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Is Top Tier Elite Status More Valuable with Airlines or Hotels?

Is Top Tier Elite Status More Valuable with Airlines or Hotels?

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Old Jun 4, 09, 2:21 pm
  #1  
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Is Top Tier Elite Status More Valuable with Airlines or Hotels?

For the intermittent traveler, it seems like airline top tier status is more valuable. In North American programs, you can earn it on virtually any fare, and it provides real benefits in free upgrades (incl. intercontinental travel on UA and AA at least), boarding priority, and IRROPS protection. With hotel programs, the qualifying room rate may be 2 or 3 times as costly as Priceline, and the added benefit of top tier status (say club floor, snacks, bathrobe, a few extra program points) often isn't worth it vs. enjoying food and drink on your dime and a Priceline room rate. Plus, your average mid-tier hotel doesn't even have a club floor.

Hotels probably win on redeemable points, with substantial award availability and free promo nights without taxes and fuel surcharges. Air awards score mainly for last-minute travel and premium class awards outside North America, but otherwise tend to be marginal.

It may depend on whether tier status or redeemable points are more important to you. If tier status, then airlines; if points towards expensive downtown or resort properties, then hotels.

What do others think?

Last edited by Explore; Jun 4, 09 at 2:27 pm
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Old Jun 4, 09, 2:43 pm
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Airline status, hands down.

Since I stay in mainly mid-grade hotels (Courtyard, Hampton, HI Express), I gain almost nothing, save for extra redeemable points, with my loyalty, so I generally spread it around, and hold middling status with several chains.

Insofar as airlines, top status helps the most when things go wrong (WX, MX, etc...), as airlines generally accomodate their top tier folks first. Occasional upgrades and express security lines don't hurt either.
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Old Jun 4, 09, 3:04 pm
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Agree airline top status. The difference in treatment by airlines between very top and mid tier status is often huge, whereas for hotels the difference is smaller. At least in my experiences (I am or have been top tier in 3 hotel chains and in 5 airlines not counting those with only 1 status level).
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Old Jun 4, 09, 3:36 pm
  #4  
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It'll be interesting if anybody shows up here making a claim for hotels. Perhaps a Starwood Plat who frequents the St. Regis brand often will have some amazing experiences to share.

For me, no question about it, the UA 1K SWU's are far more valuable than the occasional upgrade I get as a Marriott Plat. Furthermore, as Kiwi notes, the difference between top and mid tier at a hotel is usually a minor welcome gift and a small points bonus. The rooms I get as a MR Plat are the same rooms I was getting as a Gold. Generally the most desirable non-suite hotel rooms, but not suites.

Now that HH has thrown Diamond status open to all comers (in the U.S. anyway), I fear that the uniqueness of the top tier will continue to deteriorate. Not that hotels will start treating these guests badly: just that there will be a lot more of them and therefore no real uniqueness about the levels.

(At least with an airline 2xEQM promo, you actually have to fly. To hit a top-tier entirely under that promo, you'd have to be at least a legit mid-tier to begin with.)
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Old Jun 4, 09, 4:00 pm
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Totally depends on travel habits. I am a short haul biz flyer who travels, unfortunately, on RJs that have no F class cabin, so top tier status is much less useful for me. SPG status, however, has been amazing and I would choose that any day over DL Plat.

1) I accrue enough airline miles through CC spend and Rewards Network to travel intl J/F (when J/F really matters IMO) several times a year so SWUs are not useful to me, especially Delta's PMUs which are only useful on very expensive fare classes.

2) SPG plat gives me very generous suite upgrades ,even on award stays, and great free perks (front row NCAA tix and Clear membership for ex). Airline award reservations, in most cases, are not upgradeable.

In my situation, I'd much rather fly in an exit row, use free drink coupons I traded for on CC and have a huge, ocean view Westin Diplomat Suite waiting for me in FLL, than get upgraded to first class for 2 hours and have a run of the mill hotel room.

I know people have differing experiences with SPG, but they have treated me like a rockstar. And surprisingly, my silver (low) tier status on DL gives me a lot- exit row, no bag fees, US based phone agents and occasional upgrades (including a couple amazing op-ups).

However, I can totally see if I was traveling transcon frequently, why I would need top tier air status. Thus, it totally depends on your travel habits.

Last edited by thepointsguy; Jun 4, 09 at 4:36 pm
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Old Jun 4, 09, 4:00 pm
  #6  
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For me the most valuable attribute of a hotel room is the view, so a suite is only valuable if it has the best view. Many don't.

Large business hotel chains have two key things going for them: they often have high rise structures, and their program points allow redemptions at prime city center properties.

When moving from top tier to mid-tier in a hotel program, I would be most concerned about being typically assigned to a room several floors lower, in a worse view location. Presumably this isn't too much of a problem if you chat up the front desk manager?

Last edited by Explore; Jun 4, 09 at 4:13 pm
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Old Jun 4, 09, 4:51 pm
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Considering I do not get a lot of personal value out of "suite" upgrades at hotels (usually just a place to sleep), I definitely prefer the top status with airlines. I know it is different when I am a 1K with United than when I am not.

The upgrades earned can allow you to upgrade... or to upgrade someone else. You do not have that option with most hotel programs... the upgrades are only available if you are staying at the property. That is a big benefit if I want to gift a friend or family member.
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Old Jun 4, 09, 5:14 pm
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another +1 for airlines

While I fly enough to achieve 1K on UA, it's all MRs and all on my dime.

So far, I've definitely benefited from it (close in award availability w/ no fee, great service during IRROPS, etc)

While I've managed to obtain Gold Status with Marriott, SPG, Hilton and Plat with PC. (mostly through promos and such) turns out I don't really get to enjoy the benefits.

Speaking of Marriott, one of the main benefits is Concierge Lounge access. Sadly, most of my Mileage Runs and stays are on off-hours or weekends, when they close those Lounges.

Also, IME, the nicer the Marriott resort , the worse they've seemed to treat me (as a Gold) and I've read the same sentiment from Plats.

Don't get me wrong, I'd rather have status than go without but so far, the meager benefits don't make up for the cost required to obtain it the hard way.

YMMV
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Old Jun 4, 09, 5:28 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by Explore View Post
Large business hotel chains have two key things going for them: they often have high rise structures, and their program points allow redemptions at prime city center properties.

When moving from top tier to mid-tier in a hotel program, I would be most concerned about being typically assigned to a room several floors lower, in a worse view location. Presumably this isn't too much of a problem if you chat up the front desk manager?
I have "high floor" noted in my profile. I never had a problem getting that as either a mid-tier or top-tier guest. I think the key with hotels is to, at a bare minimum, at least take the "gimmie" status level that requires no stays. HH Gold, SPG Gold, MR Silver. (I'll leave HH Diamond out of this for the time being. ) That puts you ahead of the truly infrequent travelers who don't pay attention to loyalty programs or who booked through a travel agent and just hand over an airline card at checkin to earn a few FF miles.

A low/mid status will usually ensure a decent regular room if that's your primary goal.

Originally Posted by bk3day
Also, IME, the nicer the Marriott resort , the worse they've seemed to treat me (as a Gold) and I've read the same sentiment from Plats.
Totally agreed. This is a major hole in the Marriott program: if the hotel is arbitrarily deemed a "resort" by Marriott, it can withhold all sorts of benefits from elites. It's this restriction more than anything that originally led me to explore a couple of other brands. Now I use Marriott in cities but try to avoid them in places where they have the "resort" tag.

For the life of me I can't figure out what their thinking is behind this: at a business hotel, I am a very low-maintenance guest. Get my bed/smoke right, get me close to the C-level, I'm happy. It's at the resorts in particular where I wish Platinum was really recognized a bit more. Not that I ever want to get all snotty about a hotel status, but they seem to have it totally backwards where they emphasize the "eliteness" of the levels.
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Old Jun 4, 09, 5:52 pm
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Thumbs up Hyatt Diamond is better than most airlines Top Status!

The Hyatt Gold Passport treatment of it's diamond members, is better than most airlines will give their top flyers. Diamonds get free breakfast, free WIFI, suites when WE want them and a very generous program: where a program enhancement, is actually an improvement, rather than a devaluation of benefits. Hyatt and most hotel chains are not at deaths door, like many of the airlines. The service provided is what the airlines used to give in my boyhood in the 1980s.

In short, Hyatt has class, which American airline can you say that about, today? I value being a Hyatt Diamond, the airline status is just a necessary evil, needed for avoiding fees (that did not exist a few years ago) and first class upgraded service, which is less than coach in the 1980s. Like the US auto makers, only the airlines are in a state of decline around the travel industry. Hyatt and others strive to be the best and have a loyal customer base; based on their consistent quality of service: versus a system of bribery to keep your loyalty to a business that is completely the same as it's competitors.
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Old Jun 4, 09, 10:31 pm
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Originally Posted by pinniped View Post
It'll be interesting if anybody shows up here making a claim for hotels. ...
Considering numerous posters who claim that Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin America etc are the way to go I would certainly expect a lot of people in the hotel camp...

If someone earns miles through CC spending and redeems in C/F, airline status doesn't add much but hotel status benefits are quite useful.
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Old Jun 5, 09, 9:12 am
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I am going to plump for the hotel status, but here are the assumptions.

1. Already fly in paid F/J because I am flying for work.
2. As a result of 1. above, the FF status is less important, since the main benefit is already a given.
3. Usually stay in either SPG, Hyatt, or when thse are unavailable, Hilton or Marriott properties.
4. Growing old and cranky and have less tolerance for a lot of cross-cultural hassle, so the hotel becomes a refuge from the onslaught of negotiations, taxis, regulators, assorted simpletons, etc.

With these four assumptions, the service provided by SPG in particular is usually outstanding. Occasionally Hyatt will remember how it used to behave and come through as well. Therefore for me, the SPG status is valuable and attractive.

Twenty years ago, when I was young and studly, the burgeoning idea of airline status was much more important.
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Old Jun 5, 09, 10:43 am
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I have to give the edge to airlines, provided of course you are in a position to use the free upgrades, etc. I find that (while I have the tier levels in various) hotels for the most part have a lot to do with specific properties. Yeah SPG gives suites/lounge, but not much else (NCAA tix notwithstanding) and good luck finding a property with a lounge nowadays , Marriott/Hilton give breakfast/lounge, Hilton gives internet. But a lot of this you can make up for on your own dime and come out a lot cheaper with no status whatsoever. Hotel status certainly hasn't become worthless, but it doesn't approach the value of my top level AA status. As always YMMV.
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Old Jun 5, 09, 11:26 am
  #14  
 
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It depends also on which specific programs you're considering. As in the case of an earlier poster, my primary programs are Delta and Starwood. This specific combination is sort of a "perfect storm" to result in a preference for the hotel's top tier. For me, the difference between Gold and Platinum Medallion on Delta is not as big a difference as the difference between Gold and Platinum with SPG. I'm Plat with both, but if I had to drop to gold with one, I'd pick Delta.

Now, give me international SWUs that I can use for my wife or my family, and I'd probably reverse my preference.
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Old Jun 5, 09, 11:44 am
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I was thinking hands down airline status, but do see pitbrian's points.

All things considered, I would still go with airline status. For those of us who like to make last minute travel plans, the ability to make and change plans fee free is one of the most valuable things for me being 1k. The SWUs and CR1s are up there as well.

SPG Plat is great, but realistically I don't use, receive, or value the benefits that much. Basically, I value the free room most and the Plat benefits are marginal, though appreciated!
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