If you have Air Travel Miles, Upgrading just became much more Fun
February and March – the time of the year when lucky business travelers all over the country who have just made it to their airline’s elite status, sit down to total up (and not to mention gloat over and brag about) their incidental earnings in qualifying air travel miles; and when they dream about all the upgrades they look forward to. But they can gloat all they want; people just have more miles now that they can use these days. It all began last year; lots of airlines thought they could earn their premier customers’ custom by letting them qualify for miles when they shopped at specific stores or used specific credit cards. Everyone took this bait really enthusiastically. So now, if you earn your elite stripes the old-fashioned way putting in some hard flying all around, you’ll be sitting next to people who can just earn miles using their credit card to gas up. Why is this a problem? On lots of domestic routes, you’ll only find small regional jets usually, that don’t even have first-class. That the airlines just hand you free coupons for products that don’t exist for most of the time, you could be forgiven for thinking of this as a sneaky trick. Especially when you learn that of the handful of seats that they do have to go around, airline employees have dibs on them most of the time.
So this is the way it is going to be for anyone who wants to redeem qualifying air travel miles for elite first-class seats, now, and over the next couple of years. If you aren’t near the top of the elite program on your airline, the best those miles can do, is set you up for a good case of the “if onlys’. Airlines normally have at least three levels to their elite flyer programs; and if your airline is like Continental, there’ll be a new high level, a fourth one, like the Continental Presidential Platinum Elite. Typically, only one out of a hundred frequent flyers qualifies for elite programs on any airline; But they’ve been really handing out those bonuses recently, and those elite lounges are soon to be bursting full with five times as many members.
With this many people fighting over the few seats that are available on their air travel miles, actually getting a choice seat can descend into undignified clamor. There are all kinds of factors that affect who gets an elite upgrade and who doesn’t. If for example, you have been buying full fare coach tickets, the airlines want to show you their appreciation, by bumping you up over all the other elites. But if the next guy happened to pay $10 more on his tickets than you, well, he gets ahead of the line. If you happen to be a low- ranking elite, you may or may not get an offer – just the day of your flight. If you are a higher-ranking elite, you could be given three days’ notice. Sometimes, you can find yourself standing right at the check-in counter, glancing at the screen to see if your name’s being announced for an upgrade. There’s a lot of smartphone Internet traffic that is generated by people who are just trying to check when they get to go, over and over again. At least the airlines are beginning to return some dignity to the affair, by publishing an upgrade list.
Airlines should just realize that they can’t dangle this “incentive” or “reward” before you and have you snapped at it like a hungry animal, I didn’t feel any gratitude to the airline in the end. That is just not how people work.