As US airlines devalue frequent flyer programs, travelers are thinking critically about the value of continued loyalty in terms of perks, benefits and status. The practical majority claim that airline free agency is the way of the future, which means booking a combination of the most convenient route and best price. This is great advice for travelers who only get on planes a half dozen times a year. But for anyone who travels more, I’m not sure this is the correct strategy.
In my personal experience, there have been numerous times where the value of elite status, even bottom tier such as American Airlines Gold status, were incredibly valuable. I love elite check-in priority when the lines are very long and I’m traveling abroad on an early morning flight, on a partner airline. Often times if you book an early flight, the lines are absolutely packed, or maybe that’s just my experience!
It’s also nice knowing you will be able to check-in early and secure some ever diminishing overhead bin space. WIth restrictions on basic economy and checked bag fees, it’s hard to find the proper space right above you in order to avoid waiting on the plane upon arrival. One of my personal pet peeves is storing luggage 2-3 aisles back. It turns into a royal PITA since you oftentimes have to wait for half the passengers to deplane before having easy access to your carry on.
Maybe it’s me, but I’m spoiled with elite status. Even those “small” benefits add up over time when you are in a time crunch, making the difference between being stranded for an overnight stay, or getting to sleep in your own bed after a long vacation or business trip. I think that’s worth it if you aren’t going out of your way to spend extra money. By all means, the value will be to each his own, but for me, I still find that targeting an airline or two for most of my travel works for me. Believe it or not, I’m still relatively loyal to American Airlines, despite all their flaws, since their schedules, price and route network work best for me.