I haven’t seriously considered a Star Alliance flight in months, and that makes me one of the illogical people I always tell my readers not to be. On that note, there are many interesting philosophical debates to be had about loyalty programs of the to be, or not to be, essence.
Many would argue that if no one spent on marketing, no one would lose a thing, but as long as someone does, everyone does — and must. The same goes for perks and airline elite status. Once an airline is offering perks, everyone must.
So what’s the point of loyalty? It turns otherwise logical people into illogical consumers who can’t simply press purchase on the lowest priced option. There’s always a greater equation at play, and it weighs on people.
I Can’t Book Star Alliance Right Now
I hold top tier status in both Oneworld and SkyTeam. I love many Star Alliance airlines, but now that I’ve reviewed most of the major Star Alliance airlines and lounges, I never fly them.
Why? Because I’ve got two statuses and points goals to maintain and work toward and even if Star Alliance is marginally cheaper for a need, I need all of my flight purchases to be working towards benefits and perks from which I truly benefit.
There’s an opportunity cost if I DON’T take a SkyTeam or Oneworld flight at the moment. Sure, I might save $200 by booking SkyTeam, but that fails to account for a variety of things people don’t instantly consider on the transaction, like…
- More Points Earned: thanks to higher points multipliers for customers with elite status flying the airline. An extra 10,000 miles could be worth $100 at a minimum.
- Unlocking Valuable One Time Benefits: hitting status goals can unlock elite benefits like international upgrade certificates or companion tickets, which can be worth many thousands.
- “Always On” Day Of Travel Perks: maintaining a good status can unlock lounges and fast tracks, even when flying on economy tickets. This is a valuable add for people who don’t always buy up to premium cabins.
Practical Example: say I’m looking at a $2,000 business class ticket from New York to London. But — TAP has an $1800 fare. I could save $200 booking TAP Portugal. But by doing so, I’d earn a fraction of the miles because I wouldn’t receive my elite multiplier for miles, which can be 3X more points. The bonus points alone might narrow the gap to $100 in price or less, and then when you factor that I’m near a companion ticket with Oneworld or SkyTeam already, not staying loyal could actually cost me a $2000 savings on a future ticket. Because of this, I can’t even look at other airlines until I’ve over-achieved my status goals.
I get actual value from both my SkyTeam and Oneworld statuses in the form of lounge access, fee waivers, time savings and even upgrades. I know I could in Star Alliance too, but when I started out, I chose other programs over those in Star and stuck with it.
Because of that, it would take a considerable status match offer or instant perks to make me consider a swap.
Loyalty Is Working On Me
I’ve mused before that people who feel as if they’re on a hamster wheel of loyalty and aren’t getting the cheese they desire should really hop off for a second and consider the effort versus reward. It’s a vital sanity check I can attest that many would benefit from.
I give myself that check regularly, yet loyalty is clearly functioning the way programs would like, because it’s creating outsized wallet share from me, to ensure I am always building. Flights for which I should be considering other airlines, I’m simply not.
I’ve found games that delivers enough for me that I’m not “shopping” for flights, I’m simply weighing options between two alliances from which I benefit. The only game left is which one of the two wins that two way wallet share.
When you think of the breadth of options out there, it’s proof that even on a seasoned and level headed person (ok, I may be neither!) the right benefits can create action and make customers less price sensitive. I’ll pay more to work towards things which bring value both as one off benefits and “always on” travel benefits.
This is where the funny side of “error fares” kicks in, because they’re not always errors. If a Star Alliance airline had an error fare to Australia, a personal fave, which I simply could not resist, it might be the only actual lever to get me to switch over and then want to earn more.
My “blinders on” approach to most flight bookings is such a drastic departure from most consumers who have three alliances, multiple non alliance airlines and all the other upstarts to consider for any purchase decision.
Done right, airline loyalty really can make people insane.