Airlines have traditionally structured their frequent flier programs to reward their most frequent fliers, of course. But at the same time, their co-branded credit card users seem to have become more valuable to the airlines than those who actually purchase tickets. And when you combine this fact with other recent airline industry trends, it becomes clear that having elite status in an airline’s frequent flier program may be worth little, and might cost a lot.
What happened to status?
The idea behind elite status was that the most frequent travelers would earn perks such as priority boarding, free checked bags, and upgrades to first class. Yet today, every major airline offers most of these perks to holders of its co-branded credit cards. The one major exception has always been first class upgrades. [click to continue…]