Letting Loyalty Win

Flight delays happen. I get it. And I usually try to not get too bent out of shape about it. In this case it is my flight home from Chicago this afternoon. I received the alert on my phone as I boarded the Blue Line train to O’Hare that I’d be about an hour late getting back to JFK. Not a huge deal, though I’ll miss seeing my parents at the airport in what was going to be a serendipitous meeting of flight schedules. But I also decided to check for alternatives. Because if I don’t have to be delayed then I shouldn’t be. Also, it was unclear just how long the delay would really be; it was an aircraft swap due to mechanical issues and the inbound aircraft hadn’t left JFK yet so the delay was slipping.


Walk-up fares from O’Hare to LaGuardia are $89 this morning. That’s about what I paid for the busted segment so mostly a wash. And the busted flight is on JetBlue where my Mosaic status means I can just take the existing value as a future travel credit. No harm, no foul, if you will. So I bought the United flight leaving 90 minutes out, selected my middle seat in E+ and was actually reasonably happy about mostly saving my trip home.


And yet, as that plane taxis out for departure, I’m sitting at O’Hare typing this and waiting out the JetBlue delay. Loyalty won.

I’m in the midst of another Mosaic challenge run and I’m currently $10 short of the $1250 necessary to secure the benefit for next year. And the time window for the challenge more or less expires with today’s travel. I do not have more time and any additional fare would cost way more than the $10 I’m missing. So my choice was to either get home a couple hours faster or give up on Mosaic for 2016. And I chose the elite status.

I’d like to think that I can still get value out of the 2 extra hours I’ll sit here in O’Hare today. And I was not going to see my parents either way since the new flight was at LaGuardia rather than JFK. And I do get value out of the flexibility of being able to change my JetBlue tickets without any fees, the one main benefit I see in the Mosaic program. I think I made the correct choice. And yet I still feel a bit like I gave up control of my own destiny, a move I’m no particularly happy with.

There is the theory of Original Routing Credit which I suppose I could try to pursue. But I’d be refunding the ticket and getting that value back from JetBlue while buying my own replacement which likely works against me. And I did not want to risk that with the Mosaic requalification at stake.

Loyalty is supposed to reward me, not punish me. I suppose I can see that reward in the form of sufficient time to hit Tortas Frontera for lunch today rather than being on time.

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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. My writing about loyalty in general focuses on the value calculations and making sure that the consumer is rational in making decisions rather than blindly chasing status for the sake of status. Given that I ended up probably not doing that on Friday I figured it was worth sharing the other side of the story.

        Also, I found the $89 walk-up fare on CHI-NYC an interesting nugget; that’s crazy cheap.

        1. I can’t believe that the walk up fare CHI-NYC was $89?! That sounds amazingly cheap, though it’s not a route I fly often I certainly have flown it and paid more than that. I’ve never had to buy a plane ticket on the day of travel, but I always assumed that the fares were universally ridiculously expensive.

  1. Wait…you spent the $89 and then immediately changed your mind, and threw that tickey/money away? Was this just a case of not realizing you were only $10 away from Mosaic until after you paid the $89?

    1. Refunded the $89. Still within 24 hours of purchase and UA allows that even on day of travel. P

  2. $89 is crazy cheap- had to do a last minute SIN – DTW trip, and I could redeem on CX to ORD, but I would have to buy ORD- DTW, and the cheapest I could find for that shorter leg was $219.

    “Loyalty is supposed to reward me, not punish me”. No, loyalty programs are supposed to incent you to spend incremental dollars on their services; the rewards is the carrot, not the goal. In this case, the program did exactly what it was supposed to do…

  3. I call it the battered husband ( meant as a joke and not minimizing the suffering of battered people). I feel that I am so loyal to United but they always end up punishing me and instead of rejoicing in our relationship I know I am allowing them to take advantage of me. Love your dilemma. Great post

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