blink182
Topic Author
Posts: 5283
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 1999 3:09 am

Elite Inflation?

Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:23 pm

Hi all,

Last night I flew out of LGA, and I noticed that whenever elite/priority holders were called to board, seemingly half the plane lined up. I even peeked at a few boarding passes of people I was suspicious of based on their ultra-casual dress and non-demure behavior, both of which tend to differ from well-seasoned travelers, but sure enough, they all had elite/priority status.

I realize that airline loyalty programs are designed to encourage and reward continuous loyalty to a particular airline/alliance, but at what point do categories like "elite," "premier," or "platinum" start to lose luster and meaning?

If airlines keep creating higher tiers, lower level holders will get annoyed, and yet if airlines toughen requirements, lower level holders will get annoyed. There isn't much of a way I see that airlines can win here.

Is this form of elite inflation becoming a problem? Are airlines doing anything to deal with the matter? I realize I was at LGA, which tends to be particularly elite-heavy.

Just curious about what others think.
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planeguy727
Posts: 1054
Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2007 2:58 am

RE: Elite Inflation?

Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:36 pm

I think the elite heavy issue at LGA may be part of it (says this elite that uses LGA more than any other NYC airport).

Also consider that a number of carriers offer priority (elite) boarding to holders of branded credit cards. This leads to people who board early, but otherwise tend to not have elite benefits (some also offer no fee on first checked bag). This "benefit" for card holders increases the amount that board in the early stages.
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RamblinMan
Posts: 801
Joined: Sat Oct 09, 2010 3:57 pm

RE: Elite Inflation?

Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:37 pm

Quoting blink182 (Thread starter):
I realize that airline loyalty programs are designed to encourage and reward continuous loyalty to a particular airline/alliance, but at what point do categories like "elite," "premier," or "platinum" start to lose luster and meaning?

"Platinum" still has meaning, "Silver" never did, but it's easy to get and it does have a few perks. Not a problem IMO unless you were expecting VIP treatment.

Quoting blink182 (Thread starter):
If airlines keep creating higher tiers, lower level holders will get annoyed, and yet if airlines toughen requirements, lower level holders will get annoyed. There isn't much of a way I see that airlines can win here.

Best thing I know to do is to keep it strictly so the only way to get elite-qualifying miles is to actually fly. There are plenty of ways to get redeemable miles from hotels etc, but those generally don't count towards status. However in the last few years I've seen some promotions for credit cards and the like that can get you status miles...not a good road to be going down if you ask me.
 
blueflyer
Posts: 3761
Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2006 4:17 am

RE: Elite Inflation?

Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:42 am

Quoting blink182 (Thread starter):
If airlines keep creating higher tiers, lower level holders will get annoyed

It's a two-part answer. Find features and services that do not require taking anything away from lower levels (say personal connection assistance with a buggy at hub airports), or take something away that they can't replace elsewhere. UA has made it harder for Silver elites to get E+ seats by making them wait until the day of travel, but what are they going to do to retaliate? Not fly less, as I'm pretty sure their business isn't predicated on the availability of these seats. Fly the competition? For domestic flights, the only other option is DL, where you can get Economy Comfort seats earlier as an elite, for a fee...

Quoting blink182 (Thread starter):
Are airlines doing anything to deal with the matter?

The new UA is following several non-US airlines' lead in making it a little harder to qualify for elite level. When the new program goes live, elite levels will require a minimum of four paid segments per year on UA (in addition to the miles) for most members. Currently, you can be a UA elite by flying two TATL on AC and one transcontinental flight on US, all in coach.


Quoting RamblinMan (Reply 2):
Best thing I know to do is to keep it strictly so the only way to get elite-qualifying miles is to actually fly

And not just fly, in my opinion, but fly in premium cabins, at least for the level(s) above Gold. Something similar to LH's HON Circle, where you can technically get in by flying coach only, but you'd have to fly FRA-NRT return every other week for two years to do so. Anything else and you need some paid premium cabin flying...
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deltairlines
Posts: 6892
Joined: Mon May 24, 1999 4:47 am

RE: Elite Inflation?

Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:46 pm

Quoting blink182 (Thread starter):
I even peeked at a few boarding passes of people I was suspicious of based on their ultra-casual dress and non-demure behavior, both of which tend to differ from well-seasoned travelers, but sure enough, they all had elite/priority status.

Basing who's elite based on dress isn't a great way to do it either. I'm a Diamond Medallion on Delta and wear t-shirt, jeans and sneakers on pretty much every flight. I'm also in my mid-20s, so I don't look anything like the stereotypical 125,000+ mile flyer.

There have been times where I've sat in F on Thursday 5 p.m. MSP-ATL flights where everyone in the F cabin was wearing suits except for me - most were Platinums that day (my friend was part of the crew so I had an idea of status levels). Meanwhile, I was a Diamond wearing the aforementioned attire on a paid First Class ticket.

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