This is a funny calculation I did. I looked at the year I traveled the most for work, and came up over a few thousand dollars short of Executive Platinum.
With the new changes for 2017, those qualifying for Executive Platinum must fly 100,000 miles AND spend $12,000 on flights.
I calculated out that year (a year I spent a third of my life on the road) to see if I would have qualified. I didn’t have my exact figures in front of me, but I know my company’s rules and what they’ll reimburse (and what the max I’ll spend for a flight is). My quick back of the envelope showed I was way off.
There were a few reasons for this. First, most of my trips were to the West Coast or Hawaii. I also had one trip to Alaska.
When booking my West Coast trips, to make sure I get the most out of my budget, I always planned my meetings around what flights I could get rather than making plans and finding a flight later. I’d usually be able to get flights to San Francisco for around $350, but I bumped it up to $450 in my calculations.
My flight to Hawaii also didn’t cost that much. I went there for a conference–and if I were going to spend all that time there, I wanted to hang out some extra. Since I was planning on staying extra, I was able to be really flexible on what days I traveled, and I ended up getting a really cheap fare.
Basically, all of my travel decisions revolved around how I could accomplish our travel goals at the lowest price point possible.
It seems to me, from a business traveler perspective, these changes benefit government contractor travel. From what I’ve seen through acquaintances who work on government contracts, their flights are usually full-fare flights. They are encouraged to book these just in case plans change and they have to re-book (even though that usually ends up costing more than eating the cost once in a while).
These changes hurt your typical road warrior. They aren’t executive level, but spend their lives on the road for their companies. The perks they get through travel make it easier for them to complete their work travel, and gives them some perks when they have personal travel. But they just aren’t spending enough on each flight to hit these minimums.
As a side note, business travel makes personal travel a little less pleasurable because it is more of the same. It’s another airplane you are getting on. So those perks really helped offset that.
The elite benefits also helped the companies. I’ve had so many events that I’ve made through storms and snow because I was prioritized for rebooking. I could also spend more time in the office because I didn’t have to plan out ahead, just in case. I knew if something went wrong, there was a way I could get to my destination within 24 hours (sometimes involving being creative).
So I find these changes sad for the typical road warrior. I don’t include myself in there anymore. As my role has changed, I’ve become more stationed at home, so in 2014, I stopped going for top status (though still have ended up with some status).
I assume I’ll continue to hit Gold from my usual travel, but I won’t bank on my status for upgrades, etc. I’d rather spend the money on first class tickets than mileage running for the hope that I’ll get upgraded (especially since the new rules require me to spend money anyway).
This wasn’t a decision made because of the changes, but the changes definitely made me feel more confident that it’s the most financially sound decision I can make in this situation.
For a good perspective from someone whose business travel is continuing, check out Pizza’s post on this, including three things he thinks needs to happen for him to continue being loyal to American’s product.