My Social Experiment: turning a casusal traveler into a US loyalty traveler, Part 1

Discussion in 'US Airways | Dividend Miles' started by dcpatti, Feb 13, 2011.  |  Print Topic

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Where do you think my sister will be on Dec 31, 2011?

  1. Maintains Silver without my nomination

    16.7%
  2. Makes Gold or Plat with a little coaxing and a good DPQM strategy or other promo

    66.7%
  3. Makes Chairman just because she's a little compulsive

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. Sick of it all and back to flying whoever's cheapest

    16.7%
  5. Gone broke from forming an addiction to International premium cabins

    5.6%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. dcpatti
    Original Member

    dcpatti Silver Member

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    The first of (hopefully) many posts on this subject.

    I've been a road warrior type for about 6 years and am fairly brand loyal to US: DCA kicks IAD's butt, so I get more nonstops to the places I want to go from my friendly, mellow local airport; and US has consistently been good to me. I don't ignore that they have room for improvement (don't get me started on the Choice Seats nonsense; let's just say that US does sometimes lose my business over those, and I always send them the reciepts) but like any big business, you'll find areas where they wow you and areas where they just leave you scratching your head. All in all, though, US works for me and I'm happy to put the work and budget into maintaining my CP status year-over-year.

    My sister is (till now) my polar opposite: flies about four times a year, and shops by convenience and price with no eye towards rewards, loyalty or benefits. I almost strangled her a few years back when she went to Germany, Argentina and a few transcons, all on SkyTeam partners, and never banked a single mile. She finds me likewise infuriating when I insist on making a connection on our way to London just so I can get the miles (and visit the Envoy lounge).

    Her situation has changed a little, and she's traveling more frequently now; she'll probably never hit the hardcore road warrior stage but she's doing more domestic leisure travel, and I thought I'd see if I can convert her over to the "dark side" with the rest of us who collect points and miles as if it were a religion.

    I honestly don't care whose program she puts her effort into, but since I already know the rules, tricks and tips on US I figured it might as well be theirs. Plus there won't be any bickering when we travel together :D

    Step one was gifting her US Silver status for Christmas last year. Since then she's only booked twi trips: a weekend getaway to Las Vegas, and a quick trip to Orlando. But watching her book the flights was pretty interesting; for Vegas, airfares on all carrier were already high, and US came in around the middle of the pack, but as soon as I mentioned free checked bags for her and her companion, she was sold. DCA-LAS on US for the both of them, I helped them pick the best seats on the plane (and I have never seen anyone take quite so much baggage for a 3-day weekend.... I guess they planned to get their money's worth from the free checked bags). For Orlando, i told her that was a pretty easy upgrade, even as a Silver, so she picked the US flight even though it was a few dollars more than AirTran (but she'd not factored in the bag fees and advance seat selection fees to the AirTran ticket and, in the long run, the US itinerary was cheaper). She ended up getting upgraded with her companion. I think she's starting to "get it" now. She likes getting upgraded.

    Step two: I'd promised her a trip to England as a Christmas present, Business Class if I could work it out. She's never been in a premium International cabin. Long story short, we're going on VS in a few weeks, in Upper Class made possible by Amex points, and I think that's going to spoil her. To the point where she's going out of her way to get miles. Will post an update once we travel :) But safe to say, I've already taught her that we can credit this flight to US and start chipping away at maintaining her US Silver for 2012.

    The kicker, though, came in an email yesterday from her: while scoping out hotels in London and Bristol for our trip, she came across a US promo for triple miles on Marriott stays. I know the airline mileage accrual sucks when compared to the Marriott points accrual but at the risk of "too much information all at one time" I figured it's better to let her feel proud of finding the deal and thinking about the miles. I know I'm proud of her for that!

    Anyway... sorry for the long post-- I think the backstory is important-- will check in throughout the year and update you as I work to turn a casual, non-miles-collecting traveler into a US elite. It'll be interesting to see how this turns out!
     
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  2. scubaflyer
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    scubaflyer Silver Member

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    Interesting experiment Patti. Oddly enough, I too gave my 2010 Silver nomination based on seeing how it would change a friend's behavior. So far, I think it has definitely increased his flying, as he has seen the difference in flying experience as an preferred/elite (check-in line, baggage fees, boarding, upgrade potential, etc) versus what he was used to as a non-preferred/elite. Unfortunately, in the end I think he will enjoy the bump up to Silver for this year and then go back to picking flights specifically based on ticket cost. That's why I cast my vote for your sister going down the same path.
     
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  3. dcpatti
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    dcpatti Silver Member

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    It could really go either way with her. I think the first trip in International business class will seal it though because it's very hard to afford that kind of travel unless you've got miles stashed to defray the expense. Now if you use a common-sense approach, with the money I'd save by *not* chasing status all year round, I could afford the business class tickets to Sydney purchased outright! But then I'd not have a couple dozen long weekends and mini-vacations throughout the year to go along with the annual "big" vacation. So really, it could go either way.

    When my boyfriend and I met at work, we were living about 800 miles apart so there was a lot of flying that first year; he wasn't very brand-loyal and started booking US-only, I think, just to shut me up. After our first true long-haul premium cabin experience, though, he's gotten more likely to take a trip just because San Diego's on double miles and we found a good fare. Stuff like that. Seeing what you can get with your miles can push someone off the fence in a hurry.

    But it's not a lifestyle for everyone. My fella and I can fit the travel into our work schedules (we're both telecommunters) and our budgets, so it's easier to think in terms of "if we spend a little every few weeks, we'll have a lot of miles to cash out for something really big, and get a lot of memories and some status in the bargain too." My sister will fall somewhere in between, I think, or maybe fall back to 0 at the end of her Silver year (or maybe I'll give her another year).
     
  4. DeacFlyer1
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    DeacFlyer1 Silver Member

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    I think she'll either be on one extreme end of the specrum or the other.
     
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  5. NewGamePlus
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    NewGamePlus Silver Member

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    I can't wait to hear how this plays out. I've recently moved to Philly, and I've decided to jump in to some serious flying this year. I'm in the process of picking an airline to start with and with PHL as a hub, US is near the top of my list, but I hear so many horror stories...
     
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  6. dcpatti
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    dcpatti Silver Member

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    Well my other big experiment is to see if I can teach her how to travel light. I reckon this will be the harder of the two lessons for her. Last time I went to the UK with her, I had to take half of her bags so she would come in under the baggage allowance, and that was booked on US metal with my US status (Gold at the time, I think).

    NewGamePlus, there are horror stories all over about US but there's also horror stories with each of the legacy carriers, also with B6 and FL. Lots of people probably accuse me of being a "US Apologist" or the kind of person who refuses to listen to any criticsm but I don't agree; US really has always been pretty good to me, and works well for me, so I'm a happy customer. Hopefully you will be too. It's just a little weird how US never gets forgiven for the errors of the past (charging for sodas inflight) while the errors of other carriers are quickly forgotten (like CO not even answering the phone any more during the Christmas weekend blizzard 2010).

    Airlines, cell companies, cable companies, banks, you name it--- no matter who you look at, you'll find some very happy customers and some very unhappy ones. It just seems like US for whatever reason gets a lot more press from the unhappy than the happy. I did about 135k miles last year and there were some rough spots, sure, but there were a lot more bright spots, so it's working for me.

    Back on topic: I am waiting for US to post a DPQM promo. When it hits, I'll introduce my sister to the concept of a mileage run and while I'm sure I won't convince her to spend all day on as many planes as possible just to boost the mileage, I think I'll be able to talk her into a quick weekend in LA, San Fran, San Diego or some other equally far away city!
     
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  7. NewGamePlus
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    NewGamePlus Silver Member

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    Having spent a lot of time in a service based industry myself, I'm no stranger to the concept of the vocal negative minority. I guess we'll see how it goes.

    The idea of a mileage run is (for some reason) pretty exciting to me. Looking forward to hearing more of your sister's story.
     
  8. Sean Colahan
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    Sean Colahan Gold Member

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    I would also like to see and am waiting for some DPQM before booking any travel in April or May this year. I know they did something last year for April and May but it only applied to travel booked after they made the DPQM announcement...so I sit and wait.
     
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  9. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    It's interesting. We all know status junkies as we makes sites like FT and MP our second homes. But there is the opposite end, the 'status blind'. You know them, you have traveled with them. You take them through priority security, board the plane early maybe even get an upgrade and it is still just a trip to them. I have even had people ask what is different about UA economy plus.
    I do think sis will be a junkie though.[​IMG]
     
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  10. Sean Colahan
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    Sean Colahan Gold Member

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    I don't think my wife will ever be a junkie or take a MR for the heck of it, BUT she does appreciate my status and knowledge of "how things work" when we travel and is ok with me doing it. She is happy by buying shoes and clothes, I buy cheap plane tickets for the miles.
     
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  11. dcpatti
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    dcpatti Silver Member

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    A little development today (two of them, actually) that give me hope that my devious plans will succeed:

    1. I sent my sister the link to the Buy Miles promo just announced today; I explained that she could spend $1400 now and install the dorky little toolbar, and get enough miles for a business class trip to Europe on a partner, or almost enough to go to the South Pacific, or almost enough for 2 Envoy tickets to Europe in the dead of winter 2012. I told her a little about "don't go buying anything til I can show you how to find your flights" and such. I didn't give her all the details because I didn't want to overwhelm her. Her response: I might have to see if I can fit that in the budget.

    Keeping in mind that last year, I suggested the same things and she looked at me like I'd recommended going to work in a clown suit (she's got a government job), I consider this a small win. I'll ask again after our trip across the Atlantic when she's just gotten a taste of premium cabin travel. I have a sneaking suspicion she'll bite at that time.

    2. She's planning a trip to Orlano in April. She loves the planning part. Every trip, she gets excited to make bookings and plan events. So I asked her to hold off a bit, and explained I really am expecting US to drop a DPQM promo on us any day now, but the flights don't count double if you book them before you register. She did the math, added in the miles we'll get on VS next month, the miles she's already gotten, and the one other trip she knows she'll have, and shot back with how many miles she'd have yet to go to make Silver again. Since those extra 1500 miles really help, she is now excited to wait and see if the promo pops up.

    I will qualify that second development by saying, there's 5 or 6 daily nonstops from DCA-MCO and it's almost always a cheap fare; she knows this, and feels comfortable waiting. I don't think she'd be so likely to wait if she was sitting on a $260 fare to LAX. Can't blame her for that, either. But it's progress!
     
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  12. Westsox
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    Westsox Gold Member

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    My wife enjoys all the perks that go along with this habit of mine, but I still have to remind her occasionally what I am doing and how I need her to help out the cause whenever possible.
     
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  13. Sean Colahan
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    Sean Colahan Gold Member

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    I got my wife on-board as well:)
     
  14. jupper
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    jupper Silver Member

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    Good luck Patti, sounds like you'll be spending some quality time with your sister on a couple of Mileage & Matras Runs ! :)
     
  15. jemmazee
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    jemmazee Silver Member

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    Mr. Zee definitely enjoys the upgrades, free hotels, lounge access, etc., but sometimes I think I see a very slight roll of the eye when I am explaining why we have several jars of biscoff spread in the cupboard or that that I'm taking an extra segment so I'll be home a little later than expected. Or maybe I'm just sensitive.
     
  16. sc801
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    sc801 Gold Member

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    I think you will be able to convert her. Especially after this upcoming trip! My +1 enjoys all of the fruits of my labor, however, he still says things to me like "you are just obsessed with all this points stuff." Yes, and your point is?

    I plan to travel and travel in comfort and if I can work the points and miles to my favor, so be it. We are using my Envoy certs for our trip to Rome in April. And I will be traveling in F on LH and TK for the Prague Do in June. Our stay in Rome is at the ICH on Sweet Dilemma nights. How can someone not get it? Beyond me!

    I think she will go for Gold this year.... easily!
     
  17. dcpatti
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    dcpatti Silver Member

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    After a few busy weeks, we're ready for our trip to LHR on Tuesday. I've already seen a little change in behavior in my sister and I think this is what will seal it for her. Will take lots of pictures and report back. To remind, we're flying VS Upper Class IAD-LHR and she has a list a mile long of what we want to enjoy in the Clubhouse pre-flight as well as the arrivals lounge. Added benefit: my boyfriend has never been much for showers in arrivals lounges; he'd rather wait till we get to the hotel/home/wherever but I am dying for an arrival shower at LHR already (2 days before the flight) and my sister wants a head massage, so he's actually looking forward to a shower and shave upon arrival. He figures he might as well feel clean and refreshed if he's going to have to wait for us both anyway :)

    The joke's on him, though; he's an EU citizen and will have to wait for us in the ungodly immigration line at LHR anyway. Even with the fast track passes, the non-citizen lines... they're bad... anyway, he's going to be waiting on two crazy 'Merriken women even if we don't have showers and head massages. Glad he's going to use it to his advantage at least!

    At any rate, my sister informed me last week that she'd booked WAS-ATL on UA "because that gets miles (!!!)" rather than on DL, even though DL had a cheaper price. She also admitted that she tried really hard to book on US ("because that gets me miles and I might get upgraded!!!") but the schedules didn't work; she needs to return to WAS pretty early in the morning on her return trip so she can go to work. I will not hold it against her if she books US over UA so she doesn't have to use a leave day :)
     
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  18. jupper
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    jupper Silver Member

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    A tip for the reverse arrival I learned from a friend: let him fill out your CBP form, and when he's stuck in the non-citizen queue and they're asking you where the guy is that filled out your form, they'll bring him over and he has to deal with less fuss. :)
     
  19. dcpatti
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    dcpatti Silver Member

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    Oh he and I both have GOES ( He's a US Permanent resident, just does not want US citizenship because if he/we end up relocating to part of the UK or really anywhere other than the US, the US will still tax his income). So we will claim bags and deal with Customs while Sis waits in Immigration, however she should sail through Customs after that and we all finish together. Hopefully!!
     
  20. dcpatti
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    dcpatti Silver Member

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    Btw I go through US inbound immigration 3-5 times a year. The GOES membership is one of the best $100 purchases I have ever made!
     
  21. Sean Colahan
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    Sean Colahan Gold Member

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    LOVE IT!!! Can't wait for the trip report.
     

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