Let’s get one thing straight. We have lost a lot this year, but nothing else compares to this.
The American Airlines AAdvantage program’s bloody massacre was not unexpected to anyone who doesn’t live on the Moon. What was unexpected—to me, at least—is the extent of the barbarity. That violent outbreak came right out of the United and Delta textbooks—only with even more “flair”.
I strongly believe that all these extreme devaluations and blatant disregard for their loyal customers will backfire. Maybe not immediately, maybe not the next year, but the airlines’ behavior will eventually drive a lot of people out of loyalty programs for good.
What happens next is the decreased airlines’ ability to sell their currencies to the banks, and that will hurt. Because these unregulated “loyalty” miles and points they are free to print and devalue as they please are basically free money, and nothing is as addictive as free money. When that happens, expect more relaxed “first-time” policies, higher sign-up bonuses, etc. But that will be then, and this reality is now.
Of course, transparent devaluations are not the only issue. Availability, or rather the lack thereof is another hoop you have to jump through.
When you can’t find a single premium class Saver level award till the end of the schedule, it’s also a devaluation, only a stealth one. When an airline increases the cost of an award by 50-80%, and it’s still not available for a Saver rate, this is nothing short of criminal (whoopsies, I keep forgetting how blissfully unregulated our frequent flyer programs are).
And yet, our hobby is going as strong as ever if you take premium class travel out of the equation.
I’ll argue that international coach availability has increased over the years, although I don’t have the statistics to back it up. And it hasn’t been devalued that much anyway.
We are a teeny-tiny slice of the general population, and we really should stop whining about First Class travel (present company included). The majority of humans somehow manage to live productive, fulfilling, and happy lives without ever experiencing a lie-flat seat. New Economy Plus/Comfort products have emerged and keep emerging around the world that are making these long flights more restful and dignified. This is not the end of the world, folks.
As for you, spend manufacturers, consider this. If your game really takes you 15-20 minutes a day on the way to/from work, that’s fine, you are my heroes. But if you spend hours upon hours chasing miles, enduring stress, risking complications and direct financial losses just to blow an ungodly amount of miles on a serving of caviar and Dom Perignon in a metal tube on the way to your final destination, then stop lying to yourself. Unless you make your living (and by that I mean REAL MONEY) with MS, there are lots of better, more fulfilling or profitable things to do with your time.
Happy New Year everyone and Happy Travels!