A LoyaltyLobby reader and a friend of mine dropped us a question as to what many airlines and hotel loyalty programs must be contemplating. Should they start selling their tiers for cash?
Here’s the question from a reader:
Why don’t airlines and hotels let you simply buy status? Wouldn’t it be the same to pay a flat fee vs x number of stays needed for status. Easier for the guest and allows the company to get the same revenue without the hassle of cleaning or handling pax.
At least TAP and Avianca have both sold you their status for cash or buying miles, or doing other trivial activities.
You can already earn top-tier United status by earning 15,000 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) (essentially buying a couple of expensive tickets) + a minimum of four segments on the airline.
You can earn lifetime Hyatt Globalist status by merely spending $200,000. Nothing else is needed.
Marriott’s lifetime status can be “earned” by being a hotel owner.
You can get InterContinental Royal Ambassador status by dropping $10K+ at InterContinental, Kimpton, Regent, and Six Senses (once they have become program participating) brands.
Some credit cards from Hilton and Marriott give US-based members the ability to get a reasonable status for a reasonable yearly fee.
But should hotels and airlines sell tiers for cash when they already offer at least once in lifetime status match opportunities?
This is an interesting question.
Suppose you are willing to pay for a higher tier that comes with usual space available benefits, such as space available upgrades to domestic business/first. Why wouldn’t you book that premium class domestic ticket (within the United States) rather than relying on upgrades?
How much are hotel suites and club lounge access worth to you? Club lounges in North America are often not worth the space they occupy (very little to offer), and upgrades to suites can be spotty too.
Perhaps, independent hotels that don’t need to pay high fees for chains (being part of Marriott or Hilton is not cheap) can offer similar level benefits that an elite could get at a branded property at a reasonable price?
It wouldn’t surprise me if hotels and airlines would, at least as a one-off, offer top tier status levels for cash to collect some much-needed revenue for corporate.
You have to keep in mind that, especially in hotels, the benefits are provided by franchised entities that bear the cost of the F&B and upgrade benefits (versus upsell).
I am generally satisfied with the benefits that I receive from the hotel programs, and to a certain extent, to the airlines’ ones. However, I usually pay for or redeem for premium tickets in the first place, when there are very few elite benefits (perhaps a first-class lounge instead of a business one).
If you are a deep-pocketed person, you don’t care about airline and hotel loyalty programs at all. You fly private and stay at the best property in each city you need to be in, regardless of whether they are affiliated with any one brand.
I know that the person who sent us this question would like to get the Globalist-tier with Hyatt after being a vocal SPG-loyalist for years and feeling dissatisfied with Marriott Bonvoy.