Becoming Agnostic – How I Lost My Loyalty

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Agnostic ag·nos·tic /aɡˈnästik/ – having a doubtful or noncommittal attitude toward something.

I used to care about loyalty.

I was a slave to the loyalty programs I had chosen – sleeping in inferior hotels (sometimes changing properties in close proximity to increase my stay count), doing an occasional mileage run to top off my account at year-end to be certain I’d maximized my benefits, planning my vacations around inconvenience so I could utilize my upgrades and my points at certain properties or on specific routes.

There was a time when I proudly carried a couple dozen frequent traveler program cards. That scene in the movie “Up In The Air” when the two frequent travelers slap plastic down on the table to compare their statuses? That was me.

Now, not so much.  Agnostic is a better description of my attitude.

That has – admittedly – made it difficult for me to edit a site that is hosted on a frequent traveler platform where points and miles are the obsession.

I too was once obsessed. But after two decades of chasing the brass ring, I’m done.

Its not the changes to the frequent flyer programs that others have lamented.

Its not even the slow decline of my favorite programs.

And it has nothing to do with fear of making status with my programs.  (Going into 2017, I’m maintaining status on all three major airlines right now with lifetime status and going on 17 years of Executive Platinum on American Airlines.  I’ll also have top tier status with four of the major global hotel brands, top status with two rental car companies, and mid-range status on two cruise lines.)

Its frankly a change in what I value.  Becoming agnostic helps me obtain that.

When I’m on the road, I want things to be as seamless as possible.  I don’t have time to take unnecessary connections, drive to out of the way hotels, or deal with hassles of any kind.  At the same time, I want the best possible product that I can obtain with whatever budget I’m given.  That means not having to worry about upgrades being processed properly (I’m looking at YOU American Airlines).  That means having a comfortable environment to work in (hotel or airport).  That means just having a consistent rental car experience (Hello Silvercar!).

Its time to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to maximizing my travel/life balance.  It means overcoming the challenge of working in the fragmented style that travel creates.  It means simplifying my wardrobe for travel (do not even ASK how much money I’ve spent with MM.LaFleur this year!)

Over the last two weeks I’ve stayed in two lovely boutique hotels that were within a couple of blocks of hotels in at least two of my loyalty programs.  The boutique experience was preferable – and in both cases, less expensive.  I enjoyed spacious well-decorated rooms, interesting room service options, high quality toiletries, friendly staff, fluffy robes, and comfortable beds.  I chose them not because they were boutique properties but because they were the most convenient properties that fit within my budget for each city.

This week, I’ll stay in Marriott and Starwood branded properties… again, the best choices for my itineraries.  I’m not shunning the brands, I’m just not going to be blindly loyal to them so I can have free wifi and bottled water (amenities that most of the boutique properties throw in for free anyway).  I may have felt a little bit like Ryan Bingham in “Up In The Air” when he couldn’t join the elite line at the one-off property, but I lived!

I’ll fly American Airlines and Lufthansa (or possibly British Airways… I like that my multiple points balances and status still give me some flexibility on making last minute changes to my travel plans) – but I also booked upcoming flights on Delta and United because the schedules or prices worked out better.

Now that I’ve cut the tether, it has been much easier to plan my travel.  Just pick the best option and go.  I never knew being agnostic could be so easy.

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last eighteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 47.5 US states. Although she averages 200 days a year on the road, she loves to return to “the homestead” in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and cocktail mixology.

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Comments

  1. I don’t understand exactly how you’ve “cut the tether” other than 2 nights in non-chain hotels. You have status with all the major US airlines (and thus, by extension, their alliances), as well as top-tier status with 4 major hotel chains. So you’ll be fine no matter who you fly or where you stay. Of course you’re willing to fly Delta and United if they have a better flight!

    Most flyers, like my husband and me, don’t have the luxury of status with all the alliances. We’ve already made the shift away from AA-exclusive flying (we did it as soon as they gutted the RDM accrual in August). Being a no-status flyer has been a little painful (oh the indignity of flying in a coach seat without extra leg room!) but we’ll get used to it as we make flight decisions based on price/schedule instead of “loyalty.”

    I’ll be interested to hear your take on this in March 2018 – if you truly ignore loyalty programs for the next year, will you have lost most of your statuses by then? Or do you also get status by virtue of having co-branded credit cards?

    • A few clarifications:
      * Two weeks, not two nights… and that’s on top of several other weeks with non-loyalty properties (Kimpton/IHG, AirBnB, etc.)
      * I fly around 200,000 miles a year. Beyond the Big 3, I’ve been on Southwest, JetBlue, Alaska, and Emirates this year. And then British Airways and Lufthansa within alliances. Living in DFW it’s actually hard to not be on an alliance carrier. Frankly, it’s very easy to just stay on AA which would certainly net me more benefits on paper than I get from DL or UA. But picking AA because it’s the cheapest or the most convenient schedule doesn’t diminish the fact that I’m willing to consider any other carrier out of DFW. I don’t like the extra drive to Love Field so I’m unlikely to fly Southwest or Virgin from home but I’ll fly them betweenother cities.
      * I’m in hotels every week. I have lifetime status. I’m willing to forgo that to stay in a hotel I like. That makes me agnostic. Just because I may get benefits when I stay at a branded property doesn’t change that.

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