This is problem I’ve been thinking about as fights become more crowded and overhead cabin space becomes more limited as airlines continue to charge for everything under the sun. Is airline status really worth it?
First, most airlines offer some type of status just by signing up for their loyalty cards. It isn’t much but you might in the second to last boarding group vs. the very last which may be the difference between having your bag with you vs. having to gate check it to your final destination. In that regard, absolutely status is worth it. It doesn’t cost anything so there is only upside.
However, how about the lower statuses of an airline? The more I travel, the more I think it isn’t worth it. Being loyal to a particular airline depends on where you live so getting those elite qualifying miles could be difficult if you’re flying different airlines. Also, even if you do earn some sort of status, there could easily be many others on the same flight with higher status that your chances of getting an upgrade are all but lost. I also believe that for the most part, loyalty doesn’t go nearly as far as a lower cost ticket.
IMO, I just don’t see the point of working toward elite status if you don’t make it all the way to the top. The highest status level is definitely worth it in my book since there a lot of perks that go along with it. But for those of us who don’t fly as often as the business traveller, I just don’t see too much upside. Instead of spending money on the flights to get a “free” upgrade that you may or may not get, it might be easier to spend the money on the premium cabin from the start. You’ll be guaranteed a place for all your stuff and if you really only fly once or twice a year, it might be more cost effective as well.