How to Know If Airline Loyalty is Worth It for You

Should you be loyal to one airline? Should you always just buy the cheapest airline ticket? Is airline loyalty a thing of the past at this point? The answers are: Maybe. Probably not. Maybe.

Steve and I have Premier 1K Status with United. That doesn’t mean much to most people, but to us, it’s paid off over the years with complimentary upgrades, lounge (and free food) access, and flying around the world–often in Business Class–using just our hard-earned miles instead of with money. But if we lived elsewhere, United would not be the right choice. If we didn’t like flying, we would never consider airline loyalty. If we only flew once a year, we’d just go with the cheapest option of the moment and call it a day.

So how do you know if airline loyalty will be worth it to you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself and a couple of things to consider. Take a look, and comment below with your preferred airline and why!

Are you ready to walk down the aisle?

Do you live close to a hub?

A “hub” in the airline industry is basically an airport that has a lot of non-stop flights with an airline. For reference:

  • American’s Hubs
    • Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)
    • Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
    • Los Angeles (LAX)
    • New York-JFK (JFK)
    • New York-LaGuardia (LGA)
  • Delta’s Hubs
    • Atlanta (ATL)
    • Cincinnati (CVG)
    • Detroit (DTW)
    • Memphis (MEM)
    • Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)
    • New York-JFK (JFK)
    • New York-LaGuardia (LGA)
    • Salt Lake City (SLC)
  • Jet Blue’s Hubs
    • Boston (BOS)
    • Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
    • Long Beach (LGB)
    • New York-JFK (JFK)
    • Orlando (MCO)
    • San Juan (SJU)
  • Allegient’s Hubs
    • Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
    • Fort Meyers (RSW)
    • Las Vegas (LAS)
    • Orlando-Sanford (SFB)
    • Phoenix (PHX)
    • Tampa (TPA)
  • Southwest’s Hubs
    • Atlanta (ATL)
    • Baltimore-Washington (BWI)
    • Chicago-Midway (MDW)
    • Dallas-Love Field (DAL)
    • Denver (DEN)
    • Houston-Hobby (HOU)
    • Las Vegas (LAS)
    • Los Angeles (LAX)
    • Milwaukee (MKE)
    • Nashville (BNA)
    • Oakland (OAK)
    • Orlando (MCO)
    • Phoenix (PHX)
    • San Diego (SAN)
    • St. Louis (STL)
    • Tampa (TPA)
  • United’s Hubs
    • Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)
    • Denver (DEN)
    • Houston (IAH)
    • Los Angeles (LAX)
    • Newark (EWR)
    • San Francisco (SFO)
    • Washington-Dulles (IAD)
Living near a hub means lots of options!
More here: The Benefits of Airline Loyalty

Do they fly where you want to fly?

This is really the bigger question. Can you get where you want to go? Can you get there non-stop? With one stop? Do you have to make two or more stops just to get to your destination? Take a look at the route maps of the airlines that are easiest for you to fly with, and make sure they work for you! For instance, I like Southwest. I like their sense of humor. They fly to a lot of great places, but they don’t fly anywhere outside of North America. I want to be able to fly to Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, too!

Getting to that final destination is the best!
New to this? The Best Advice for New Travelers

Who’s the airline’s alliance?

Speaking of places you can go, where else can you go? For instance, United can get me to Frankfurt, Munich, Brussels, or Paris. But if I want to go to Vilnius, Warsaw, or Verona, I need to take a different airline. Luckily, United is in the Star Alliance, meaning that I can transfer to any of the other Star Alliance airlines as seamlessly as if I were flying all the way with United. It’s a pretty extensive network.

But the Star Alliance isn’t the only airline alliance in the world. American is with the One World Alliance. Delta flies with the SkyTeam Alliance. Check out where their partners fly, and see if that affects your own loyalty decision.

The Star Alliance helped us get to Verona–in Business Class, no less!
Read on: Why You Should Do Your Airline a Favor

Do you fly enough to meet the status requirements?

Okay, so you want to stick with the best airline for you. Great! Once you sign up for their Frequent Flier program, you can start earning miles to put toward future flights! But can you fly enough with that one airline or alliance each year to meet the requirements for status with that airline?

For example, let’s say you plan to fly from New York to L.A. every other month for work. That’s a long flight! You’ll be flying around 3,000 miles each way, meaning 6,000 miles each trip. In a year, you’ll have 36,000 miles! So what do you get for that?

I hate to break it to you, but that will most likely only get you bottom-tier status with most airline frequent flier programs, so your “benefits” won’t really amount to much. You might get to board in the middle of the boarding process instead of the back, but you’ll still have to pay to check a bag, and redeeming those 36,000 miles may not even get you a round-trip ticket within the continental U.S.! Make sure you know the rules before you commit to anything.

When it comes to airline loyalty, status reaps the greatest rewards
It’s quite a climb to the top: The Ultimate Guide to Million Miler Status with United

Are you willing to create a spreadsheet?

So, how do you know how many miles you’re accruing (don’t depend on the airline to add it up perfectly for you every time), what they’re worth, and how many miles you need to get to the status you want? The easiest way is to make a spreadsheet.

I’ll shoot straight with you, I despise excel. I know it’s useful, and normally I love anything that will help me stay organized, but it just freaks me out. Maybe it’s from that time I lived in Japan and was expected to be a master in Excel in Japanese, or maybe it’s just that my brain works differently. The bottom line is, my husband keeps up with that, and I let him! I would definitely not be able to keep up with my own travel, points, miles, PQPs, PQMs, and more without my husband to do it for me! This could be a make or break factor in whether or not airline loyalty is truly worth it to you!

Do spreadsheets feel like sunrise (a bright new days is coming) or sunset (I need a nap) to you?
More here: How to Plan a Trip

Can you do as well or better with credit card rewards instead?

Not into airline loyalty after all? No worries! There are still ways to get rewarded for your travels, and rewarded with more travel! If you’re not already winning at the credit card game, read this post first, all about how to do it. As long as you only buy things you can pay off every month, your credit card can work for you instead of putting you in debt. You can book reward travel through some credit card companies, or buy the travel items you want (hotels, flights, etc.) and have those costs reimbursed! There are a lot of facets to the credit card game, but its flexibility might be the winner for you!

Credit card rewards have helped me travel around the world and then some!
Get all the best info: The Ultimate Guide to Credit Card Reward Travel

Want more? I have all the resources you need on my dedicated Air Travel Page!

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One response to “How to Know If Airline Loyalty is Worth It for You”

  1. […] Also good: How to Know if Airline Loyalty is Right for You […]

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