Being an Elite has several tangible and intangible benefits. Different people value Elite Status differently based on their perceptions of these benefits. So much so that people will pay top dollar and spend over a week on a plane, just to qualify at the highest Elite levels. Of all these benefits, one I wish to never avail of, but value the most when I do, is how the airlines handle my delayed or cancelled flights due to weather.
Airlines called them irrops for ‘irregular operations’. They can occur for a myriad of reasons – mechanical (problems with aircraft), delayed incoming aircraft, delayed crew, missing crew, FAA called delays, air traffic congestion, airport issues (closed runways, etc.) or, the worst, weather! During the winter, weather is the major cause. Whenever an irrop occurs, airlines scramble to rebook passengers on alternate flights. They may need to do this because the original flight has been cancelled or the flight is delayed enough that you will miss your connection, if not rebook on an alternate flight. When this does need to happen, airlines give priority to their Elite passengers, rewarding them for their loyalty. Now this is not a blanket statement, the real priority goes to passengers who will miss connections. But within those also, priority goes in order of Status. Next, for people not having connections, they are again tackled in order of priority.
Over the last year, I can recall multiple cases where I had a delay or cancellation due to weather, when I called the United Airlines Elite line (a benefit I avail of regularly), they had already ‘protected’ me by holding a seat for me on an alternate flight. As a 1K on United, they were looking out for me.
As weather delays are hitting the whole world really hard this winter (Global Warming? Isn’t the key work there WARMING), Elites all over are benefiting by getting a leg up their ‘regular’ co-travellers. They get the available alternate seats first. If you have had a weather delay and you feel you benefited by being an Elite, do leave a comment to share your experience.
It’s early enough in the year that you can plan out being an Elite in your airline of choice this year. Read posts I have on maximizing Elite Status miles. Send me a note if you have any questions.