Brent SnyderLaura Jackson details the year-over-year drop in aviation traffic during the traditionally peak summer travel season.
And this past week, a PR firm promoting the Chase Sapphire Card shared details of their survey on upcoming travel plans. While not comparative data, it’s suggestive that early (leisure) bookings for future travel may be soft.
[A]ffluent Americans may be taking a wait-and-see approach to winter holiday travel. Intuitively, the economy is still weighing on travel considerations, even for affluent consumers. According to a recent poll of Americans with a household income of at least $150,000, a majority (57%) of respondents confirmed that economic considerations are affecting travel mindset in planning personal travel for 2011. What’s more, only 30% have booked travel for upcoming holiday travel season (in late December), and 39% are committed to staying home this year.
With economic confidence on the decline, the rebound in business travel may fall off as well.
Last year, United and American each offered double elite qualifying miles for about 6 months of the year. (Each time American announced the offer and United quickly matched.) US Airways promoted double elite qualifying miles and double redeemable miles. Delta’s double elite qualifying miles skewed towards higher fares. But everyone was boosting sagging elite ranks and juicing their light bookings.
Pretty much every year since I’ve been watching these programs closely there has been some sort of promotion to yield elite status more quickly and easily than flying the full required miles.
So it’s hard to imagine this year that there won’t be something. Of course so far those things have been route or city-specific (or partner activity specific), rather than across-the-board. And in the past there have been offers that required not just registration but payment. So it’s possible that anything forthcoming could require a fee or require flying on higher fares. But one imagine there’d be something.
The only thing that worries me a little is that the leader here has traditionally been American, and American AAdvantage is on its third President in two months. I poked at a veteran at AAdvantage last week that hopefully the new President was settling in nicely so that they could pull the trigger on double elite qualifying miles! She laughed…
My own guess is that there will be something. It won’t be for the full fourth quarter. It’d guess it’ll run for a short period, when bookings are the weakest. Maybe just November 30 – December 15, a dead period between Thanksgiving and Christmas when business travel tapers. Or perhaps it’ll be November and December on higher fares or with payment of a registration fee.
I’d also guess that American at least will offer a ‘status buyback’ for those who didn’t requalify this year. Those offers are usually expensive, but perhaps less expensive than mileage runs to retain status (and certainly if you value the cos of your time to fly the needed miles).
I’d love to see US Airways bring back their status miles for partner activity offers, keep the front cabin free of elites on mileage runs while still generating revenue for the program.