Other changes have made status and miles harder to earn. Last year United and Delta started to require minimum annual spends to gain elite status; American has since followed suit. In contrast, JetBlue still only requires a minimum number of flights and/or points to gain “Mosaic” status in its TrueBlue program; there’s no minimum dollar spend.
Adding insult to injury, American announced in July that it would be awarding as few as 25 percent of miles flown on partner airlines such as British Airways, Alaska and Japan Air Lines, down from 100 percent previously, a move they copied from other major U.S. airlines.
For most fliers, free upgrades are the most valuable benefit of airline loyalty. There are others, of course, such as free checked bags and priority boarding, but you can get those with an airline credit card. But for me, those free upgrades were the only reason to be loyal. And I'm not alone in questioning the value of sticking to one airline. A recent poll we did on Airfarewatchdog.com tells the story: When asked if airline loyalty still pays, almost 80 percent of over 1,500 respondents said "no."
Have airlines killed the goose that laid the golden miles?
(George Hobica is founder of the low-airfare listing website Airfarewatchdog.com.)