Why loyalty programmes lose member goodwill by the time the member becomes profitable

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It is rare that I base a Head for Points article around a response to an article published elsewhere, but a piece last week by Ravindra Bhagwanani, the CEO of Global Flight, was both interesting and chimed with other comments I have made recently.

(I know Ravindra and have spoken at a conference he organised but we have not discussed this particular article.)

A few weeks ago I wrote about my trip to Hilton HQ in Washington and how, when I was discussing loyalty with Hilton’s CEO Chris Nassetta, I told him that – as a man in my 40’s – I don’t trust any loyalty scheme benefit unless it was the word ‘guaranteed’ in front of it.  I have learned that lesson many times over.  This is why I don’t book Hilton when I need a late check-out but will book a Marriott or InterContinental – my status there gets me a guaranteed 4pm departure whilst being Hilton Diamond simply means the hotel will consider it.

(If you read my article on American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts on Sunday, you will remember that my enthusiasm for the scheme comes from the fact that the key benefits are 100% guaranteed.)

Ravindra’s article is called “Why Loyalty Programs May Work Against Lifetime Value Theories” and is based on similar ideas.  I recommend you read the full version here.

In summary, this is his thesis:

Loyalty schemes are making more of an effort to attract younger people.  In the hotel sector this is through a combination of online booking discounts for members, the introduction of cheaper brands (MOXY, Holiday Inn Express) which earn points and the ability to cash out small numbers of points for discounts on future bookings.

However, the scheme isn’t making much money from someone at this stage

The idea is that you will remain loyal to the brand as you move through you career.  Finally, as you pass 50, you are hitting your peak disposable income years.  You hopefully have money and time to travel and, if retired, you will be totally in charge of which brands you spend with.

However …. by this point in your life, you will have sat through many rounds of loyalty scheme devaluations, perhaps seem ‘lifetime’ statuses wiped out by mergers (eg BMI) and realised that many of the promised benefits are rarely fully delivered

What is the result?  At the point when you are the sort of freer spending, luxury seeking, time-to-travel customer that all of the industry wants, your ties to the loyalty schemes you’ve been a member of for 30 years will be a lot looser than they should be.

To quote Ravindra:

If you’ve been a member in whatever travel loyalty program for ten years or more, you’re very likely to have seen it all: Decreases of the value proposition, lack of transparency, failure to deliver elite benefits, irrelevant communication and so on. Each of these elements on its own would already be an obstacle to trustful relationships. Being exposed to several of them on a regular basis only worsens the picture. And in parallel, the overall customer experience as such needs to evolve with customer expectations. That means that a vast majority of members arrives very frustrated at the peak of their cycles of lifetime value. 

It’s no surprise that the two most respected hotel loyalty programmes, Starwood Preferred Guest (RIP) and to a lesser extent World of Hyatt, have been the ones which devalued the least and treated status members the best.

Of course, with SPG about to be swallowed on Saturday by Marriott Rewards, it is clear that the good guys don’t always win.  Hyatt only remains independent as long as the controlling family decides not to sell, so it is tricky to rely on them – and in any event it foolishly managed to alienate many elite members through a bodged restructuring recently which led to the loyalty head leaving the business.

Anyway, if you have five minutes today I recommend reading the full article.  As Ravindra concludes:

As lifetime cycles in the travel industry tend to be much longer than in other industries, we should understand the tremendous opportunities coming from that. But this also changes how programs need to do business. 

Doing such self-critical reflection how reliable you really are with your program over the course of many years is certainly a very productive exercise for each loyalty program manager – and it should also cover periods of previous loyalty managers. It can deliver interesting insights into what you may need to change to ensure that you don’t lose your customers when they should actually be the most loyal to you.

Loyalty remains what it is: a long term game, requiring day-to-day efforts.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. As one of these “young(er) people”, my loyalty is with whoever can give me the best perks for that particular trip. I take this whole thing (points and status, etc) as a game to played, and an opportunity for me to maximise output from the system while minimising my financial input. I’ve had wonderful stays with Hilton, Accor and SPG over the years, but even then I feel far more loyalty to the particular hotels I stayed in rather than the brand.

    • BilllyBleach says:

      I would echo that sentiment (If 37 counts as a young’un)

      I would add that for me travelling is primarily on business, in which my parent company has no interest in making my travelling experience enjoyable, and focussed on frame agreements and cost savings.

      “Loyalty” for me is primarily how much of my business travel, and inconvenience accrued to my family life, can be recovered in my personal time off. This means free nights, better experience/treatment for all when visiting the brand of hotel I am “loyal” to. It also is an element of making the business travel more efficient of course. I find Marriott hotels, especially Courtyard (updated version), perfectly aimed at a solo business traveller.

      I expect my drivers will change over time, but currently converting that business time debt into personal value added time with family most important.

    • I agree. I live in London and I don’t have a set travel pattern, so obviously I chose to follow BA since they’re the only “premium” airline to have so many destinations. Made Silver this year, hopefully Gold next year. Do I hope I can reach LTG? Ha ha. No, I’m only in London for a limited amount of time.

      For Hotels, I really don’t have any kind of loyalty. I have an Amex Plat and travelled a lot in Europe, so actually Accor Platinum was a great perk. I’ve soft landed to Gold, it’s not bad but I’ll be Silver next year and then the perks fade away. On the Amex Plat perks: Hilton Gold with free breakfast wins over SPG Gold (although I did use Marriott Gold a couple of times — it was good while it lasted). I mostly have a look where I can get something for free, and book. And I’m glad to have the Amex.

      Now my problem at the moment is Car Rental: I’ve used Avis quite often — they’re everywhere, and I’ve had great upgrades in the past (I’ve qualified for President’s club the last 3 years), but recently the upgrades have been hit and (often) miss, and the service not so friendly. Paris (both Gare du Nord and especially ORY) are absolutely useless upgradewise this last year or so. I’ve qualified for PC next year so I might try Hertz Gold that comes with my Amex Plat to see what’s what. Talk about unrecognised loyalty that pushes you away…

      Thanks for article Rob. It describes some of my feelings. Hopefully that wakes up a few loyalty bosses…

    • Totally agree. I’m an “opportunistic”. Happy to take advantages of loyalty programs – but I’m also happy to stay in a non-chain hotel for £20 a night booked through Agoda. Anyway, sandwich trick works really good for late check outs, specially in the states. Anywhere in the world, never had a problem.

    • I would agree I have no love towards a lot of these brands – I do it to purely game the companies and yield a more comfortable life. BA is a massive case in point, I have no love and am not precious to it all especially given their contempt for their customers – as others have said it is simply the best scheme for me right now where I live to enjoy the best out of the rewards available. That’s not to say I don’t have an affinity to certain brands, but it certainly doesn’t dictate what scheme I engage in. I think that is the reality of how the schemes operated nowadays as others have said the people who are rewarded aren’t even the most loyal, their forced to use that brand – people are quite savvy nowadays and we see through all of that pulling of heartstrings in terms of loyalty.

  2. The whole loyalty market seems a little skewed to me. Those people with masses of points or top level status are generally not the ones who have made the choices and paid for the travel to earn them.
    I don’t travel for business, but we do travel for leisure as a family more than the average family, maybe a dozen or so times a year. It means that every pound I spend on travel is a personally considered decision, but we’ve never made it beyond the first upgrade tier on any scheme – BA Bronze, IHG Gold etc. Yet people who have no say over where they stay and who are not showing any ‘loyalty’ by choosing a particular airline or hotel can sprint through the ranks while their employer foots the bill, earning status but not having made any conscious ‘loyalty’ decisions, while the employer has little interest in whether or not their staff get to enjoy free drinks in club access, dedicated check in or whatever else.
    As a less frequent traveller, I am incredibly loyal to the few schemes I use because otherwise I’d be spreading myself too thin to make it worth while, so BA and IHG are my default first choice brands, despite giving me pathetic rewards for my loyalty to them, but because the rewards are so paltry I have very little incentive to use these brands if another is offering a slightly cheaper price.
    Perhaps brands should try to find a way of rewarding people who are consciously showing brand loyalty and giving an incentive for leisure travellers to pick them over others, rather than those people who just happen to be sent there.

    • Some employees travelling for work do have a bit of leeway to choose a preferred brand and/or they have benefits negotiated with a corporate contract. And the hope is that if they have earned a status through work then they will want to reap the benefits on leisure travel too.

      Also you saying you are “incredibly loyal to the few schemes [you] use” yet might switch if “another is offering a slightly cheaper price” is a bit contradictory.

      • There are different meanings of “loyal”.

        Claire is using “loyalty” to mean concentration, which most of us here practice – we may pay a bit extra on individual purchases to obtain some reward.
        That is different from “blind loyalty” i.e. willingness to purchase from a brand even when it is not the most advantageous offer.

        Somewhat similarly an employee can be very “loyal” in the sense of diligent, promoting the company outside work, etc.
        But that is different from “loyal” in the sense of remaining an employee long-term, in the face of other higher offers, possibly even as the employer loses competitiveness.

        Ravindra suggest that the providers are aiming for the second meaning of loyalty.
        Are they naive, not realising that most customers are more savvy than that, or am I (and many of us here?) naive in overestimating the savviness of most customers?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      If you’re that loyal to IHG get the credit card £99 for the black card should pay for itself during the year if you can spend £10k on it even better.

      On BA status one Qatar long haul trip to Asia would get you silver and lounge access etc…though an AMEX platinum may be better

      • I have recently aquired the IHG black card and had a very enjoyable overnight stay at the Crowne Plaza at Heathrow. Having the status that the card brings enabled us to have free drinks in the bar and also got us a room upgrade (from double bed with sofa bed to a 2 x double bed room).

        So far, very pleased with my new credit card

      • One Qatar long-haul BUSINESS class trip. Very important distinction to make there.

        With a connection in Doha for four legs return on the trip.

    • I travelled on business for years, and often had no influence of where I stayed, with the choice being hotel (travel) or home (no travel). For me, the benefits allowed me to stay sane with massive travel levels. If I hadn’t had loyalty rewards, I would have stopped years earlier. I don’t think of the loyalty schemes as making me chose one hotel or airline over another, but of giving me a less stressed experience than the general public – a right I earned through 100+ flights and 250 hotel nights the year before.

      I’m out of that game now, thank goodness, and am happy to accept a slightly less polished experience for those few times I travel.

      • The thing is that quite a number of businesses are waking up to having to attract and keep “millenials” .

        This is quite good, because it allows for new programs (and not so new) to allow greater choice.

        A few years ago, when I first started travelling with work, I had to send an email to [email protected] – which went to our travel co-ordinator, she would price things up (including hotels whislt giving me a very, very limited choice). Hated it…..

        However, she decided to leave and move on to another job elsewhere, and the company couldnt be bothered replacing her. Instead, they gave us access to concour and our corporate travel agency.

        This allowed me to choose my own flights, routing and hotels – no longer did I have to choose the absolute cheapest by pennies….I quickly got to know what was acceptable price wise and what wasnt and keeping to this allowed me great freedoms – and this is the way that corporate travel is going. They dont want to pay travel co-ordinators for generic staff member (its often better, quicker, cheaper and easier for employee to book things themselves)….and sure, if I didnt have time to do it – all I had to do was email what I roughly wanted to the corporate travel agency and they would come back with a package (though charge an extra £25 for the privilage if booked).

    • Lady London says:

      It’s a bit like Waitrose. I’m very loyal to them and know that for some things I buy there, I’m paying a bit more than I strictly could elsewhere. But I like the Waitrose “package”. They also keep me interested by having interesting products that are hard to find, all together, elsewhere.
      Most importantly any problem is dealt with beyond the call of duty. Employees are also happy there and in a service business that’s important. So I’m happy to pay a little more to be in the Waitrose environment and support the values Waitrose do, I believe, genuinely apply in their business.

      Tesco makes me unhappy and b*t*y. If I set foot in one of their stores I come back depressed.

      • Happiness is Waitrose….

      • Spurs Debs says:

        My Son works for Tesco I can confirm he’s depressed every morning when he comes of night shift. I on the other hand reap 10% discount and I’m on the grandfather rate of 800 ba points for every £2.50 and a large chunk of my points come from Tesco’s . Why do they call it Grandfather?

      • I don’t remember the last time I shopped in Tesco for more than a carton of milk on a Sunday evening. But I shop in Waitrose almost every work day. Today I walked the extra 200 yards to Aldi to buy fruit that was much cheaper than Waitrose, then called in at Waitrose on the way back to the office to pick up a jar of coffee and my free coffee. Tesco is across the road, so it’s not a distance thing! This quarter’s Tesco statement had £2 of clubcard points on it.

        The staff in Waitrose really do go above and beyond. And I get an extra Virgin mile for every £1 I spend in there with my Virgin CC 🙂

    • Exactly. Robs made this exact point several times here.

      • Indeed. Boosting rewards for fully flex business class flyers (who may actually be FORCED to fly BA if their company has signed a route deal with BA) whilst cutting those for small businesses / cheaper ticket users (who have 100% choice in who they fly with) is not smart.

        • Lady London says:

          If it’s not smart then why has British Airways been doing it for decades then?

  3. Excellent article.

    I’ve let 4 (!!) free hotel night certificates expire in the last year (Hilton + IHG + Hyatt), almost entirely due to growing levels of disillusionment with the various loyalty schemes.

    Since discovering this hobby, this will be the first year we won’t have used ANY points or miles for a family holiday or trip, the way the schemes have changed it’s better for us to discount my work travel with points and miles (no more last-min expensive tickets and stays…), and simply put the ££££ (and it is ££££) saved towards whatever buying the family holiday(s) wherever/whenever.

    I suspect our behaviour isn’t what the loyalty schemes were hoping to encourage.

    • Letting 4 free nights expire likely worth around £1k combined if redeemed for 5* hotels sounds bonkers to me but each to their own.

      • Can’t see the point in constructing unnecessary trips to places I don’t need or want to go to just to say I’ve stayed in a 5* hotel which would have cost me “£££” (but which I’d almost certainly never have paid cash for).

        • Last year we took a three week tour around Europe just to use up bits and pieces of points and miles across various schemes. Covered most of the travel and hotel costs. It was a very odd mix of flights, trains, hotels across old and new destinations. I have no regrets, it was awesome, rolled back the years to my Interail days.

  4. Calvin Chen says:

    This is incredible good article to read for a Monday morning.
    I would also echo the sentiment mentioned in this article (If 38 still counts as a young ish…..)
    I have been loyal to BA and IHG for more than 5 years and have achieved the highest status only 2 years ago (BA Gold and IHG Spire Elite with ambassador status). I travel a lots both for work and leisure and i considered myself lucky as i do have a bit of leeway to choose a preferred brand for my business travel as long as it is in line with the company policy. I have flew with Qatar 2x a years to Malaysia to visit my parent and family members and that help me accrued 4 x 140 tier points for each trip. I really appreciate Head for Points articles which help me getting the best deal for the flights.
    Overall, i enjoyed the top tier of the schemes i have chosen to date at least i have been upgraded 3 times on a BA flights.

    • Genghis says:

      Now to aim for GGL, the highest available (non-invitation) status on BA…

      • I already find the gap between Silver and Gold difficult to achieve without at least one TP run (I’ve flown through HEL but never seen the town 😉 ), I think that getting from 1500 to 5000 TPs is almost impossible unless work sends you to Aus in F a few times a year… It’s a hell of a gap!

        • You mudt stopover in Helsinki sometime, and pop over to Tallin too. Both very pleasant for short breaks.

        • Graham Walsh says:

          Agree, I’ll hit Silver next month and Gold is way too high, so my US trip next month is with VS (where I got silver last year).

        • guesswho2000 says:

          I agree, that’s one good thing I find with QF, is that they periodically offer double status credit promotions. They severely penalise you for flying non QF metal, status credits wise, but a couple of complicated routes around Australia on DSC will see me hit 1,400 SCs (and Oneworld Emerald) for the first time ever next month.

          When I was UK based, I managed to retain Oneworld Sapphire (BA Silver) fairly easily, but would never have managed 1,500 TPs in a year.

  5. Noggins says:

    I guess my experience the other day of finding my Iberia account emptied for lack of activity falls into this category. Send me a monthly Newsletter but keep quiet about the expiry rules and certainly don’t consider reminding me. (On the other hand as they guarantee they will empty your account without notice after x period of inactivity maybe they are in the good guys category?!)
    Anyway, loyalty towards Iberia? Forget it!

    • Genghis says:

      Awardwallet? Loyalty works both ways. If you have not had any activity at Iberia at all for 36 months, there’s no loyalty at all.

    • Isn’t avios 3 years without activity before your account is emptied? As a minimum all you need to do is earn 1 point every 3 years to keep them all active. Everyone’s circumstances are obviously different and you may have specific reasons why this wasn’t achievable but for the vast majority of people it seems a very attainable requirement.

    • They take three years of no activity to expire! I don’t consider that to be an unfair rule.

      • Noggins says:

        Fair point but my account opened 06/16 and since then I have made occasional purchases at Vinoselection (but I can’t find the date of the last order). So it is definitely not a three year cut off for me, more like 18 months.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Then something isn’t right there. Would get in touch with Iberia and I’m sure you’ll get your avios back

  6. Love when HFP does articles like this, more please.
    The sentiments behind the article are all in the mind of the individual frequent flyer. I always try to see loyalty schemes as something for nothing so guaranteed versus conditional benefits are not a big deal for me. Likewise, I might not like devaluation same as anybody else but I expect them and in truth it is these and the fluidity of loyalty scheme rules that keep our hobby challenging and exciting. For all the negative changes I have experienced in the last two decades and despite yearning for the good old days I cannot honestly say that these negative changes affect my travels today. I am still able to fly where I want in the cabin I want on a useful airline and get decent hotel rates and benefits when I arrive. Therefore, I cannot say things are less good than they were 20 years ago, they are simply different. Loyalty schemes have also promoted positive changes during the same time frame. For example, were it not for the schemes it is less likely we would have seen flat beds on aircraft or free WiFi in hotels. If it were not for the emergence and growth of travel and other consumer blogs we would be more more likely to get take leg over from travel providers on EU261 and all sorts of stuff. It’s all in our minds folks, play the game, take and enjoy the benefits and don’t sweat the small stuff.

    • Genghis says:

      Agreed. I like the “blue skies” type articles that bring core ideas of this hobby together.

  7. Combat Johnny says:

    Im 29 and travel A LOT. But to be able to afford to do some i take cheap flighta and cheap hotels. The only real loyslty programme i have found useful is

    • Genghis says:

      I use a lot for work as it allows me to book hotels located exactly where I need them and still benefit from the CB and 10% reward. V useful when booking multiple rooms or rooms for people when you’re not even going to be there.

    • Agreed on, I’ve got the free IHG credit card and after cashing in the 10,000 point sign-up bonus, I’ve yet to make another IHG booking as there always seems to be something equivalent or more interesting on for a better price despite visiting a huge range of different countries since.

      As long as reward flight saver remains I’ll likely still keep collecting avios as they’re quite easy to accrue but I’ll probably cash out my stack of Virgin miles soon (started collecting as I wanted to try upper class) and give up on the programme.

    • What’s ‘ a lot ‘ ? 6 flight segments a week? A month? A year? I’d wager your ‘lot’ is substantially less than a high number of people who comment on this forum. And don’t feel the need to waggle their balls around. Especially as your lot probably isn’t as big as others’ lots…

      • Combat Johnny says:

        This year ill do 19 countries across this year. Across multiple trips spread throughout the year. Thats all personal travel too, not being paid for by my employer. Maybe putting it in captials was over reaching (forgive me, i was half asleep) but id wager that is a lot compared to most people my age and income bracket. The article says that the loyalty schemes are now trying to attract people like me and while I do churn credit cards most hotel chains remain out of reach for me in terms of price.

  8. Optimus Prime says:

    “Finally, as you pass 50, you are hitting your peak disposable income years. You hopefully have money and time to travel and, if retired, you will be totally in charge of which brands you spend with.”

    I wish this were true for most of people born in the 80’s or later… In my case I’ve been caught out by a property bubble both in London and in my home country…

    • roberto says:

      Some one born in 1980 is 38 now so that is another 12 years to crack on. Whilst I appreciate its different today, I as a 55 YO man have seen a couple of serious downturns including the colapse of the world banking markets and 17% interest rates. That with half a dozen cycles and corrections in the housing market , the big Bang , miners strikes , The Falklands conflict , two Deserts storms , Minority governments and now Brexit. There are always excuses that now is not the time where to make money but plenty of people are “having it off” currently.

      I know of many self made folks who where skint in their 30’s and 40’s but fully minted further down the line , one American Billionaire comes to mind ( who I admit I dont really know ).

      • Londonbus says:

        I moved to a job in the Middle East aged 46. My travel went from an annual long-haul in Premium Economy to 5 trips a year long-haul in Biz/Premium Economy. All paid for by myself. But I;m earning rather more now.

  9. Of course if a loyalty scheme did provide benefits which snowball over the years (rather than expire/reset every year or two) – so that by your 50s you would be receiving perks/discounts which made moving to another scheme feel too much like starting from scratch – the other schemes would probably just do a status match to try to poach you.

  10. Roger1* says:

    I’ve been in this game longer than most and long ago came to the conclusion that frequent traveller loyalty schemes work in one direction only.

    I started as a ‘younger person’ with Pan Am Worldpass and American AAdvantage – then they merged and later demerged. At the time, I was travelling regularly to Berlin and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. BA didn’t have a miles scheme then, but did offer a tatty BAC 1-11 to TXL via HAJ. Much nicer to fly PA’s modern Airbus fleet via FRA and earn miles. 🙂 To do this, I had to use a friend’s US address. Then PA went belly-up and I gained some DL miles. CO let me earn credits from several European airlines. USAir gave me credits for BA flights. Then, much later, along came BA and Air Miles. Ah, well. My PA, CO and US miles have long since been subsumed elsewhere and Mrs Roger and I are still Avios millionaires.

    Theoretically at least, I’m now in the ‘higher disposal income’ category and have a freer choice of airlines and hotels. I decided a long time ago to use up my miles and points, and to book whatever is best strategically at the time – e.g. flying easyJet with Priority Pass membership, and using deals like SWISS biz to JNB and BA F to CPT mentioned in HfP. (Easier said than done: easyJet to ZRH has lousy times.)

    I still have a pile of miles and points. It may be that they will last longer than me, something I’m trying to avoid. 🙂

    • Genghis says:

      Nice post. Given you’ve experienced many changes and devaluations, do you not feel like you should just use up your non-flexible points?

      • Roger1* says:

        Yes! 🙂 And as a principle, I will not be chasing status except probably with BA and Hilton.

        There are usually several things to consider, and this is one of them. For example, these are our next bookings:
        – to Vienna with ‘Vueling Austria’ using €0.01 pricing, no loyalty points;
        – to AKL in biz from MAN with QR; At the price, it would have been rude not to book.
        – to CPT in F with BA; Same comment.
        – some RFS to ZRH, using up some of our Avios.

        • Mikeact says:

          Welcome to the ‘Good old days ‘ ! I was on the infamous Continental flight from Gatwick that nearly didn’t make it……thereafter referred to as the ‘Hedge Clipper ‘ service !

  11. OT as no bits but hotel related. Considering staying at T5 before a LH flight next year but the Sofitel is coming up at £280 non-refundable for a family room! Which other hotels do readers find the most convenient for getting to and from T5? I’m HH gold so need to look at whether they have a transfer service. Thanks in advance.

    • Genghis says:

      The Hilton Garden Inn at Hatton Cross is decent and good access – just get back on the tube. I’ve stayed at the Ariel HI quite a few times too when Accelerate has been on (though HGI is better).

      • +1 for HGI hatton cross. No less convenient than Hilton T5 regardless of terminal. You avoid the dreaded Heathrow hoppa and it’s a helluva lot cheaper.

    • Travelling Inspector says:

      When I have an early flight from T5 I stay in the T5 Premier Inn. The free 423 bus stops directly outside the hotel, starting soon after 4 in the morning, and it’s two stops / less than ten minutes to T5 bus stand 6, every 20 minutes or so (and in my experience follows its timetable) – perhaps not ideal if you have masses of luggage, but I’m usually HBO. I get the Tube to T5 the night before and get the bus to the hotel. Booked well in advance the Premier Inn is extremely good value and very comfortable (with in-room fridge and kettle); if you choose to use the dinner/breakfast options they are reasonable too.

    • I too am HH Gold, and personally, I wouldnt bother with the T5 Hilton – Ive been seriously disappointed by it everytime Ive stayed there.

      The Hilton atttached to T4 isnt bad – tends to be my go-to hotel for LHR – its not absolutely fantastic, and to be honest, the HGI at Hatton Cross is probably better – I just like the fact the hotel is physically attached to the airport……

    • Lady London says:

      suggest you book something flexible you can live with @Anna then search again at Sofitel nearer the time. I think sometimes closer to time it’s offered by those websites that won’t name the hotel till you book – but you can work out from the description.

    • Hilton T5 and book the car park through NCP, the parking works out much cheaper and it includes free Hoppa bus tickets which are collected from hotel reception. The HI is also walkable from the Hilton NCP car park but not the best hotel one the world!

      • +1
        I stay at the T5 Hilton 5-10 times a year and I can’t fault it, although it’s probably a bit more comfortable as a diamond with lounge access….
        Parking is very convenient and as someone mentioned booking through NCP with cash back works out at £4 a day with hoppa tickets if booked well in advance….

    • The Lord says:

      Been a long time since I had an overnight at Heathrow but do any of the hotels offer shuttles anymore? Looks to me that you are left to your own devices these days

      • You have to pay £5 each way for the Hotel Hoppa. All private hotel shuttles were banned.

        • Thanks all. We are flying down from MAN so will have to get from T5 to whichever hotel then back again in the morning – just looked at the Hilton MAN and it’s 30,000 points for the same night, so may just go with that and take the 7 am connection to T5, it’ll only work out around an hour less in bed!

  12. Mikeact says:

    Loyalty, what loyalty ? During my working life, I had to spend the best part of 40 odd years flying around the world. I reached BA Gold on many occasions, was for numerous years a Marriott top tier member, as well as a top Northwest member, (I would suggest not many have an engraved brass token, recognising 1,000,000 actual flown miles with them.) And then KLM, who are the only company who have recognised me with a Premium Elite for Life membership, which has been very useful on occasion. We haven’t stayed in a Marriott for years, why would we ? And with BA, I am obviously the lowest of the low….perhaps it would be nice in some small way if I was recognised as a previous heavy spender for many years, but times change. All we ask for nowadays, please, just get us there, safely.

    • “And with BA, I am obviously the lowest of the low….perhaps it would be nice in some small way if I was recognised as a previous heavy spender for many years”

      I thought this is what the “Lifetime Tier Points” was for – lifetime gold at 35k as long as you keep the account active ?

      • Mikeact says:

        You try earning 35 k when you’ve been retired a few years, and in the early days, tier points were not available.

      • They were only introduced in 2013 IIRC, and I’m not sure how far back they went to count…

        • As long as you’ve had a BAEC account continuously your TPs go back to the start even if “lifetime tier points” only started being a thing a few years ago. My Lifetime TPs include TPs earned in date the early 2000s when I started flying for business.

  13. Charlie says:

    I wonder if ‘guaranteed status benefits’ leaves the hotel open for grief. After all, Marriott’s terms state that if a ‘guaranteed’ benefit is not provided the member should be paid $200 cash on the spot (or local currency equivalent). I can imagine hotels pushing back against anything they have to guarantee, sadly for us.

    • Lady London says:

      No sympathy for the hotel. If they don’t like it then they should perform.

      • The hotels are in a difficult position. Many of the asperational hotels are actually indepently owned. Loyalty generally means staying in one brand, the reward for which is being able to use your points/status in one of these high end properties. As a whole the brand comes out ahead but from an individual hotel point of view the cheap ones ‘win’ by getting cash stays you may not normally consider while the expensive one ‘loses’ by having to give away an expensive room or benefits for points. I can see why hotels aren’t happy giving away breakfast, upgrades, lounge access, early arrival and late check outs when they know they could have someone in the room paying for all of those things.

        Of course the counter argument is that if the hotel doesn’t like the ‘rules’ it could leave the scheme.

        • Genghis says:

          I thought the individual hotels are compensated handsomely by “Central” for points stays?
          @Rob any idea how this varies by chain?

        • Compensated yes but I doubt it comes close to a cash stay. If it did why would they limit rewards availability?

        • IHG hotels get the full cash value when they are 95% full. Below that it is a token gesture to cover cleaning costs. Presumably similar elsewhere as the idea is that the hotel isn’t losing any revenue unless it would otherwise sell out.

  14. I’ve not really felt any loyalty scheme I’ve been in has been thinking much beyond the next couple of years, far less truly aiming to keep members through into their prime spending years (whenever that may theoretically be). BAEC and Tesco are by far the most stable and consistently make the difference to me buying their product. is interesting and would be easily improved by some kind of 5 year+ horizon (and reduction in marketing spam by 99%!). Accor, Hilton, Radisson, IHG and Virgin Flying Club are all temporary liaisons as far as I’ve been involved; with Accor the perfect example of putting me right off the underlying product all through my years as Platinum (at least they were consistently awful!).

  15. rams1981 says:

    OT as spire elite and with a free ihg night to use any tips for places to stay in Berlin where I may be able to get benefits such as free breakfast? I assume that’s a no at the intercontinental for example.

    • Holiday Inn Express 🙂 Is there a decent Crowne Plaza which gives lounge access? Usually the best bet for a Spire.

      EDIT: Just had an email from a reader who had been at CP Berlin for the athletics and got as a Spire:

      welcome drinks (2)
      compo breakfast
      restocked compo mini bars
      suite upgrade
      late check out

      • rams1981 says:

        Brill, thanks Rob. So basically makes more sense than Intercontinental as not likely to get much from them.

        • No idea how the two compare in terms of room quality, size, price, location …. I would get the full picture before committing.

      • Which CP – there are 2?

    • IC Berlin is nice if you can get a decent price – I stayed on a weekend promo they had which included breakkie. As AMB received a nice upgrade, late checkout and 2 vouchers for ‘any drink’ in the bar, so we had some rather tasty cocktails! Breakfast spread is superb too, of course only available on paid deal.

    • Hotels in Berlin are dirt cheap, I would not burn a voucher there. I you must I can recommend indigo Ku’dam. Great location, 3 minute walk to zoo station. Rooms a bit small. Mixed reports on status recognition though.

      • Will never go to Indigo Kudamm again. Got an upgrade as a plat but the bed linen was full of small hair and the back of the pillow full of dandruff as someone did not bother changing the bedsheets. Got a 600 points (yes you read it right) compensation from the management!

  16. Mikeact says:

    And how about Tesco ‘Loyalty’ ….Clubcard points severely diminished ….no more Direct…fewer Clubcard offers…….fewer coupons all round. They must be issuing far less points than this time last year.

  17. OT, but relevant to a number of the comments already posted: £30 off £100 Radisson spend (but on a HIGHLY selective set of their hotels) offer on 3 of our Amex Plat CBs today.

  18. Loyalty doesnt exist any longer.

    I dont mean that customers arent loyal – it is the companies who dont take the opportunity to sell themselves to loyal customers thats the issue.

    My wife sre fortunate in that we can take 7 or 8 cruises every year – we have a couple of cruiselines we prefer to sail with.

    You would think these companies would have a list of people like us – and to use it to sell us what we wsnt to buy.

    Forget it – websites arent fit for purpose, agents are untrained or disinterested. Nobody calls back.

    I recently emailed the UK head of one cruise line and explained how difficult it was to spend £30,000 with his business. He didnt reply and I got a couple of std replies from “customer care”.

    A month later, I tried to spend £5,000 with them but none of the issues had been resolved – a competitor got the £5k instead.

    I will now be spending 2 weeks with that competitor – what business in their right mind allows you to go elsewhere like that.

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