Delta, United and American limit mileage earning on very expensive tickets, hotels stop giving incentives to stay more nights with them. Is this oversight, protection, or stupidity?
Airlines Limit Mileage Earned Per Flight
When airlines made the switch years ago and a mile was no longer a mile, they had to create a new way to earn redeemable miles from flights. In the old system, if you flew one mile on American as a general member of the Advantage frequent flyer program, you’d earn one mile.
Competition for higher fares, joint ventures, alliances and codeshares – everything changed and perhaps so too should mileage earning. It moved to 0.5 miles for the cheapest deals, and 2-3x miles flown for the most expensive fares.
When a mile is no longer a mile (but few are brave enough to just call them points) they all switched to the same earning chart. Commoners would earn 5 miles per dollar on most fares, with elites receiving bonuses all the way up to 11 miles per dollar spent for top tiers. Ok, some will win, some will lose, let’s see how it goes.
***One red herring*** No single ticket can earn more than 75,000 miles.
So if a commoner wants to buy a $16,000 ticket or a top tier elite a $7,000 ticket the airline wants to limit how much they distribute in frequent flyer miles? How does that make any financial sense for the carrier to disincentivize the most expensive tickets?
Hotels Limit Rollover Nights
Hilton and IHG (though don’t use them unless you have to because IHG hates their elites) both offer rollover nights, something Hyatt and Marriott do not. I love rollover nights and think they engender loyalty not inhibit it.
One year I had a concurrent stay that lasted over 300 nights, it was essentially an apartment close to a job site and it didn’t make sense to check in and out. Hilton limits the number of rollover nights from any given year to 60, for what it’s worth IHG also imposes a limit (but who cares about them, they don’t care about us?)
For Hilton Diamonds that stay in Hilton hotels 120 nights in a single year, will continue to earn normally but won’t receive any additional rollover credit. One of the greatest strengths of the program is limited for those that will practically live in Hilton hotels.
Why should Hilton Diamonds or IHG (Downard) Spires stay with the brand once they have topped out? Why not switch to another brand at that point and begin to build a balance elsewhere? Why would Hilton want to give their most loyal, most prolific customers a reason to shop the competition?
One-Off Situations, not Loyalty
The airlines initially needed to create a top-end to protect themselves and shore up liability in the event of oversight as they switched systems. But I know travelers that are very loyal to airlines and fly last minute business class tickets. What incentive do they have if there is a particularly expensive ticket to stay with the airline, especially if they have already re-qualified for status?
One-off travel is not loyalty but that shouldn’t make it any different. I have asked before, why airlines should penalize high dollar spenders when they don’t fly enough miles ($20,000 EQD, 30,000 EQM) when they reward those who spend less ($15,000 EQD) but fly more miles (100,000.) The answer I get is that if a customer buys a couple of expensive tickets, that doesn’t make them a loyal flyer.
Why not take off the restrictions once a frequent flyer hits EQM restrictions? In the case of hotels, I can understand that they may not want elites to take years off between qualifications simply because they had one year where they were particularly loyal. However, in my case, I have 100+ qualifying nights with Hilton this year, once I hit 120, I will start to put my stays at another chain. Why would Hilton want this?
I recognize that topping out on miles and rollover nights are, very much, first world problems. That being said, I find there are inconsistencies in how brands choose to reward, limit and penalize their members. This really hurts entrpreneurs and small business owners who are paying for last minute tickets out of pocket or the ultra loyal hotel guest.
What do you think? Should airlines award miles on a per dollar basis without limitation? What about hotels, does it discourage highly frequent guests continue staying with one brand?