Pointless (United)

I have always felt that the whole airlines point system and loyalty system is a big giant scam. The bigger the airline, the pointless the whole scheme and its perceived benefits.

This morning, I was flying to Las Vegas, Nevada to attend ServiceNow’s developer conference and judge the startup competition. I usually get to the airport early, even though I have TSA Pre — call it a life long habit. There wasn’t much traffic at the security aisles so within a couple of minutes I was through, and found myself in the airport at 6:45 am, while my flight wasn’t going to take off till 8:30. I know, I am paranoid enough to get to airport that early!

I walked into the United Club (lounge) betting that I would get into it, after all it was a full fare business class ticket. On top, I have Star Alliance Gold and United Premier Platinum status. Surely one of these would get me into the lounge, right? Well, the not-so-polite lady at the front desk has a wonderful way of describing the whole points nonsense — “we can’t just let anyone in here.” (Question: Have you ever met a polite United representative?) And if we let anyone with Premier Platinum or Gold status in here, it will be a zoo. So in other words, you have no business being here.

Hmmm! So this is the airline which wants my business, that emails me every day, and when I get a business class ticket, it says move along fella! Why do I want to spend my dollars with them anyway. My bruised feelings aside, the points and loyalty programs are pretty worthless as they get bigger and bigger. This leads to devaluation of the points, and stratification of customer base, which doesn’t really inspire loyalty. If you want to maximize the value of such programs — especially the airline points — you need to be a wizard and apply some special skills. (There is a cottage industry of websites to help you do just that.)

In the old country, we have a caste system. United and other airlines have privatized that idea — and in the process made a shit ton of money doing it. Maybe that is why it is almost better to just be polyamorous when it comes to your choice of flying partners and ignore brands selling loyalty programs. Right?

May 8, 2019, San Francisco.

A letter from Om

Sign up & get it delivered to your inbox