Are you a Mileage Addict?

When does a Mileage or another Loyalty program make cost effective sense for you? When do you become a ‘Mileage addict’? As I have written all the posts that I have on Airline Miles, I have often wondered that myself. I wrote an article earlier this year as a part of my Economics of Airline Miles series titled Is Earning Miles really worth it? When does it not become worth it?Airline Miles skeptic.JPG

I just read this excellent article on CNN.com by Christopher Elliott titled – Confessions of a frequent flier skeptic. He does an excellent and ‘fair and balanced’ (hmm, I thought that was only on Fox…) review of frequent flier and other loyalty programs. He gives a view of someone who is skeptical of the value of frequent flier programs.

While I am an ardent earner of miles and hotel points myself, I agree with most of what he says. I personally fall into the category of what he calls a ‘managed’ business traveler. For me earning miles is a side-effect of travel I have to anyways. (That is why I call myself UN-roadwarrior, instead of a Road Warrior.) I do tweak my travel somewhat to ensure my earning stays on United and Hilton primarily. But that’s about it. Living near a United hub helps me a lot there.

There are many out there who travel in order to earn miles or status. Or are willing to pay drastically more to fly airlines they want to. There, as Christopher rightfully points out, lies the problem. I too am skeptical of the value of earning miles in this way.

While I have never done a Mileage Run till date, the only way I would do one is if I am in the last week of December and a 1,000 miles away from my next status threshold. Actually as it would be status on United, I would purchase the EQM using my Chase Visa ‘Choices’ points.

I see Christopher’s article as a great ‘wake-up’ message for some who have gone overboard. I have already emailed the link to a friend who needs an intervention when it comes to earning miles on Delta (that too Delta!?) It’s time to get real.

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  1. Calling his analysis “fair and balanced” is a preposterous claim.

    Don’t get me wrong – I agree with some of his statements like not using mileage cards if you carry a balance – but some of his other assertions are outright ludicrous. For the people who are actually flying that much the suggestion that they shouldn’t pay a modicum of attention to their points is foolish.

    His basic claim is that the airlines are all so awful at service that loyalty doesn’t pay at all. As someone who has been taken care of ahead of the rest of the line on several occasions when operations have snowballed (literally or figuratively) I can attest to the value of status in many different scenarios. Is it a guarantee that everything will be perfect? Of course not. But it certainly gives you a leg up on having a chance.

    Do you need to make mileage runs all the time for status? Not if you don’t want to. But you do note that there is value in having status, so why not?

    And you’re ignoring the whole idea of earning miles at a low rate to redeem at a higher rate. If I can earn 100K points for $800 and redeem them for two Biz tickets to Europe – less than I’d pay for two coach seats! – and I’ve got the time then why shouldn’t I make that investment. Sure, there are potential availability issues, but I seem to be good enough at avoiding those.

    Chris’s comments may be useful reminders to the uneducated who don’t really know what they are getting in to. But for those who actually invest a tiny bit of time and energy to understand the programs they are participating in there are plenty of opportunities to earn at great rates and to actually get value out of the programs.

    You just have to know what you are doing.

  2. I agree with your statement that you have to know what you are doing. I think there are several uneducated folks who rush to making trips just for miles and go overboard.

  3. I do agree that Chris misses the mark on some points, but I think he’s on point about one thing – there are people who are so addicted to the miles and the status that even if they had to set boundaries for themselves wouldn’t know where to start.

    You can put a price tag on fees, but not so much with the other perks – a lounge or quicker security lines. If you’re spending an extra $1,000 or so to maintain your status I think even the most skeptical would say go for it. But once you start spending an extra $5,000 or $10,000 you really need to evaluate what your costs would be without that level of status and what is the value of those other perks. I think there are a lot of people who aren’t thinking of the value but the convenience.

    I will say as a woman, if I was married to a man who told me a couple times a year that he was going on a milage run for the weekend – then when we get to the ticket counter and they only have 1 upgrade to offer on the flight to Asia he better give it to me or he’ll be divorced.

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