Earn’n’Burn or Keep’n’Reap? You Decide!



I have the news for you. Earn and burn is not a good strategy for most people. For some power bloggers and spenders yes. But for most of you, no.

This new slogan that has taken deep roots after the series of airline devaluations sounds catchy, but the question is, what’s next? You burn all your miles on a few flatbeds (with all these devaluations it won’t take long). How fast are you going to be able to replenish them? Considering that credit cards have tightened their rules too, how many more new trips to Walmart can you stomach?

Stop looking for excuses to chase premium-class travel, because, let’s be honest, Earn and  Burn is all about that. Airlines are making it harder and harder for you to buy the seat in the front of the bus with their virtual currency. Just a few sleepovers in their flatbeds — and your account is wiped out clean.

Many folks are fine with that. In fact, they say that burning miles before they get devalued all over again is the point. It does sound kind of reasonable. Except for most normal people, there is no way to manufacture hundreds of thousands of miles in a speedy fashion.

Reading the top bloggers might make you feel that flying for free in a first-class seat is the norm, not a privilege. That the coach is for the ignorant, unwashed masses. Hey, you are a cool travel hacker, right? You’ve learned the tricks, you know how to casually drop the word “metal” in a conversation, and you call every city on earth by its three-digit airport code. You do it even when it makes no sense, because LA is shorter than LAX. But you can’t help it. You’re an aviation geek now, alright.

Well, the truth is, you aren’t really cool (don’t worry, neither am I). You are an impostor. Because guess what: those top echelon bloggers are not really flying on miles. Well, not exclusively! What they are not telling you is that they are actually paying for their seats. Be it a bargain fare or a mile upgrade on a paid ticket, but I can assure you, there is no way, they are getting all these endless first-class flights on their credit card bonus miles or manufactured spend. It is simply not happening!

Good for them and everyone else who can afford their own paid first-class seat, but us? We can’t, you and I. Don’t try to be like them just in order to keep up. Do what is best for you. What could that be? Coach!

Do you love to travel? Or do you love to travel in first? There is a difference, you know. If you only love to travel in a first-class seat, you are in it for the wrong reason.

The free premium seat ride is over, or, at least, it’s over until the next big depression comes around. The airlines have either devalued miles outright, or taken their saver premium seat inventory out of circulation (wink-wink, American). Airlines don’t need your loyalty anymore. What they do need is your hard cold cash.

I was mesmerized by Earn and Burn philosophy too, but not anymore. My coach seat miles, whether American, United, or yes, even Delta, are worth almost the same they used to be worth a few years ago. In the meantime, my premium seat miles values have plummeted.

There is no reason to keep fighting the war you can’t win. If you do not consider the Manufactured Spend a worthy career or surrogate for spending time with family and friends, then I suggest you don’t go nuts with it.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the Manufactured Spend at all, but it means you do it either for money or for more go-time, and not for the privilege of spending ten hours in a bed over the Atlantic.

What about status? Please don’t even start me on airline status. There are two kinds of people who chase status: frequent business fliers and suckers. You decide.

In June, I am flying to the World Cup in Brazil. It’s in coach, and yet, I’m excited beyond belief! That’s a 10-hour flight in a very limited-recline position on a lousy, old American aircraft (sorry for not using the word metal). Tell you what: I love flatbeds just like the next guy. But what I love even better is getting there. Oh, I’ll be fine, thanks for asking.

It is really interesting how careful the airlines have been not to kill the coach saver level. All of them, even Delta (again)! In every devaluation they have done so far, the coach saver has been a sacred cow. It’s almost as if they are trying to communicate with us in a way. It’s almost like they tell us, hey, you can still get your fix for free, just stop being such a spoiled brat. Walk to the back, bring your seat in the upright position, and join everyone else in their intense, but short-lived misery. 🙂

I know the above paragraph sounds funny coming from the guy who has lashed out at Delta, ranted against United, and screamed off the top of his lungs at American. But the point is, these three are here to stay. We can’t kill them, and we can’t make them change their ways. What are our options?

We need to adjust.

Retrain yourselves (and your significant other, which can be a challenge) to fly coach again. We also need to recall how to stay at three-star hotels, too (it’s fine, really, I stayed at a 2.5-star hotel in Spain last year and had a blast!).

There are exceptions, of course. Sometimes, you can find business class on Delta that rival their economy levels. Or when there is no saver coach on American, but there is in business (provided that you really must go on those dates). Or when your back is acting up or something. Well, you’ve got my drift. Don’t look for excuses.

We can still fly in first and play at five-star resorts, but this is going to be an exception, not a rule. This has to be reserved for truly aspirational travel, rather than your routine outings. For everything else, there is coach that takes you from Point A to Point B fast and safely. Deal with it; it is not the end of the world. And it’s not the end of the game, either.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Please share. I love it when you guys talk back. 🙂

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David F

Hi Andy: I’ve only been playing this game since 2011. In that time I’ve probably accumulated about 3.5 Million points plus numerous free nights from Hyatt, Hilton, and Fairmont. Since then we’ve taken or booked 8 trips to Europe, 4 trips to Hawaii, 4 trips to Las Vegas and an upcoming trip later this year to Hong Kong and Phuket. All of the trips listed above have been in coach accept for Hong Kong / Phuket. That’s in business class. we are fortunate to live near American’s hub in Miami and my philosophy has been to fly coach and save… Read more »

[…] used to argue a lot against it. All that Earn’n’Burn philosophy was kind of foreign to me. I was sitting on my high […]

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