Almost exactly two years ago we talked about Delta Airlines in the U.S. changing their frequent flyer program from miles or flights to how much money you spend with them. In other words, if you’re a price sensitive flyer that wants the cheap-charlie flights, you’re no longer getting any perks. The entire program is focused on how much profit they make from people.
At that time, I shared this would spread over the next few years. That’s now already come to pass: Starbucks has changed their reward program away from how many times you visit them, to how much you buy on each purchase. So no more rewards for the simple coffee a dozen times, but only if you buy the five dollar fancy coffee.
Thrifty Car rental gave me one free day for every 10 I rented from them. That’s gone: Now any free reward only comes when you reach some huge total dollars spent with them levels. I rent based only on price – I’m never going to see another reward from them because I’m not booking last minute expensive vehicles or rates.
But the best (actually worst) has to be Air Canada. I fly over 35 flights a year and that was the level at which you were a small somebody. A few years ago they changed away from how many miles you flew to how many flights. Then they took a number of perks away if you didn’t fly at least 50 flights. Then they reduced the total miles for each flight and this year, it’s how profitable you are to them.
If you’re not spending $4,000 or more before taxes and all the rip-off fees, you’ll never get a single perk. I purchase the no-refund lowest price tickets versus the so-called flexible tickets at $100 or $200 more for each flight. Business travelers buy those, because they’re not price sensitive. It’s a fair guess that half of all people on their frequent flyer program have now been cut off. Oh, and to get the decent rewards, you need to spend over $10,000 a year. Add the taxes and fees, it’s about $15,000 or more in flights before you’re a somebody.
Yes, loyalty is dead. The average Canadian belongs to eight different ones. Make sure you know what you’re getting if you do stay loyal. Chances are that you’re still loyal while you’re getting shafted. If so, become a free agent and shop around for the best deal, not the companies that promise something you’ll likely never get.