Here’s a deleted scene from the film Up in the Air where George Clooney’s character is defending his refusal to ever spend any of his miles.
Gosh, how dated and quaint that seems. Looking back on it, and I’ve been giving the same advice for at least the past dozen years — to earn and redeem in the same period, not to save miles for some future time, that acrrued miles will never be worth more in the future than they are today so earn, burn, and earn some more — but never before has that advice seemed more sound and more timely.
The passage of the last four years, but more specifically the past 15 months in particular, shows that.
Since Ryan Bingham wanted to earn 10 million miles (in the book, which bears no relation to the film, he was on a quest for 1 million miles.. and the book was far darker), we’ve seen:
- United increase the cost of premium cabin partner awards by as much as 87%.
- Delta move forward with its revenue-based system even after devaluing its award chart.
- American eliminate distance-based oneworld awards, North American gateway stopovers, and gut their double miles award chart
- Hilton increase the price of its best awards by as much as 90%
.. to name just a few.
The idea of accumulating and holding large quantities of miles has pretty much been eviscerated (though it hadn’t made sense even before that).
In tough times they print miles, and then chickens come home to roost in their award chart when those times pass. And loyalty programs are less generous in good economic times independently anyway.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t tremendous outsized value in miles, it just emphasizes the gulf between the release of Up in the Air and today.
Meanwhile here’s a deleted scene from the film showing Ryan Bingham’s grounded life in Omaha buying a condo, grocery shopping, at the drug store, cleaning his place… and in a priceless moment, buying a car — from Hertz.