Behave Badly Onboard and Lose Your Frequent Flyer Elite Status

Apparently frequent flyer elite members pull the “DYKWIA” — Don’t You Know Who I Am? — card far more often than infrequent travelers. And when they do things turn ugly. Put another way, Russian SkyTeam carrier Aeroflot says that frequent flyer elites are more likely to be unruly onboard than other passengers.

As a result Aeroflot has a new policy of revoking airline elite status from members behaving badly.

Aeroflot Airline will revoke the premium frequent flyer status of unruly passengers, after nine reported cases of intolerable conduct—including physical assault toward employees, flight attendants and airline staff at the airport—since the beginning of 2018.

Most of the cases involved passengers who had premium status in the frequent flyer program.

In addition, the Russian flag carrier said all bonus miles will be canceled and the passenger’s Aeroflot Bonus account will be closed; offenders will not be able to get another account in the program.

This surprises me. There have been incidents of Aeroflot employees behaving badly towards customers and aspiring pilots acting out. And what about the drunk Aeroflot flight attendant who attacked a passenger?

Credit: Aeroflot

Last month we saw a fire inside an Aeroflot aircraft but it was a battery behaving badly, not a passenger.

When it comes to passengers my impression is:

  • It’s more often infrequent flyers who cause the most problems
  • Budget airlines, with a disproportionately high number of infrequent flyers, are most likely to have issues
  • Alcohol is usually involved

In contrast, elite flyers know the drill, know what to expect, and know the consequences for acting out. It’s elites who are least likely to be problems.

Even if that’s not the case for Aeroflot it seems as though the deterrent value of taking away frequent flyer status isn’t going to be of much value when arrest and prosecution doesn’t do the trick.

Am I off base here, is my belief that frequent flyer elites behave better than infrequent flyers an example of confirmation bias?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think both groups act badly, each in their own way. The solutions to these problems seem clear enough.
    1) Warn passengers very clearly in advance, as people are warned of consequences of stupid and/or criminal actions in Singapore. This makes for less excuses. 2) Frequent flier account closed immediately after incident. 3) Arrest and energetic prosecution of offenders. 4) No fly list for the entire country.
    I think these steps should be taken in the US as well. It would cut down the number of airplane diversions and make flying more pleasant for everyone else.

  2. My bet is elite status members bigger per capita problem. Many more non-status members so they win in overall and overwhelming gross numbers. My guess is that elite members have same drinking, mental, sex abuser, anger management issues as anyone else PLUS they have more issues to get upset about such as not getting upgraded; or airline daring to refuse to serve excessive free champagne to them as they appear intoxicated etc. So elites (see all the time at hotels) win on per capita basis and more numerous non-elites who have same general problems but without additional elite privilege issues to rile em up winning on pure gross numbers. How about that? Lol. Just having fun with question posed.

  3. “after nine reported cases of intolerable conduct”

    so you only lose status when you misbehave 10 times. pffft. not a worry.

  4. @ben senise I initially read that and was puzzled as you are. A second read says “holy moly we’ve had 9 cases already in 2018 and most of them were elites. Therefore, if it happens again, the elite will lose their status and they’re outta here.”

  5. Based on my experience with Russian travellers in general, I would say this makes sense. The moment that they start feeling privileged for whatever reason, they’re at their worst. Saw the same thing at all-inclusive resorts. They boss staff around and talk down to people, because they have the feeling they somehow “earned” or bought that position. Same applies to premium passengers, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against Russian people, I think it’s just a cultural thing we’re looking at here.

  6. If any customer ever thinks they’re more important than other customers for any reason whatsoever, neither their attitude nor their behavior is likely to be considered “good.” Counterexamples welcome.

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