The Frequent Traveler’s Conundrum

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We hear this question all the time. “Now that I’ve qualified for Gold with my main airline should I indulge in those privileges or split my travel up and try to get elite status on another airline or alliance?” Likewise we also hear, “I’ve achieved top tier with one hotel chain, should I continue to earn points and benefits with it or try to get to a higher tier on another hotel awards program?”  Well there are no easy answers that fit every traveler but our Editors do have a few opinions.

First off you’re probably most loyal to one particular hotel chain and airline alliance for a reason. They suit your needs. They have hotels where you tend to travel, their design, price point, amenities connect with you and you like the perks. For airlines, well you may be hub-captive where one particular airline or alliance serves your main airport the most, or you just like that airline’s mix of hard and soft product.  So our thinking is that once you’ve found travel providers that you like… enjoy their offerings.

Now on the other hand we also understand the value of diversification. Let’s face it there’s not an Intercontinental in every city and no matter how much you try to maximize your points on a SkyTeam carrier there are times when you have to fly oneworld or an unaffiliated airline. That’s cool. And in these cases it is great to have even a little status for a few perks with these providers.

But is it worth giving up guaranteed room upgrades, bonus miles and other benefits just to have a back plan?  Well that depends.

First off, if you travel a lot, then it probably makes sense to try to go for gold with a couple of hotel chains and with more than one airline alliance. You should have enough trips to accomplish this and more importantly, enough need to actually take advantage of multiple elite status cards.  We don’t recommend going for status just to fill your wallet with cards. No go for status only if you are able to benefit from splitting your travel dollars.

Our typical TV Producer logs about 150,000 miles a year, mainly long haul international. So they tend to try to make Star Alliance Gold and oneworld Sapphire each year. Given our main departure airports this tends to serve them best and give a nice combo of miles, upgrades, lounge access, priority check-in and extra baggage allowance (a real perk when you’re traveling with TV equipment). However next year they are determined to achieve elite status with SkyTeam as Delta’s long haul product and Asian partners make a compelling case for more business. Who will lose out Star Alliance or oneworld? Well we’ll have to wait and see.

On the hotel front, because we travel to so many different countries (typically 10 to 15 per year) our Producers like to try to achieve multiple statuses with a variety of programs. Hyatt Diamond is great for the 4 annual suite upgrades and SPG has an incredible number of properties to choose from. But again, once our team re-earns status on their preferred hotel loyalty programs they tend to stay put and enjoy the benefits. Their thinking is, “Why start fresh at a foreign chain with no status just to achieve a perk when you could already be enjoying the fruits of your travels with your preferred chain?”  Of course if a hotel awards program will do a status match challenge then all bets are off but that will be the subject of a future blog.

So as you see there’s no one strategy that works for everyone. In essence though we can say that it makes complete sense to do all you can to achieve top tier status with at least one airline and one hotel group each year. The perks are worth the effort and the recognition is worth offering the loyalty. If you want to go further afield from that then it’s going to be a matter of how much you travel, how adventurous you are and how much you enjoy experiencing new airline products or hotel offerings, and where and when your travels take you.

This is our strategy but we’re sure you have yours. Share any ideas you have with us on Twitter and Facebook.

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