When it comes to frequent flier upgrades, advance planning can matter relatively little and satus alone doesn't mean as much as it once did. Not surprisingly, the changes are about money.
Anyone expecting gifts from the airlines this year were sorely disappointed, unless they were stockholders or ultra-elite fliers. The rest of their passengers, especially those in coach, got big lumps of coal.
The United Mileage Plus "Friends and Family" change that really hurts even for big spenders. They will not be allowed to pass along elite perks with their miles when giving away tickets.
Airlines pack more passengers into planes, reduce the value of their frequent flier programs, hide airfares and fees, and shift the tax burden to passengers.
Mileage statements, while not being worth much in strict dollar terms, can involve flight credits worth a lot of money either in freebies, upgrades or status. Check them.
A recent study done by Idea Works for Switchfly outlines the state of today's frequent flier programs. And, the picture isn't pretty when it comes to US airlines.
For the first time in decades, the cold reality of the SkyMiles program will send many of us into mileage-collecting rehab, where we can be weaned from our frequent flier addiction and finally make a more informed and rational booking decision.
It may be too early to write the obituary for frequent-flier mileage runs — those legendary year-end flights that offer a shortcut to an airline's coveted "elite" status — but it's easy to see the end from here. With Delta Air Lines and United Airlines tightening their loyalty program rules in 2014 to require more spending in order to get singled out for special treatment, many of these frivolous round trips could vanish after this winter.