Air Travel – Getting Frequent Flyers “Red Carpet Treatment”

categories: Uncategorized

red-carpetThe announcement went out over the PA at the gate, “now boarding seat area one, please board through the red carpet area”. Wow, I usually don’t get to board on the red carpet. One of the woman behind me saw United’s red carpet for the first time and was still laughing a few minutes later at the 5 foot by 3 foot rubber backed mat that they were calling the “red carpet”.

The airlines have a dilemma. If you wanpat to get much better service including a free glass of wine before take-off, tasty meals, and even fresh baked cookies then they would be glad to sell you a first class ticket. But for most travelers, the cost of a first class ticket is not worth the extra benefits. For most business travelers, their company won’t pay the extra cost.

So how does airline attract loyalty for the important frequent business traveler? For these travelers airlines like United come up with a dizzying array of frequent flyer levels. I earned Premier status on United and American airlines both last year by flying 25,000 miles on each. With this flight I will bump my United to Premier Executive, but ahead of me in priority are Star Alliance Gold, 100k, President’s Club, Frequency Flier Platinum and whatever level George Clooney’s character had in the movie “Up in the Air”.

Every airline will tell you that with the lowest level of status you will start getting updates to the promise land of free food and elbow room in First Class and that is true… sometimes. On this flight from Los Angeles to Boston I was 24th on the upgrade waiting list… after they ran out of upgrades. That is sightly better than average for me. I am usually 34th on the upgrade list on the evening flight from Boston to San Francisco. If you want an upgrade and are not the grand pooh bah of frequent flyers, then your chances will be much improved if you fly when the business passenger road warriors are nots flying. On cross-country flights, Sunday morning, Monday morning and Friday afternoons seem to be the worst times to get an upgrade. I have had better luck with Saturday flights.

What do airlines give to their lowest level premium travelers?

  • United (25,000 status miles or 30 segments)
    • Complimentary seats in Economy Plus
    • Unlimited Domestic Upgrades
    • 25% Mileage Bonus
    • Check two bags for free
    • Priority check-in and boarding
    • Reduced award ticket fees (effective June 15, 2011)
  • Southwest (25 one way flights)
    • Priority Boarding
    • 25% Mileage Bonus
    • Standby Priority
    • Priority Check-in and Security Lane Access
    • Dedicated A-List Member Phone Line
  • Delta(25,000 miles)
    • Preferred Seats
    • 25%  Mileage Bonus
    • Waived Baggage Fees
    • Priority check-in and boarding
    • Dedicated Phone Line
    • Unlimited First Class Upgrades
  • American(25,000 miles, 30 segments)
    • Preferred Seats
    • 25%  Mileage Bonus
    • Waived Baggage Fees
    • Priority check-in and boarding
    • Dedicated Phone Line
    • Unlimited First Class Upgrades

Last year I earned the lowest level of status on both United and American and as you can see what you get for that level is very similar on the major US airlines. One difference for me is the extra 5 inches of leg room I can get with Economy Plus on United. That is a benefit I can get most of the time I fly. So what are the other airlines going to offer. I would suggest free wi-fi or a free snack box. Even if they only offered one free beer they could get people to flash a frequent flyer. What is the value of a loyal customer?

Share this:

by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

Leave a Reply

Tags: , ,