The Passion of Programs

The Passion of Programs

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the differences between people and how they deal with their frequent travel programs. Some people care deeply about every little thing, while others glide serenely along, seemingly never getting their miles ruffled. Since most items that cross my desk evoke strong feelings — news events, changes in programs and award levels — I sometimes envy the calm types.

Of course, these same personality types are exhibited in all walks of life. Take buying a car, for instance. Some people don’t know, and don’t care, about all the different models, styles, performance criteria and options. These people just go out and buy a Saturn or Toyota Camry, or whatever — it’s new, it works, it’s clean and maybe it even includes a CD player or full-size spare.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the gear-heads who invest significant time and energy finding the very best car to suit their unique requirements. These people know what they want, they see significant differences between various makes and models, and they aren’t fooled by slick-talking salespeople.

These people care about cars.

The truth is, if you don’t invest a lot of emotion in everyday things, you can save yourself a lot of time, trouble and emotional wear and tear. If, however, you invest passionately in these programs, you’re much more likely to feel great disappointment from time to time as well as great pleasure. Passion in, passion out.

For my part, I’ll risk being passionate about programs. Even though I sometimes feel like my head is spinning, I like to look at every possible choice — miles, points, upgrade or award — comparing redemption levels, cost per mile, value for dollar and then choosing just the right one. Then later, when I receive my email program statement, read Inside Flyer, redeem some miles or give some advice to another member of FlyerTalk, I feel pleasure.

And I guess that’s the point — it’s ok to risk being passionate about those things that bring us pleasure. For some, the car decision can take weeks of research and yield years of delighted satisfaction. To others, a frequent flyer program is just a means of free travel. Some save their passion for family, sports, animals or politics (see OMNI on flyertalk.com). Some feel passion for most everything that touches them. I love these souls (even if some of them drive me crazy now and again).

I imagine that most of the people whose programs and miles we talk about here in Inside Flyer have occasionally ruffled the feathers of other members of such programs and even the programs themselves. They research their miles, points, upgrade and awards long and hard — and probably their cars, too.

We’re a passionate bunch — and that’s a good thing.

It was 20 years ago today… As time goes by, we learn about the history of programs from their birthdays. This month we acknowledge and applaud the twentieth anniversary of the Marriott loyalty program (Nov. 20). Known over the years as Honored Guest Awards (HGA), Marriott Miles and now the collective Marriott Rewards, this grand dame of hotel loyalty programs has earned every bit of the respect it has today — Happy Birthday (could this mean a birthday bash is in the works?).

And finally, I’ve been out earning so many miles lately I almost overlooked one of the richest hotel promotion I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen some good ones). The Choice Hotels “Stay Twice. Earn a Free Night” is a qualified best because: you can pay with any type of credit card you like to earn the bonus; you can earn an unlimited number of free nights (that’s right, no cap on your earning potential); and as long as you are active in the program the free nights you earn never expire (that’s right, you don’t have to use them by next February). Check out the details in this month’s Bonus Bulletin and you’ll learn you can even turn this earning power into frequent flyer miles if you like. So there.

P.S. I was rooting for the Cubs.

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