Mileage and Mattress Run Poll: Fliers Go the Extra Miles to Maintain Airline Status While Hotel Guests Have It Much Easier

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WHY STATUS ON AIRLINES MATTERS

As a result of the industry’s attempts to reward its best customers, airlines have created a caste system in effect. At the top is a small minority, namely those with elite status, in particular those in the top tiers of the various programs. In an age where most travelers show little brand loyalty and make their ticket purchase decisions based on price, the airlines have responded by keeping prices low, and offering little beyond basic transport from point A to point B.

On the other hand, to keep what they consider to be their top tier customers from bolting to the competition, airlines cosset their elites by isolating them from the masses. They achieve that end by providing them with better seats with more legroom and by not nickel-and-diming them with nuisance fees, as well as by providing them with a higher level of service. It therefore makes sense that elite members of an airline’s frequent flyer program who are able to take advantage of the benefits and rewards accorded to them want to remain in those ranks. To do so, some need to do a mileage run to garner the necessary qualifying miles or points.

Hotels are somewhat similar in terms of what level of service is which guests with status benefits from upgrades to a better room or suite, complimentary lounge access, free breakfast, and late upgrades, all perks that make travel more pleasant. For someone who spends substantial time in hotels, be it for work or pleasure, the extra effort of a mattress run can result in a gratifying payoff.

FREQUENT FLYER PERSPECTIVES

Of the survey respondents who said they had done a mileage run in 2016, virtually all, 95%, said they had completed a run for the purpose of maintaining their status. However, FlyerTalk member SFO-SSA made his last mileage run ever. “I finally made ‘Million Miler’ status and will be happy to stay Gold for the rest of my life,” he said.

A Frequent Business Traveler reader who asked that his name not be used said that the benefits he gets from Diamond status at Delta – especially the ability to book award flights and cancel them without penalty and with a full refund of all miles, taxes, and fees – as well as the extra assistance he receives during irregular operations, makes his quest for Diamond status extremely worthwhile.

Frequent Business Traveler editorial director Jonathan Spira can attest to this, as he recently completed two mileage runs this year, including a 36-hour trip to nowhere that had him zigzagging across the country in Seat 1A starting in New York with stops in Detroit, Salt Lake City, and Orlando, before retracing his steps, all to maintain top-tier status with Delta.

BOTTOM LINE

While the window to earn vast sums of redeemable miles and points by doing a mileage run has closed, the opportunity to earn status miles and points remains. In addition, more credit card miles and points were awarded in the calendar year 2016 than any prior year, which means that flyers have to simply be more proactive about earning them.

While mileage runs have a limited purpose, they are very effective at accomplishing that goal.

If your aim is elevated airline status and you enjoy flights to nowhere, now’s the time to plan your 2017 strategy. For hotel status, enjoy the current programs while you can because it’s only a matter of time before the hotels begin to copy the airlines and base their programs on spending.

SURVEY METHODOLOGY

Results for this Frequent Business Traveler poll are based on an online survey conducted between November 21 and December 15, 2016, with a random sample of 1,057 adults.  Of that group, 72.5% reside in the United States, 7.1% in the United Kingdom, 3.7% in Canada, and 2.9% in Germany. All of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia were represented.

For results based on the total sample group, one can state with 96% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2.21 percentage points.

The survey was designed by GlobeRunner Insights, the research division of Frequent Business Traveler parent Accura Media Group.  Through organic and viral contact, we received 1,057 complete responses from frequent travelers. While this group is not reflective of American society as a whole, it is representative of a population that travels frequently.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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