We had another devaluation this week- the Chase Ultimate Reward program removed Korean airlines as an award partner, drama ensued, and then I think it came back. As of the time of writing this post I haven’t bothered checking, because I really don’t give a crap. In fact, when the news broke (I imagine before it hit the blogs) on the Forum my response was:
Well at least I didn’t spend any time figuring out that award program before they yanked it.
In the past I have written some posts about devaluations, I think I may have written about the American and United ones, these are my two main programs for international travel (even after devaluation). But going forward I doubt I will unless it specifically impacts a trip I am planning,and I share a workaround.
Most of my ‘travel’ news comes in from Twitter, and when a program devalues I see all these hashtags bashing Delta, United et al – are these people really upset, or are they just whiners, or are they faking it so as to keep the pressure on the airlines from totally gutting their programs? Of course, there are the bloggers who break the story, and therefore become the expert source, so you have a group of people following around a couple of eejits all crying about the news that an award that used to cost 50K now costs 57.5K (the bastards!)
I mean, honestly I LOVE United – and all of the airlines. I’ve flown on dozens of flights with them, and their partners and all I am spending is some points that cost next to nothing to acquire, and some taxes.
Who gets hurt by devaluations?
Actual loyal travelers. Those who spend thousands of their own money and insist on giving it one airline over another not based on market forces (price) but on what color plastic tag they get assigned. The work travelers are spending someone else s dime (and IMO should be going for the lowest cost fare) and leisure travelers shouldn’t be spending a single penny.
I still struggle to wrap my head around the notion that people who know how to travel hack will spend anything out of their own pocket to ‘buy’ status that then later devalues – I have heard all the arguments about ROI from Executive Platinum eVIP upgrades, but none of them standup against:
In the past 5 years I have not spent a dollar of real money on airline travel outside of award fees.
So the mileage runners get hurt – they embark upon a strategy to acquire miles and pay over the odds for them. When the program devalues they feel cheated, I don’t want to say I told you so but….
The people who don’t appreciate the value of a mile get hurt too. There are people who fly in Business and First on a whim, and pop off on.. trips? I add the question mark as many of these folk don’t actually go anywhere or do anything cool, they just fly from A>B and check into a local Hyatt (no more Hilton since they devalued!).
My weird strategy
I’ve avoided Delta for all these years of ‘travel hacking’ because people who know better call them SkyPesos. Guess what? I just started collecting them. I’m going to fly Delta, for ‘almost’ free and I am going to love it. And if they devalue again before I get enough Pesos collected i’ll fly a different airline until I get the new level. Trust me, I can earn faster than they can devalue.
Devaluations are to be expected, and there will be more to come. When they do I won’t be mad at all, my points are collected strategically, and at almost zero cost. Most importantly, I’m happy. I have seen enough of the world for free already, so should award travel go up in smoke, I’ll be glad that I loved and lost.
My advice to you – keep low balances, book tickets early so that you avoid being caught with miles that do devalue. But when you inevitably are, don’t get mad about it, the entire frequent flyer loyalty program is a massive charade, and you should be grateful for what you have received already. It’s not to late for you – please stop spending your money on travel, you should know already it can be done for basically free. And if you find yourself the victim of a brutal and heartless devaluation, just get over it, remember the next devaluation is going to be worse than the present one, and one day, you might not be able to travel with points at all.