A little while ago there was a discussion on some blogs about airline frequest flier programs and emotion.  The essence of the discussion, as I saw it, was that it was unwise to be emotional about loyalty to one airline and the ceaseless devaluations in frequent flyer programs because airlines are now operating these programs based on business decisions rather than as a reward for loyalty to the airline.  The blogs suggested that in response, flyers must also be without emotion in their choice of carriers.  The solution, they say, is simply to not be loyal.

I responded to one of the blogs, which is run by a very thoughtful and insightful blogger as follows:


I think what you and Cohen are saying is really “stop being loyal” more so than “stop being emotional about loyalty.” I don’t know how you can be loyal to anything (school, pet, spouse, country, etc.) without being emotional about it. Loyalty breeds emotion. The airlines cultivate emotion with their proclamations about core values of honesty, integrity and respect, “we’ve got your back,” and others. Those who are emotionless about ff programs think that when customers hear those statements we should understand that the airline is actually saying “we’ve got you back pocket” instead and reject the good feelings about the company that these statements are designed to engender.

Another reason for being emotional about loyalty or ff programs is the feeling of being cheated or ripped off. That seems to be only a natural emotion when a company makes promises about future benefits that will accrue if someone provides consideration (handing over money to purchase a ticket) today. When those benefits disappear after I provide the money that the company said entitled me to them, that evokes emotion. That is fundamentally unfair no matter what the ff terms and conditions say. When people believe they are being treated unfairly, there is going to be emotion about it. You can bet people will be emotional if their social security benefits disappear.

The airline industry seems to be unusual in that the best customers, business travelers who buy high-priced tickets, don’t spend their own money. Any ff benefits these people get are just gravy. They didn’t give up any of their own money for them. For these people, I think it is easier to be without emotion. They really don’t have much skin in the game like those of us who shell out our own hard-earned dough.

The biggest problem that I have with the position that people should not react emotionally or react at all to the changes in the airline industry and ff programs is that it just sounds like a victim mentality. We can’t do anything about it, so just accept it. Like one of your readers who took exception to my taking exception to huge bonuses that some airline executives made. His position was: the board approved it, so the amounts must be justified and not subject to any criticism.

Unfortunately, many of the problems that plague or nation have arisen because too many of us have not been emotional enough and just accept things as inevitable or unchangeable. Campaign finance that corrupts our government and caters to special interests, the racket on Wall Street that almost destroyed our economy and will almost certainly do so again in time, businesses that solicit tax breaks and other perks from government at the expense of taxpayers and then outsource jobs to other countries, just to name a few. Some have no problem with these things and of course, they will be unemotional about them. Those who do object will certainly not affect them if they act dispassionately. I don’t view these items as political but just what is fair and unfair.

I am unapologetic about the fact that I am in some ways emotional about the race to the bottom in ff programs. I’m not going around tearing my hair out, but there is emotion there. If that offends some, so be it. But that is the way I feel.