Breaking News – Travel Providers Don’t Love You

The online talk boards frequently light up with complaints about travel providers. Some of the issues are very understandable – even inexcusable – but many are posted by frequent travelers complaining about the lack of love from the providers. It often sounds something like this…

Hey, I am loyal to <fill in the blank> so what’s with this cutting my benefits? I give them all my business and they give me less in return. They should be offering me <cherry picked benefit> like the others do. Don’t they know they can lose all of my $XXX in business to a competitor? Why are they doing this to me?No Love

The first problem is taking it personally. No offense to anyone but the airlines, hotels, and car rentals don’t know you. Or me, for that matter. Well, they do if you represent companies like IBM and Deloitte who spend maybe a billion dollars a year on travel but for the masses, you do not show up in any metric they follow. For example, spending $40,000 a year in air travel is quite impressive on an individual level but when airlines are piling up $10 million an hour, the 40K traveler doesn’t look so big anymore.

As I have been saying repeatedly for the past few years, they control their frequent flier programs now and the fact is, the airlines got everything they wanted. What used to be six legacy carriers only a few years ago is now three. Reduced competition, along with tight capacity control, means they no longer have to offer wonderful benefits to get your business.

The hotel industry is slightly better but the result is the same. Some have removed benefits such as free breakfasts or limited the opportunities for upgraded rooms, others won’t offer a late check-out. Many hotels offer free Wi-Fi to at least their elites (if not for everyone today) but very few offer faster speeds as a free benefit. Why not throw it in as an elite benefit? Because they don’t have to. This is the same reason virtually all the hotel chains revalue (translation: devalue) their award levels each year. They do it because they can.

Car rentals are the same but you get the idea already.

Sure, there are loud complaints but even those who threaten to change providers almost never do. And even if some do, there are always others who join the same program and take their place. Travel providers today look at huge numbers and sadly don’t micro manage down to the individual level. Bottom line, the companies are in total control until the economy turns south and there is no indication of that happening any time in the near future.

For what it’s worth, I share your pain. I don’t like missing out on airline upgraded seats either and lately I’ve been missing a lot. I also don’t like getting lousy hotel rooms with reduced benefits or low end high-mileage rental cars. However, I am different than most travelers in only one respect – attitude. I know I can’t change this so I do exactly what others should be doing: Let go of the anger so you can do more productive things that you have control over.

Painful as it is to some, get over this love/loyalty thing with your travel providers. Forget the marketing hype, they don’t love you. Yes, they want your business – on their terms – but that’s exactly how they see the relationship. You are a business relationship to them, not a love affair. As always, the best thing you can do is look out for yourself because you can be sure they won’t. Find the best providers who fit into your travel plans and accept that it will be on their terms. With an attitude like that, travel is far less stressful.

This attitude may sound Pollyanna-ish to you, though it has helped me survive going on 30 years of very frequent business travel.





  1. If you are worried that the travel companies, does that mean you love your cable company, telephone company, health care companies, pharmaceuticals, electric company, etc? I hate most of those industries a lot more!

  2. Jason, all of them are great examples of companies that love our money, not us. As I said, we have business relationships with them, not love affairs. And yes, that includes travel companies.

  3. Hi Brian, always great to hear from one of my favorite BA bloggers. Just to be clear, I am not saying that everyone should avoid elite status and fly for price alone. However, I am trying to say that whatever one pursues, understand this is a business relationship only and they control how much they are willing to give in this relationship. Sadly, today — and for the foreseeable future — it is not very much.

  4. We are absolutely on the same page, Carol — and thank you.

    That United Airlines article started off as a report on a protest; but morphed into a similar article to yours.

    There is another article I wrote recently — I am hesitant to post yet another link because I am not trying to blatantly promote myself here — where I simply state that we are spoiled. We have enjoyed high-level benefits at a low cost for so many years that many people expect them rather than appreciate them — and that is simply not sustainable.

    As much as I am unhappy about losing benefits, that is the reality…

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