Double your pleasure, double your fun, double your EQMs

Business travel is down this year.  There is no one arguing that fact.  The carriers are all looking for ways to boost their numbers – thus far reasonably unsuccessfully – and it seems that there are a couple different approaches to the situation in play.

On one front, Continental is offering a stealth price guarantee program of sorts, with a $50 change fee on all transatlantic flights for the first 30 days after purchase.  So if the fares drop within a month of the purchase you can get the new price for a $50 fee rather than the normal change fee of $250+ on those fares.  Decent motivator, but not spectacular.

On another front, American Airlines is leading the charge to try to build up their elite passenger base with fewer miles flown through a repeat of their Double EQM Promotion from last year.  The rules are simple enough.  Fly between March 18th and June 15th and earn double EQMs for all flights on AA, American Eagle and American Connection.  The bonus is only for EQMs, so no extra reward miles that can be redeemed for anything, but it still isn’t a horrible deal.  Oh, and United is “expected to match” later this afternoon, though I’m not sure really who is expecting that or why.  But that may happen.

I struggle trying to understand how this type of promotion is really good for the carriers in the long term.  On the one hand, making passengers feel more welcome by giving them more benefits should drive customer loyalty.  That would translate into a customer who knows that they are only going to fly 50K miles this year choosing one of the double EQM programs since they’ll get top-tier benefits for their no-so-top-tier flying pattern.  On the other hand, however, it means a potential swelling of the elite ranks, which makes it difficult to truly provide distinctive service as the number of people at that tier is greater.  If everyone is special, is anyone actually special? 

I have no desire really to hit elite on AA or United.  But I can see how this would be beneficial for a lot of folks out there with travel budgets that have been slashed who still want  keep their status.  Of course, if you’re not really traveling I’m pretty sure that the status is of little value, but that doesn’t seem to figure in to the calculations.  And there is always the forward looking aspect of elite status, since flying today is really about earning status for next year, when travel numbers might be up again.

I’m going to be top tier again in my two programs of choice (Continental and bmi) and I’m pretty comfortable with that.  And I can do it by taking advantage of the “normal” quirks of their programs rather than needing the double promotions. 

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Not many people in the US would pick an airline as one of their favorites that (soon) doesn’t even fly to the US anymore.

    But I get why you picked them. I earned 31k miles on BMI last year without ever flying them. Just Hertz and Hilton credits and the occasional survey.

  2. I don’t need them to be flying within or to the USA to benefit from my relationship with them.

    The main benefit I get is lounge access on any Star Alliance flight, even in coach. For the same amount of flying and crediting to United or US Air (the US-based partners) I’d get basically nothing. I might get up to the level where I get lounge access on international itineraries, but maybe not.

    Plus, the earning and burning rates with bmi are WAY better than UA or US offer. Earning for hotel stays is great – particularly at Hiltons – and earning for the Q-Up flights that I generally take on United are at a 300% rate, and I’m already sitting in first class.

    The only thing I miss are SWUs, and I’m OK with that. I don’t think I’d ever buy up to the higher fare classes to redeem those anyways; I’d rather fly in coach for less at that point.

    It isn’t for everyone, and it is going to change eventually with the Lufthansa buyout, but it works for me right now, even with the troubles that the ICC present when working redemptions.

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