The Worst Thing About Each Travel Provider

This is a lightning round, I’m going to give one quick thing that overwhelms everything else and I’m not going to offer a detailed explanation — just a simple statement of the one worst thing about an airline, a hotel chain, or a rental car company.

In a few cases I may mention a runner up, but largely to emphasize that the one worst thing is even more significant than that runner up.

These choices are, of course, influenced by my idiosyncratic preferences — but I think they stand up:

  • Delta: arrogance and dishonesty

  • American: lack of award/upgrade availability (second was sacrificing every customer procedure from boarding to upgrades in favor of an operational reliability that doesn’t materialize, third is inconsistent product)

  • United: SHARES

  • Southwest: no premium cabin

  • Alaska: changes to Mileage Plan without notice (Emirates pricing, JAL premium economy awards, Aeromexico awards)

  • Spirit: that it exists beyond just pricing that other airlines need to match

  • Hyatt: lack of footprint, there just aren’t enough properties to make it your exclusive chain though tougher elite status rules mean you almost need to (second is lack of viable 2nd elite tier)

  • Starwood: meager earning for in-hotel spend

  • Marriott: elite benefits (suites, lack of breakfast at resorts and Courtyard properties)

  • Hilton: no longer possible to get outsized value for points (second lack of discernible benefit to top tier status)

  • IHG: no meaningful elite benefits, hotels aren’t even supposed to honor benefits on award nights

  • Hertz: failure to honor reservations

  • Avis: no longer tries harder

  • Silvercar doesn’t have locations most of the places I go.

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 have to say while I agree 100% with just about everything you’ve been writing lately, this blog has really developed a “Debbie Downer” theme. I agree whole heartily that loyalty programs across the board are not what they were only a few years ago. And while I enjoy a weekly “These guys f’n suck” article….I feel these articles have replaced the more helpful articles that deal with extracting the maximum value from the points and miles we have.

    Maybe you’re like me in feeling this points/miles hobby just isn’t as fun as it used to be. You’re recent writing makes me think that might be partly true.

  2. “Hilton:……… (second lack of discernible benefit to top tier status)”

    Are you trying to give DCS an aneurysm?! 🙂

  3. Jetblue – unless you fly out of JFK or FLL…you just can’t get there from here.

  4. Hilton-Applying for a promotion can result in losing status granted from a prior promotion.

  5. “Spirit: that it exists…”

    Seriously? lol… while it may be fun to trash talk Spirit, you haven’t even mentioned the other 2 noteworthy ultra-low cost carriers in the US (Frontier and Allegiant). Compared to the other ULCC’s, I think Spirit is by far the least bad. I’m not a huge fan of Spirit anymore ever since they decreased the depth of the allowable personal item from 12″ to 8″ (which makes it no longer possible to bring a fully packed backpack as a personal item, as of April 1)… but the fact that there is increase competition from the ULCC’s is certainly a good thing. More competition is generally considered to be a universally good thing in the airline industry, so don’t hate on Spirit too much, at least they are good for a few things. They also have the youngest fleet in the US. Personally, I’ve switched as much of my flying away from Spirit as possible to JetBlue instead, but don’t be so harsh, they aren’t THAT bad.

  6. @Ziggy – Hilton is so mediocre-at-best Gary was forced to list two “worst things” 😉

  7. British Airways – LHR and large fees on awards.
    United – Delta wanna be
    China Eastern – No english skills
    Centurion Lounges – Too many customers (this time it’s true).
    American – the no power airline (CLT flights anyway)
    Hyatt – World of Hurt

  8. If the worst thing you can say about SouthWest is “No premium cabin”, then this might make them the best (operationally and rewarding) airline in the USA.

  9. For Southwest: you really think having no premium cabin is worse than having no assigned seats?

  10. I agree, and especially like John’s additions:

    john says:
    May 14, 2017 at 4:48 pm
    British Airways – LHR and large fees on awards.
    United – Delta wanna be
    China Eastern – No english skills
    Centurion Lounges – Too many customers (this time it’s true).
    American – the no power airline (CLT flights anyway)
    Hyatt – World of Hurt

  11. @Robert – SHARES is the legacy craptastic Continental computer system United is now stuck with indefinitely it seems

  12. @ Ziggy asks: “Are you trying to give DCS an aneurysm?! ”

    Nah, can’t do ’cause @Gary has little credibility. Au contraire, with programs (HGP, SPG, AA) that he shilled for now kaput or on a blindingly fast race to the bottom, it’s no wonder, as @Shaun astutely and aptly put it, “this blog has really developed a “Debbie Downer” theme.” Think about it? How would you feel if you were a self-proclaimed “Thought Leader in Travel” and every single loyalty program that you’d put on a pedestal and shilled for turns out to be a big disappointment or an abject failure, while those that you maligned are thriving? Yup, you’d develop the “Debbie Downer” syndrome!

    — Hilton: no longer possible to get outsized value for points: That apparently happened 4 years after the 2013 thermonuclear “devaluation” that was supposed to “kill” the program, considering that he’s been singing that tune since then. However, instead of being “dead”, what emerged is a program that’s vibrant, highly rewarding, and, yes, pretty much alive, whereas those that he’d shilled for are, like, WOH!

    — (second lack of discernible benefit to top tier status): LOL. Is that in comparison to the highly discernible benefits of top-tier elites in his preferred programs based on bogus or made up standards, like “SPG elites are “entitled” to suite upgrades” or “DSUs are not capacity controlled, why do you ask”? Well, look at what happened to those programs! Given the utter failure his made-up standards to predict anything and their clear lack of credibility, how can anyone take seriously claims that disparage thriving programs??!!!

    The next post here will tell you with a straight face how the CSP remains overall the best reward card in the business. Really.


  13. I think that your criticism of Spirit is biased and unfair. I used to think that they were horrible due to some of the comments on this blog as well as friends that have flown them. Then in the past couple of months I had to take 3 last minute flights from south florida to the new york area. I used miles for 1 and took spirit for the other 2. I found nothing wrong with them. They were transparent with all of their charges and were still 10-20% cheaper than all the others. I even splurged and booked the big seat. The planes were brand new A321 and they took off and landed on time. What more does one want? Yes they were a bit frustrating because of all the charges but when you look at the complete process, you realize taht if you want the lowest price on last minute flights, Spirit is fine. I am AA EP and UA Gold yet I found Spirit to satisfy my needs better on those occassions

  14. Where did you get the United screenshot? That’s not what their website looks like at all…

  15. I have to echo Shaun’s comments – instead of constant complaints, why not take an honest assessment of the current airline programs, hotel programs, credit cards, whatever and let us know which are the best and how to maximize value? For example, you complain about American mileage availability every week, but you aren’t helping us see if Delta or United truly has better availability at the same points levels. You complain about Hyatt’s footprint, but post very little about Marriott (which now has the largest footprint).

    I haven’t seen a true ranking of loyalty programs from any of the blogs in over a year. Let’s see one. Let’s hear more about Jet Blue, Southwest, etc. I’m flying Jet Blue mint for the first time this week due to blogs – I’d like to know how to maximize the points I am getting. Broaden out a bit.

  16. Can you write a parallel lightning round post wherein you say something nice about travel providers?

  17. British Airways – believes its heritage and past reputation are all that’s needed to retain customer loyalty, when they plainly aren’t.

  18. Agree with the above who mention Southwest; I would make it my go-to airline if not for the lack of seat assignments. Sorry, but in this day in age, don’t you want to make sure you’ve got a seat to get to??!!

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