As many of you may know, I am very big on loyalty programs with both hotels and airlines. I am like this for many reasons. I like the benefits that come from being loyal, I like having consistency with a certain brand, and there are just certain brands that I really like! Delta is MY airline because, they do have the BEST service, and product in the USA! I was also VERY loyal to SPG (Starwood preferred guest), because they too were the ABSOLUTE BEST int he hotel industry, BY FAR! It’s beneficial to both myself and the company to be loyal, and we both play our part. My part is I only fly Delta, no matter the price or inconvenience! If Delta is not available , I ONLY fly a Skyteam alliance partner (see my post about alliances here). On their part, they provide great service, and provide me with certain perks and recognition the more I Fly them. I am Diamond, the highest level you can get, and you only get that for flying 125,000 miles a year with them. With hotels, my program now is Marriott Bonvoy, and that’s only because Marriott International’s bought SPG / Starwood, and by default I am with Marriott. My part with them is the same as with Delta basically, I stay ONLY in Marriott affiliated properties, no matter what. I stay at Marriott hotels even if they are not the nicest in the area, or if the location is not the best. I also plan certain trips around Marriott in so much as I will only to go a place if they have a Marriott property. Marriott’s part is , again the same as Deltas, they provide a good quality product, and a few perks and recognition the more I stay. I am Ambassador elite with Marriott Bonvoy, this is the highest level you can get with Bonvoy, and you get it for staying at least 100 nights a year with them.
Harder for Some Than Others!
For some people its VERY easy to be loyal to an airline or hotel chain, being that their company books and pays for everything! It’s easy for a business traveler to get 125,000 miles, and $15,000 dollars of spend on Delta , for example, if his or her company books and pays for them to travel all over the US or world all year long. This business traveler , really only has to get on the plane, no matter the price! Its very easy for a business traveler of many years to rack up “Million Miler” or more! Now, Im not saying they don’t deserve the benefits or recognition, but I am saying its MUCH easier for them to be loyal to a brand then, say, someone like myself.
I ,and many other NON business travelers pay for all our flights out of our own pockets. We also research, and book our flights ourselves, we do not have a “travel department” to take care of all this for us. I personally search google flights with the filter of “Skyteam” , so the only flights that come up is for Delta or their Skyteam partners. I do not even know if I am getting the best price or not, because I do not even look at United or American, because I am LOYAL TO DELTA! If I want to go to Dubai, for example, I don’t fly Emirates, one of the best rated airlines win the world, even though they MAY be cheaper or the service MAY be better, I fly KLM or Air France (Skyteam partners), because, I am LOYAL TO DELTA!
Just like with airlines, business travelers have to do very little work to be loyal to a brand as their “travel department” (in many cases) takes care of booking them in the many places they travel to on the companies dime. Its easy to stay 100 nights and spend $20,000 dollars a year with Marriott because , they are NOT paying. This is not loyalty, its LUCK!
With me, again, I pay for ALL my hotel stays with my own money! I search locations to see if there is a Marriott affiliated property in that city ,and if their isn’t , I most of the time DO NOT GO! A business traveler, goes, and stays because they have to at a competitor. The 100 nights I and other , leisure , or hobby travelers book and stay , are hard-earned. I leave my regular job to stay in hotels 100 nights, business travelers are working so it’s no big deal. I would argue that people like myself are much more LOYAL to Marriott (or their hotel brand of choice) than a business traveler. Again, I am not saying that the business traveler does not deserve status or benefits, I’m just simply saying, people like myself are ACTUALLY LOYAL, the hard way!
The System is Actually Skewed Against TRUE Loyalist!
Airlines, like MY Delta , make it VERY HARD for people like myself to reach and keep status with them! There is not only a requirement to fly 125,000 miles a year, one must also spend $15,000 dollars a year in order to reach the top-level, Diamond, which I am. Obviously , an airline is in the business to make money, I realize that and appreciate that, but someone who pays ZERO out of their own pocket , yet reach the threshold gets the SAME treatment and recognition as someone like myself that has to scratch and maneuver in order to make these thresholds as WE have to reach these goals from our own pocket! Obviously its harder for someone that is NOT wealthy, (I am NOT) to spend $15,000 a year , and take off work, and leave animals and responsibilities, in order to fly 125,000 miles a year. All I am saying is its EASY for business travelers ,and much harder on people like me, so YES its skewed against the REAL loyalist! MANY business travelers I speak to do NOT spend their own money flying, because they do not want to fly on their own time because they are tired of flying for business, or they take a family vacation on the mountain of airliner miles their company paid for, so the airline doesn’t actually make money off of them!
With Hotel loyalty programs, it’s the same! They are skewed to favor the traveler that can reach their goals with LESS WORK and hardly NO loyalty because they are not investing their PERSONAL time or MONEY to the program. Marriott recently added a requirement to reach their top-level , Ambassador Elite, to where you not only have to stay 100 plus nights year in a Marriott affiliated property, you have to spend $20,000 a year. Again, I realize hotels are in the business to make money, as a former hotelier, I appreciate this, but to say the only people who are their TOP “loyalist” are the ones who spend $20,000 a year is simply NOT TRUE!! Business travelers have corporate credits cards and or are reimbursed for all of their stays, and someone who travels for business year round, it’s an easy feat the stay 100 nights and spend $20,000. For someone. like me, I have to stay 100 nights away from my work and my animals and responsibilities, and spend MY MONEY for the hotel stays. It’s almost impossible for me to spend $20,000 of my own money a year , as it is for most leisure or non-business travelers, as that’s a small fortune. So is it fair to say that Marriott’s TOP LOYALIST are the ones that DO NOT PAY and DO NOT BOOK their own stays, I say NO!
Many Hotels even do things like close the “Elite” lounge on the weekends , when there are no business travelers, so the ONLY Elites that are their are actually TRUE loyalist , like myself, that reached their status the HARD, TRUE , and LOYAL way! This is a slap in the face, as its telling the true loyalist that they are not as important , even though it was MUCH HARDER for us to stay loyal to the brand.
I must stress again, that business travelers do deserve status and they should not be penalized just because they are not actually paying. All I am saying is these loyalty programs should realize that TRUE loyalty , and Loyalist are people like myself that invest so much time and money in order to be loyal. I spend THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of dollars a year to Delta and Marriott! Yet I probably will not re-qualify fo rather TOP TIERS again, because I am not LOYAL enough. Yes I will reach the 100 nights with Marriott, and I will reach the 125,000 miles with Delta, but I doubt I can reach the $35,000 a year combined spend with the 2 programs. That is almost what my last car cost. So these companies are not recognizing loyalty, they are recognizing MONEY! Call the programs BUSINESS TRAVELER PROGRAMS, and not Loyalty programs if they are not going to actually recognize LOYALTY!
What can they do? I don’t know! Maybe these programs can spend some of the money that us TRUE loyalist spend and research a way to recognize us, maybe some type of INVITE ONLY program, I am not sure, I just know something needs to be done!
I will stay Loyal to my programs for as long as I can, and keep tweeting and writing about how good they are, and recommending them to everyone that will listen, I will keep ONLY going to cities that have a Marriott, and ONLY flying DELTA or Skyteam, as long as I can! Who knows how much longer I can do this. Will these recent astronomical spend requirements actually backfire on these programs?, I hope so! Both Delta and Marriott has merged and merged to where they are so HUGE and taken away so much competition, it’s really sad, that the true LOYALIST that made them so great and loved are getting left behind!
Thanks for reading , and PLEASE, TRAVEL MORE!