which costs the airlines), whereas the vacation traveler buys a nonrefundable super-saver fare 6 months in advance, sacrificing flexibility but providing the airline certainty (which benefits the airline). Neither passenger is subsidizing the other, and when you factor in the costs and benefits of flexibility, both are paying market rates for the product they receive.

  41. She sounds like the sort of person who whines about legroom and “unfairness” when she passes through the first-class cabin. She wants what others have, but can’t pay for it herself, so it’s only natural that the rest of the world bend to give her something she otherwise couldn’t have.

  42. @Ben (Lucky): “Generally people who are better off have more access to credit cards, and isn’t the cost of purchases being raised by a couple of percent due to merchant fees? It’s quite literally those without access to credit cards subsidizing those with credit cards.”

    I think you’ve blown this argument off way to easily with your facetious Starbucks analogy. People do not have to buy anything at Starbucks. Whether Starbucks rewards its best customers with the occasional free cup of coffee is irrelevant to someone who chooses to simply not buy their coffee there.

    But everyone has to buy things. And every merchant that accepts credit cards (the vast majority of merchants) has to jack up their prices a few percent to cover the credit card processing fees. Visa, Mastercard and Amex in fact require merchants to charge people the same price for a product whether they pay by cash or credit card. (Most merchants comply with this; some gas stations are notable exceptions.) So that means that lower income people who can’t get credit, and therefore pay cash for everything, directly subsidize the credit card processing fees the merchant must pay on behalf of those of us who use cards. It’s those fees that (at least partly) pay for the points we earn on each purchase.

    So: yes, credit card points *especially* (vs airline points) are a tool of inequality.

  43. Until recently, I travelled a LOT for work and I certainly was NOT high status or well-paid! So I really resent this statement. Thanks Lucky and everyone for debunking it!

    She forgets that some of us – regardless of our “status” or “salary” also love to travel and frequent flyer programs are like a hobby. It’s all about maximising your miles and status in the most savvy, cost-saving ways. All while doing something you love.

  44. This entire conversation just reminds me so thoroughly of how miserable some people are. “Lively debate or not” – some folks are just selfish and preoccupied with communicating from their selected soap box. And the same folks wonder why people just opt out of the whole mess and go live in the mountains in isolation somewhere.

  45. @James W: This is a dangerous and harmful attitude that reeks of privilege and an inability to relate to anyone from a lower class. The notion that someone can’t pay for first class (and basically deserves to suffer in economy as a result) ignores the obvious duality in the ways people pay for tickets ($ vs miles). Can you pay for first class tickets? Most people, even business travelers, cannot. They rely on companies to pay for those tickets, which then earn them miles, the “other” way to pay for tickets, which is largely inaccessible to those who are not spoiled by company travel. Everyone protests the taxation of these miles, but we all know it’s personal greed saying “don’t tax them!”, not reasonable thinking.

    “She wants what others have”… as anyone would. But why do others have those privileges? Because of a system that rewards the rich with even more nice things, and keeps the cattle in their class until they “work hard” enough to “earn” those things for themselves. Or you could just, you know, be lucky enough to have a nice family number who “works hard on the road” to earn miles and use them on you (also a nontaxable transaction).

  46. @Wes “This whole “inequality” schtick of the far left is perhaps the most blatant admission that they want nothing short of full-on communism. The only way you get the kind of equality that they are after is ‘From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.’ ”

    That’s simply not the case. You are making the assumption that simply because someone (like Amanda) mentions income inequality, they want full income equality. But I don’t think anyone on the modern left thinks that full income equality is possible or even desirable. Yes, Marxists used to think it was possible, but the last 100 years or show have shown that it really isn’t. However, that doesn’t mean that extreme income inequality is sustainable or healthy for the economy. There are valid, evidence-based arguments from economists (start with Piketty, see link below) that extreme inequality has political and economic repercussions that are undesirable for everyone. Note that the argument is not “it’s not fair,” but rather “it doesn’t work and it’s going to blow up in our faces.”

    By dismissing anyone who mentions income inequality as a communist, you are simply slapping invalid labels on people and ignoring what is turning out to be a real problem in the modern world.

    https://www.amazon.com/Capital-Twenty-First-Century-Thomas-Piketty/dp/0674979850

  47. I used to use coupons a lot. I still use them for random stuff and I always will. At my peak, I was not that great at it when you see what people who are good at it could really do. I should now stand at the check out and start claiming “privilege” to those couponers or people who actually used their 10th stamped Starbucks card for a freebie. How ridiculous!!! My husband started flying biz to Asia this year every few weeks. It was super fun having him gone FOR WORK while teenagers had meltdowns on me. He returned stressed, jet lagged for 4 days and then back within a week. We were privileged to start life with wholesome backgrounds, but not a dime to our name. We did pursue education: Scholarships, fellowships, part-time jobs while in school to attain the “privilege” she talks about. I signed me and my children up early to the frequent flyer programs and they never asked my status not once. I didn’t have any. I was just asking to have my card stamped if I flew. Credit cards are a different story……. Thanks Lucky

  48. Another Dominos Pizza Prog – wanting Something For Nothing.

    Truly pathetic how people let jealousy form their world view. Ask Cubans and Venezueleans how that worked for them.

    Voluntary transactions create value or they would not happen. Prog rules only take place via gunpoint such ObamaCare.

    Sad

  49. She is probably just your regular self righteous SJW. In a truly socialist world, frequent flier miles would be a ridiculous luxury and the system wouldn’t exist, so I “get” where she is coming from. But since we are not it is anathema to us.

  50. I’m truly embarrassed for the entire inequality crowd who don’t have WORK ETHIC instilled in their lives to go out and earn.

  51. The twitter post has it backwards. Frequent flyer programs are unfair to corporations. Businesses pay for the flights and the passenger gets to bank the “rebated” price of the ticket. It also incentivizes the flyer to get the most expensive tickets possible to increase their “rebate.”

  52. You can delete the Tweet, but you cannot unring the bell, Amanda.

    Next time, think before you sermonize.

  53. The system is fair, and that’s what matters. Sure the results aren’t equal, but that’s ok. I don’t make what Mark Zuckerberg makes so should I complain about inequality? No! He contributed something far more valuable to society and should be paid for doing it just like someone that pays airlines more/flies more should get more miles.

    I could’ve created Facebook, and she could’ve persued a job with travel if that’s what she wants.

    Equal results shouldn’t be the goal. That’s never going to work. Equal opportunity is what we should strive for societally and I don’t see how miles aren’t a good example of that actually happening. They treat everyone completely equally.

  54. A related comment about this topic: the belief among the general public (and some bloggers) that award travel is free; it isn’t in most cases it really is prepaid travel.

  55. I’ve never travelled for work (I live in NYC and company HQ is here… so normally the company would fly other analysts/associates to come to the HQ for training, meetings, etc.) but I still “made it work” by getting to travel for free or mostly free in a mix of economy/premium cabins when I can mainly thanks to your blog, Lucky!
    I think travelling for work is great for people who are young and single as it’s a new adventure to visit a new city, etc. However, for people who are in committed relationships and have families of their own, travelling for work is definitely tougher.

  56. @Ben Holz

    Absolutely gifts are taxed otherwise I would ask my employer to gift me a Porsche instead of part of my salary. Currently I work in Switzerland and here are the rules:

    https://www.ch.ch/en/taxation-gifts/

    And I am also an US citizen and here are the rules for the US:

    https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/gift-tax

    What I tried to say is that I am also a hypocrite and would complain heavily if miles get taxed but from a strict fairness perspective they have value (look at all the bloggers how much money they ‘saved’ with all the first class trips or the ‘valuation’ blog entries you find even here).

  57. First, why is it bad for a well-off person to benefit more?

    The well-off person is likely to have made a long string of decisions that led to them being well off.

    Our society benefits when there are rewards for good decision making. It causes more people to make good decisions, as measured by the wages and benefits that accrue to those who make contributions society highly values.

    In other words… the original article writer hits one point correctly… FF points “unfairly” go to the well off. She just doesn’t understand that this is a GOOD thing.

  58. This is so funny. You can tell who voted for Uncle Bernie from their posts.

    Life is not fair. Stop teaching newer generation that it is. Teach them to adapt and survive the environment, not try to create an impossible ideal environment which fits themselves.

    There are only 2 reasons that the IRS doesn’t tax miles.
    1. It is hard to track miles. (Think Amazon sales tax but federal level) You can force UA/AA/DL but not EK/QR/CX/BA etc. Not only that you have to track both earned, spend, flown. (The poor redeems for the rich to avoid tax) It gets uglier when the broken airline IT tracks all of this.

    2. It is costly for IRS to enforce 1. They probably spent more than they can collect.

    Yes, IRS is a government profit center they won’t lose profit to chase small change.

  59. She is correct that most people never get on a plane. And those who do fly for work are not getting paid minimum wage, or juggling two part-time jobs because their employers cap hours at 24 a week.

  60. @eskimo: “You can tell who voted for Uncle Bernie from their posts… Life is not fair. ”

    I voted for Bernie. And what all the anti-Amanda posts on here seem to get wrong is that the argument against high income inequality has anything to do with fairness. It doesn’t.

    I find it strange that the only reasons some posters here seem to be able to think of for why someone would criticize extreme income inequality are envy and unwillingness to work hard. Doesn’t it occur to you that many wealthy people, from middle class and wealthier backgrounds, have benefited from systemic advantages that the poorest people simply do not have access to?

    Do you really think that it’s sustainable that the most wealthy continue to increase their share of the world’s wealth while the least wealthy can barely survive? Even if you forget about fairness completely, it’s possible to see that an economy becomes imbalanced if that continues much past the extremes we’ve already reached. The consequences are not just economic stagnation (an economy needs reasonably well-paid workers to buy things) but also political instability (people get mad and try to change things, not always within the system).

    You don’t have to agree with these points about inequality. But please stop jumping to the conclusion that anyone who is concerned about inequality is a communist, a mooch, or jealous. It’s possible to have a different point of view based on rational conclusions, not emotional ideas about fairness.

  61. @ Sam

    “The well-off person is likely to have made a long string of decisions that led to them being well off.”

    Er, no. The well-off person is most likely to have won life’s Lottery by being borne to wealthy parents, or even by being borne poor-ish but in a wealthy country where universal education is freely available.

    Have a look at the latest social mobility figures. In the allegedly class-less US they have plummeted (there is now greater social mobility in class-bound England than in the US).

    The American Dream is pretty much a myth.

  62. I think the only valid argument is that FF benefits for work travel are kickbacks or bribes from the airline to the flyer and they have real value that is not taxed. The employer pays for the ticket, the flyer gets the value. For personal travel it is just a rebate and that should not be taxed.

    I think FF programs frequently cause companies to pay more for travel than they would have otherwise. My corporate travel agency allows me to pay 10% more than the lowest fare without generating an exception. I’ve certainly paid $30 more for my preferred airline on a $400 fare. That is $30 more than my company would have paid in a world where there are no FF benefits. It keeps me more productive though to get an extra legroom seat for free though.

  63. The Left has found another way the “poor” are being shafted. I didn’t know vacations were a universal human right although after spending a week at an Aman you would think the world would be a more civilized place if everyone could spend some time there.
    The miles game is for the upper middle class. Those who “work” for a living, have good credit and aren’t rich enough to fly private. Turning left when boarding a plane is one of life’s little pleasures especially when your redemption is worth 5+ cents a mile lol. That said this is ultimately a meritocratic endeavor. If you have the time and skill to use the miles well then you deserve the rewards – kinda like life.

  64. This is by far the most ridiculous thing I have read this month. We have a problem with envy in our society. Life is not fair and people need to get over that and do the best with the hand they are dealt. This doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. I know plenty of rich people that are absolutely miserable.

    FF miles are a win-win for companies and employees ( and airlines) because if they didn’t have them employees would demand per diem amongst other things for travel. What Amanda fails to realize is that people who travel don’t get compensated for delays, canceled flights and other hassles that come with traveling. It is not considered compensation and neither are other employer paid benefits (health, 401k etc).

    I think we have bigger societal problems that we should be worried about.

  65. People are taught American exceptionalism to brainwash them into thinking that they will be exception to the rule, that statistics don’t apply to them. The statistics show that you, your kids, grand kids will die in the same socioeconomic class or lower.

    Most brainwashed people here talk about their hard work and their qualifications. No matter! You will still remain a glorified office peon with somewhat comfortable lifestyle. And a little bit of extra advantage for your kids compared to others. And most people fight tooth and nail just for that.

    What is happening in America is institutionalized wealth. There are some that will give it away and they vote Democrats (gates, Buffett) and some that want to keep it for generations (koch, Walton, DeVos, trump.) No one wants socialism. It is not practical. Similarly uncompassionate capitalism is not practical either.

    If you think there is equal opportunity then new parents should randomly shuffle newborns and there should be no guarantee you will get your own kid. Let’s see hope many agree. Everyone should be ok since there is equal opportunity. No one actually believes that. India had generational caste system. America is moving towards that. Class predetermined at birth. For generations!

  66. @James – EXACTLY. I traveled weekly for nearly 10 years. The last thing I wanted to do was spend even more of my time at an airport or another drab hotel room with little to no style. Although I will admit now that I no longer travel for work, I do enjoy travel again and I also learned while on the road to always, ALWAYS bring your ear plugs and your sleep mask as well as an inexpensive bluetooth speaker.

    Also, I now tip much more than before (to hotel housekeepers). They can make a trip so much more pleasant with extra lotions and other nice – ities to make your trip even more special.

  67. The attitude she takes reminds me of the frequently disdainful looks I get from passengers walking by me, any time I’m flying in first class. I often even see shaking of heads. Those people assume that because I am flying in first, I think I’m better than them. I DON’T! I do look down at those who look down at me, though! I’ve never paid for a first class ticket. Either it is a rare upgrade because of how much I fly back in economy, or an insanely cheap upgrade (both AA and AS offered me $59 upgrades last year on medium length flights).

    It is a part of entitlement culture. In the same way as the super rich believe that they should always be entitled to the best seats etc., people with a worldview like hers think that everybody should be entitled to equal access to air travel; otherwise it is the fault of those flying for using their flying as a privilege.

    Maybe she should instead focus on what ULCCs have done to provide greater access to air travel! Growing up in Ireland with Ryanair showed me that. Very low income people were suddenly able to fly. Now in the US, you see it on Frontier, Spirit, and Allegiant.

  68. I find it very odd that government employees accruing miles/hotel points on work travel are permitted to keep them, including civil/public servants, teachers, university staff. It is wrong: these points are paid for through public money and should be retained for public, not private, use. They should go into a travel pool or be donated for charitable purposes. Private sector employers can do as they choose.
    I get that taxing the points is problematic, and also that some jurisdictions have ruled that points belong to the individual rather than the organisation paying for them. If that’s the case, and that points can’t be surrendered, then a fair estimate of their value should be used in salary compensation decisions.

  69. To all the comments regarding truck drivers not getting miles… my father drove a truck for 20 years, his last 8 as an owner-operator. He put every tank of fuel on his Amex, about $5k/week. You think he didn’t have some miles?

    But at the end of the day, if you want something the person next to you has, figure out a way to get it rather than complain you do not have it either. The majority of people have worked very hard to get where they are. And being in a position where your company sponsors your travel usually involves a lot more stress than a typical hourly position. How many middle managers and higher can leave after 8 hours and not have a care about work until the next business day?

  70. I’m sorry but if you’re gonna talk inequality I think you’re talking about someone who flies on a private luxury jet like my big boss does. But the sacrifice made for a job like that no thanks, the 24/7 never ending stress no way….. And, these mid teir business folks that regularly have to travel domestic airlines they deal with so much on the regular I think they deserve a hell of a lot more reward than some airline miles. This lady must just be living with tons of resentments & jealousy in her life, as would explain why someone would post such a thing ( and then retract ). However, I will agree that points should go back to per mile instead of per dollar as that was more fair!

  71. Millennials are … well young and idealistic. Will change. Life will teach them the hard way.
    Except that I think that business travellers and those not paying for their flights and hotels are the worst travellers ever, complaining all the time, high expectations, kind of “I desserve it”, etc.

    I live in hotels and travel full time on my own money and really find pathetic all those road warriors who don’t spent one dollar for anything and spend the miles for holidays but think they are entitled to everything and desserve particular attention.

    Overall, I agree on the fact that companies should enforce a policy about miles (as we do in my own company – I have set up this rule as a founder) > miles earned = pool of miles = used for business trips = we save money on travel budget.

    When you don’t pay with your hard earn money >>> low profile!

  72. The airlines very smartly set it up so WE don’t pay taxes on award points . The common traveler after 2 or 3 bus trips would want to ” Stay Home ” they have everything right at hand ..That is their job it’s not a vacation and they put up with Jet lag ,Trash Food and being tired after getting up @ 3am . My buddy was management at Hostess Bakery giving back the points lasted like 2 months then they just let it go . . Travel for work is Trash .
    Enjoy the Points u earned Them .

    CHEERS

  73. Miles, points, and cash back are discount programs, not income. You still pay taxes when redeeming them. You also pay taxes when buying them. Most of this treatment is because of the way companies treat their points under their income statement. These points are essentially considered “marketing expenses,” or “customer acquisition costs (COGS),” or Even a balance sheet liability. They are non-cash expenses. Therefore they are used to reduce corporate income (and tax), which provides some efficiency in how they charge for goods sold. These points may be lowering fares somewhat due to tax reduction, reducing unsold seat inventory, etc.

    Amex won their case regarding the discount rates charged to merchants, under the evidence that transaction costs have dropped over time. When companies compete by differentiation (loyalty programs), we all get lower prices and better goods.

  74. Only unfair part I see is with lower requalification requirements. Those already with status will more easily requalify than those starting from scratch. Everyone should be assessed on the same criteria when it comes to qualifying for elite status.

  75. If anything FF miles levels the playing field. How many of us would pay $5,000 for a plane ticket to sit on a plane for 10 hours? But show us how to earn to points to do it we’ll do it. For a CEO or celebrity, $5K is pocket change while for the rest of us it’s a big old wad of cash. Her biggest mistake is to assume that people who travel for work are flying in style rather than they work 16 hours / day and maybe don’t get paid well. Take flight attendants for example. They can fly on buddy passes but their base bay is awful. I think she posted it in frustration because she doesn’t know how to earn points to fly. She is probably thinking the only way she can earn 100K points is to take 50 economy flights over 10 years. But it never occurred to her that its because she’s no damn good at this points game.

  76. Honestly, she’s right. In Hollywood, the richest of the rich celebrities get PAID to show up to clubs, get bags full of FREE stuff worth thousands of dollars just to show up to an award show, they get free meals and free clothes if they promote it…the rich who can technically afford all this stuff get it all for free. Same with travel (although I do admit she might be generalising too much and I do agree with your points lucky)..

    But Ben, you do make it seem like its the easiest thing in the world to sign up for a Chase Sapphire Reserve and start spending thousands to earn thousands of miles. Its not. You have to get approved, have $$ to spend, etc. So she is kinda right. But so are you.

  77. @ Lucky I look forward to your posts & enjoy the experience you bring to the travel game but you are waaayyy off base on this one. Your comments (and most of the comments on this post) have white privilege written all over it. Take a look around you…everyone looks like you and is doing the same thing. You should write a blog about all the diversity you see in travel blogging or in J, F, or at the FTUs of the world. It’s homogeneous. I think you may find it a bit difficult to write about. Think about how it may look from someone else’s point of view. Understand this…it’s hard to fathom when it’s not you.

  78. I managed global business travel (T&E) for nearly 20yrs in US/UK and people who didn’t travel envied those who did. Everyone had (usually false) assumptions of what people flew, where they stayed, ate, spent and this glamorous lifestyle. i have a ton of stories – good, bad and ugly around travel.
    for some yes it was great for others not so much.my IT guys refused to spend budget money and shared rooms and pizza (didn’t care about points) vs my five star guys with elite status. each group/sept/company saw travel and expense differently.
    i had a few travelers mostly outside the US who don’t care or collect about hotel or car points. they’d be platinum at hotels but don’t care.
    My C level employees rarely traveled and if they did the company (at the time) had private jets so no points for them.
    everyone has different motivations, expectations, etc with travel. it will look tempting until you start doing it and realize pros/cons.

  79. It is interesting because many people who travel frequently are consulting associates or analysts. They aren’t exactly making the big bucks.

  80. I am pretty naive compared to most people on this blog, but I thank Lucky for it! I just want to say to Amanda that you don’t quite understand about the mileage program. I don’t either. Much of what is written here is over my head, but I am trying to learn more one article at a time. My main message is that we (my husband and I) had two incredible “free” trips simply by joining Citi AAdvantage and saving our miles. I’m not sophisticated at this, yet we were able to have a second honeymoon in Maui and Kauai, then after savingmore miles our 50th wedding anniversary in Paris. These trips made dreams come true. You can do the same thing. All you have to do is sign up for a credit card and put all your expenses on it. Someday you will be in a paradise you never dreamt of. Just give it a try. Don’t measure yourself against others. Just make a goal and work at it little by little. You can have it, too, and you don’t have to be rich, hign-salaried, or a frequent flier. It is much more simple than you could imagine. Good luck! Thank you Lucky and all those who contribute to this wonderful blog.

  81. well off persons… the little twit needs to expand her horizon a bit. Lots of people that are middle class or lower fly for work all the freaking time. Nothing like starting your week at 4:00 AM Monday at the airport and ending it at midnight Friday night when you finally get home. During the week you have no clue where you will sleep at night. Try to eat healthy on $25 a day or stay in a shitty hotel for a week with a co-worker. (not that I had to but I knew guys that did) Or when you are gassing up /paying luggage fees etc, you find out that your company card is declined and your coworkers are maxed out on their cards. As for going for the higher fare, most companies subscribe to travel software to keep the minions from spending too much. Its barbaric but there are still companies that deem any points or rewards are the property of the company. I wonder if she would be ok with the corporate travel planner, putting her in red roof inns, or other crapholes, some priceline room, a crappy car rental or getting you a 4 hour layover because its $100 cheaper than a nonstop. Or the coworker that goes behind your back and puts the rooms and flights on his loyalty cards or fucks the co-worker out of an upgrade that was his turn to get.
    I put up with a ton of shit so I could fly to Europe to see my Military child, and stay in hotels for free, or take a weekend trip with the wife even though flying, eating at restaurants or sleep in another hotel is the last thing I want to do. I chalked up the miles and points I got as part of my compensation package.

  82. edit :

    And if she ~~~don’t~~~ like the direction the discussion is taking, can’t she just step away?

  83. They call them loyalty programs, but that’s not true. It’s all about who spent the most money last year. Absolutely not about who has been loyal for 15 years. It’s only a little related to the miles, they are always modulated by the $$’s. And yes, if your company policy says you must fly a specific airline and you must fly business if it takes more than 6 hours, then that’s got nothing to do with loyalty.

  84. A friend of mine has a very working class job that requires a lot of travel to the middle east and Africa. His company buys the lowest fare tickets and he spends a lot of time in basic economy seats for hours once a month. Takes his family on a nice vacation once per year. What is so entitled about that?

  85. My company pays for fully flexible first class tickets for all of its employees for domestic and international travel. Sure, it sounds like a perk, but most, if not all of us, would rather spend the time with our families instead of traversing across business meetings in remote areas of the world. Most of us don’t have the energy nor the interest in utilizing any of the on-board facilities in first class, except for the bed – it’s often the place where we get most sleep. An interesting, but ill-informed tweet, especially when our tickets cost anywhere from 5-10x those flying in econ.

  86. @ Kent Miller

    “…most, if not all of us, would rather spend the time with our families instead of traversing across business meetings in remote areas of the world”

    That simply makes no sense. If it were true, why wouldn’t all of you resign and, er, spend more time with your families?

    I whine about how much work travel I have to do and there are parts of my job that are horrible to do, but, taking everything together, I like my job better than anything else I can think of, and I am willing to take the rough with the smooth. My guess is that most of us who are flying long distances as part of our jobs have choices. None of them may be better, overall, than what we currently do. But we’re not compelled to fly around the world if we would rather do something else.

  87. @The nice Paul – because regardless of how tiring and frustrating it is, the travel is part of a job, that is required to maintain a certain quality of lifestyle that my family and I are accustomed to.

    I can’t think of anyone who would want to spend time away from their family on a regular basis, unless the career was intended to help the family, and especially the future of their (my) children. So, actually what I wrote makes complete sense. I am not sure how you find the subject difficult to comprehend.

  88. @Lucky —> Random thoughts, possibly not worth the bandwidth it took to write them…

    There are two elements in your article which struck me as missing-in-action, so to speak.

    1) There are a whole lot of people who may fly for business but only short-haul — say SFO to LAX or SAN; AUS to DAL/DFW or IAH — in other words, intrastate, rather than interstate. As an example, I rarely flew for business in my various jobs in the Calif. wine trade.

    —> In the late-1990s as the sales manager for an importer & wholesaler based in the SF Bay Area, maybe 3-4 times a year to, mostly to work with my sales reps in Southern California; add to that, the very rare trip to the East Coast to pour wines at (e.g.) the Boston Wine Expo or to go on a buying trip to France.
    —> In the early ’90s, as the sales manager of a small CA winery, I’d travel (rarely) to work with wholesalers out of state, or to pour our wines at tastings.
    —> As the wine educator for a major California retailer in the 1980s, there were a few times when I flew between SNA and SJC to teach our employees about wine, but mostly I was working in my office.

    Invariably, these flights were on Southwest — even on trips to the East Coast — or AirCal; only once did I fly United on a multi-city trip (SFO-ORD-BOS-JFK-MIA-SFO, spending approx. 24 hours in each city), and I flew UA to Europe. The only FF miles I remember getting were the flights on UA…

    2) Not everyone with status fly for business. Now that I’m retired, my wife and I take a lot of 3- and 4-day weekend trips places — little “mini” vacations as her work schedule permits. (She’s a Criminal Defense Attorney, so a couple of times a year, we’ll fly to conferences where she is presenting/teaching.) These little trips, plus 1-2 long(er)-haul vacations a year have permitted us both to gain elite status with VX (me Gold, her Silver, which translated into status with AS as MVP Gold and MVP, respectively. This year, I’ll only hit MVP status, and I’m pretty sure she’ll lose her status entirely. ☹️ So, YES, we *do* like having status; it’s better than not having status; and we will miss it going forward…

  89. I remember my road warrior days. I wasn’t well paid, but it required a lot of traveling. The company always paid for economy only and I prayed for upgrade to clear. It takes a toll on you. After long flights and many connections, I would curl in fetal position on my hotel bed, in pain. It was painful. If I travel occasionally for leisure I wouldn’t mind enduring economy, but when you are every other day flying, that upgrade is godsend. I think non frequent flyers has a very wrong view of frequent flyers. I think they see the upgrade and perks but don’t see the toll it takes.

  90. Sung
    Most correct I’m sick of air travel Sooo going the next step up .. My travel flts are numbered but something I have to do to GET THERE..

    CHEERs

  91. @snic Uncle Bernie is trying to rig the system in his favor too. Ever got a real answer why an Independent ran for Democrats? You don’t try to fix the unfair system, you learn to thrive like Bernie does (at the expense of Hillary which leads to Trump).

  92. I had these colleagues who said to me: “I wish I had your job, you do all the travelling, you have all the fun.”… yet, eventually when our business started to grow, they started to travel as well – still not as much as I do. And now they say to me: “This travelling is brutal, this is really tough”.

    I am not an executive and don’t make silly amounts of money. I spend about 2 weeks per month on the road, which includes at least one long haul, and a couple of short hauls.

    I love my job and I love travelling. But I could certainly do without the jet-lags or red-eye flights, the crime and corruption I am exposed to, the bad food and occasional food poisening, the discomfort of long haul in economy (I am 6 ft 4), the time away from family, the weekends and bank holidays I have to travel for a prompt start at 9 am on Monday with my client, the delays and stress of missing my connection, the back to back meetings and fully packed 14+ hour working days, the time I spend in meeting rooms with no day light or the noisy and over-crowded airports.

    That’s the dark side of travel that non-frequent travellers don’t understand, because their only point of reference is their summer vacation where they chose their destination and mode of travel.

    The perks that come with my elite status make things a lot more comfortable. The miles I collect are used for upgrades – if posible at all. And for my vacations, I tend to avoid air travel.

    Thus, anyone who has no experience as a frequent flyer or traveller for work has no right to come up with this nonsense about inequality. They should spend a couple of months on the road as part of their job to make a living before they post such a naive opinion.

  93. Victim mentally. Poor Amanda. Roughly 75% of my travel (and point earnings) is paid for via business travel. I’m not a rich executive c-suiter but I live well. Credit card points and personal travel compliment my point portfolio too.

    However… The direction of this is wrong imo. Yes I’m college educated and I’m not going to apologise for that. I worked hard and earned it. I paid back my student loans (because I worked hard for a marketable degree and not some B.S. underwater basket weaving degree). Amanda and the other victims out there.. you want free travel? Work hard, get educated.. make good life choices.. and get yourself a position that affords company travel (see how much you enjoy that after the novelty wears off). Stop hating on those who earned what they have.

  94. Oh, for heaven’s sake! This time of year I’d point out that having a garden/balcony/deck/window ledge and the right focus lets you plant food and herbs that give you a huge nutritional and food enjoyment boost over your non-growing neighbor. Being a good and inventive cook on top of that – total inequality! Please do whine about everything and anything, Twitterettes.

    But you’re absolutely right that getting a good rewards card is not a given for much of the country. CSR? Not a chance. That part really is inequality.

  95. I’ve read through most of the posts now, and have to say I agree and sympathize with the air warriors who have little choice in leaving families and friends to live in motels and eat less-than-optimal food, with deficient exercise routines and constant jet lag, to do their jobs. But, in my later years, I laugh at those who talk of “hard work gives me greater rewards”. Can you really think the street seller/hotel maid/garbage hauler in this country and others much less privileged doesn’t work as hard or harder than you? Were they lazy in school, or did, perhaps, their schools suck compared to yours? Was a college education completely out of their financial reach? Do they love their kids less?

    I’m no Biblical scholar, but one section sticks with me, from Ecclesiastes 9:11:
    “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”

  96. By Amanda focusing on miles and points she’s giving the bigger fish a reprieve. Miles and points are essentially a fixed redemption and will never become more valuable. The real thing she should be complaining about is the private equity deals that retail investors don’t have access to (crowdfunding is mostly lame).

    Traveling for work isn’t fun and most work travelers end up racking up miles that they don’t know what to do with, as because someone mentioned, they’d rather not be on a plane for vacation.

    Kind of a misguided rant that spurs a great discussion about what we are really doing with our lives? Is it all Miles and Smiles with Champagne, Pringles and Caviar?

    In the end we can buy that stuff with way less effort Tha and we put in to get “free first class flights”

  97. Though I largely agree with Lucky’s stand because an airline does not really fork out anything to run its frequent flyer program, I can’t help but rebut Lucky’s first two points.

    It was shocking that so many people hogging the comment board just agreed with Lucky simply because business trips were grueling as if airlines owe you anything for having to patronize them. Airlines do not have moral obligations to reimburse business travelers in any form. They are just doing what they promised according to the contract of carriage. Business travelers should seek reimbursement from their employers as employers make them travel exhaustingly. Demanding compensation from airlines is as ludicrous as asking the merchant for tips when your girlfriend asks you to collect perfume for her. You can’t just grab someone you interact with during your trip and say, hey, my trip is tiring, I want this and that.

    Lucky’s first point was even more ridiculous. That business travelers are not senior executives certainly does not deny the fact that they are far better off than the myriad of people who struggle to make their ends meet. It is still true that the better-off get extra perks as they work while those at the bottom of the social ladder do not, so generally the rich tend to be more rewarded than the poor by FFPs.

    The only way to dismantle Amanda’s argument is by contending that the airline does not lose anything running a frequent flyer program, as opposed to credit card merchants who inevitably raise the price of their products to cover credit card transaction fees.

    It is not surprising that Amanda eventually deleted her post. There are already so many people attacking her as a person just because these people cannot think properly.

  98. I’ve always said, and I used to travel about 25-30% for work, those miles should go into a pool to be used for company-related travel. If you take a job that requires travel, you can’t bitch about it (as many are doing here) and say that you are entitled to those miles as compensation. Your compensation is the job you were hired to do at the salary you agreed to. I knew the position would require travel–sometimes to interesting places, sometimes not. That was the nature of the beast. For me to complain about it afterwards would have been the height of hubris.

  99. The miles and hotel points were a perk and part of my compensation package and agreed to at the time of hire. Companies that I worked for had plenty of events I missed because I was traveling.

  100. Dear Amanda and others like you
    I’m a seventeen year old from a middle class family unfortunately my parents are divorced and live on either sides of the country. Due to this I travel about every other week roundtrip from La to New York to visit my dad for the weekend. I buy three hundred dollar coach roundtrip tickets on Alaska airlines. Because of the frequency and mileage of my travel I have Alaska mvp 75k status and usually get upgraded to first class. I get plenty of dirty looks,comments,and stares from the people walking past first to get to economy class, because of this I have started waiting until the final boarding call to get on so I don’t need to endure this.So Amanda although I realize that my situation is not normal, thank u so much for generalizing all the passengers in first class without knowing the true story.
    P.S. I’m sure ure one of those people that would give me a dirty stare while walking past me and then whisper to your friend look at that classic rich kid in first.

  101. Ridiculous arguments. Frequent flyer miles are massively inequitable. Those who are lucky enough to have enough money in the first place get frequent flyer miles and all these extra benefits, that those who don’t in the first place just can’t get… They’re terrible!

  102. Tom W
    Its not luck. if you read the comments most of us who amassed miles did so for work, and we were the grunts. If you think they’re terrible then that’s your right. Don’t think for a minute that its luck.

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