Just when you thought you were out, they pulled you back in. The age old sales tool of promising future benefits for money today is one that just keeps on working in the travel industry. These days however, dwindling benefits have left the customer feeling a bit more “no, I’d prefer if you showed me the benefits now”. This all raises one question: is elite status even worth it? Here’s how we see it…

a black leather wallet on a brown surface

It Depends How Elite, And What You Want…

Are you going out of your way to achieve this status, or is it easily within reach? What benefits do you value from the status and how often are you actually getting them? The more opportunity you forgo (cheaper hotels or airline tickets with a competitor), the more the status must be feasibly “worth it”, with tangible perks you regularly experience which add value.

Hotels Example: Breakfast is priceless (or rather pricey), so if you can easily achieve elite status with daily complimentary full breakfast as a guaranteed benefit, that is very worthwhile and helps to justify spending slightly less elsewhere. The more you travel, the more valuable.

Airline Example: Airports are chaotic, so easily achieving a status which grants you lounge access every time you fly within an entire network of airlines is guaranteed savings on food, wifi, drinks and peace of mind. Is this worth going out of your way for? Only if the airline and partners fit your route map.

a room with a view of the water and a city

Go For Statuses With Guaranteed Benefits Which You Will Consume…

Cynics in the travel world would say only a sucker hopes for an upgrade to their flight or room experience. When they happen-it’s just a blissful total surprise. Therefore, it’s foolish to go on “mattress runs”, or “mileage runs” where you undertake travel plans just to meet a status if you are hoping for benefits which are increasingly infrequent, or you won’t travel enough to justify the expense in earning. Only make these grand efforts for benefits you can be assured of that you will “hit hard”.

a sign on a stand

Many Companies Will Let Anyone Buy The Perks That Elite Status Gives, Which Forces Us To Be Bad Customers…

Want priority boarding or late check out? Many airlines and hotels offer these sort of things as paid add ons now to create incremental revenue. Plus, if you’re flying business class, you get all the things that elite perks cover anyway, so it doesn’t matter if you have status. By making the things we once fought for available to anyone willing to pay, airlines have created an environment where they’ve killed loyalty. Not us.

a credit card and a card

Credit Card Perks Now Often Cut Into The Value Proposition Of Elite Status…

Yes, saying you are a special executive tinfoil member of a loyalty program sounds much cooler than “I haven a big bank platinum card”, but in some cases the benefits are better with the big bank credit card, and cheaper to come by. If you regularly fly lots of airlines, the Priority Pass memberships handed out with many premium credit cards get you lounge coverage at more airports, regardless who you are flying. Some cards even offer elite status with certain hotel chains just for carrying the card. This can be vastly cheaper than the stays required to achieve the status.

a pool with lounge chairs and a bed

The Benefits Which I Deem Most Valuable…

For Airlines

Fee Waivers: the more you travel, the more plans change and things go wrong. Getting comp’d on same day changes, or cancellation fees, etc can really add up and is a very compelling case for loyalty.

Upgrade Certificates: Forget the random upgrades, certificates which can be applied to almost any reservation and allow a frequent traveler to turn a economy booking into a business class booking, even on international tickets is extremely valuable. There’s thousands of dollars of benefit there.

Lounge Access: Before or after a flight, and the events that often lead up to said flight, it’s nice to have a drink or just unwind. Lounges, even crowded ones are often better than the terminal and are a value, where free meals, drinks, wifi or even showers can be had.

For Hotels

Full Breakfast For Two: Sorry, not interested in easy bake muffins that have set out for hours, full breakfast or bust. Great hotels do incredible cooked to order breakfasts or large scale buffets, and for the effort to reach elite status that’s what travelers deserve. Great perk. especially when taking a significant other or family on a fun trip.

Guaranteed Late Check Out: How often is your flight leaving far later than your check out time? Too often. Guaranteed late check out is a nice token of appreciation, and makes day of travel so much less stressful, being able to use the room as a mobile office, or just hang out.

Confirmable Suite Upgrades: Though most of the highest tier elite travelers earn said status with work travel, it’s the personal travel when you really want to benefit. Offering a set number of confirmable suite upgrades allows for work to blend into great pleasure. A suite is a special way to experience a city, or make space for additional guests.

a city skyline with a body of water

Long Story Short, If You Can Earn The Best Perks Easily Do It, But Elite Status Isn’t What It Used to Be… For Now.

When things go wrong, or really right, it’s usually elite status that saves you or creates the amazing experience. It’s therefore a no brainer to pursue if it’s within financial and time constraints, especially if someone else is paying ; ) Elite status and flashing the shiny little card doesn’t do nearly what it used to for most travelers, and therefore this is a real case by case basis scenario, where you must weigh everything based on the arguments set out in the post. Happy travels.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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