Is it time to jettison your preferred airline?
If you're getting bad service, you've moved, you can't get an upgrade any more or your carrier is in financial trouble, the answer might be "yes."
Spend your loyalty dollars wisely. I review my travel partnerships once a year to make sure I'm not throwing away my money. If I need a loyalty tune-up, I switch programs.
Why switch? Here are four good reasons:
1. Poor service. Poor service is the root of all evil. If you're consistently irked during your travels, chances are your vacations and business meetings will not be very pleasant. When you're experiencing poor service with no-hopes of change-enough said-change programs! If poor service is the root of all evil, good service is heartwarming. First-class service paves the road for an enjoyable and productive trip. Whether it is a first class seat, hotel suite with a Central Park view or a sporty rental car, getting upgraded enhance your travels.
2. You're relocating. If you anticipate a change in your travel destinations due to territory realignment or your prime customer moves, you might consider if your current travel partners will still best meet your needs. If not-determine who will. If you have been flying Untied Airlines because 90 percent of your flights went through Chicago, but now you'll be flying through Atlanta you might consider switching loyalties to Delta. The same goes for hotels. If the Hyatt does not have suitable properties in your new destinations, check with another hotelier.
3. Getting rewards are impossible. Competition for upgrades is progressively higher the lower you are on the loyalty chain. For example, my top tier elite status with Delta Air Lines provides me a 95 percent probability of being upgraded. While someone with Delta's minimum elite membership is upgraded only 25 percent of the time. If you're finding too much competition for upgrades you might consider a program that is more suited to your travel frequency.
4. Your airline is about to go belly-up. If your travel partner is on the verge of non-existence it could be a good time to jump ship. Currently many air travelers are struggling with their loyalties to U.S. Airways. While many travelers have given up hope for the airline, you might reconsider. If they do manage to emerge from these difficult times, those loyal customers who "stuck it out" with them will greatly benefit. Your trust and dedication in the airline will position you to better negotiate your way into first class, receive waivers on ticket change fees, and any other special request you might need. As a caveat, be careful with your air miles. Either use the miles quickly or transfer them into one of U.S. Airways partner's account.
If you find yourself in anyone of these situations, and it's time to change loyalties, do the following these three steps:
1. Contact your current travel provider and inform them why you're switching loyalties. Give them a chance to make amends. If you're still unsatisfied, the contact the loyalty program of your new travel provider and tell them that you are switching to their program. Ask them to match your previous elite status, or to grant you their minimum status.
2. If you're beginning or low frequency travelers consider a second-tier program. By this, I do not mean second tier in service. Rather, forgo American Airlines, United Airlines, or Delta Air Lines, the top three programs respectively, and consider Continental Airlines or Alaska Airline -- both of which offer excellent service. These airlines have fewer members and even fewer high-elites. So your chances for getting an upgrade are dramatically increased. This same theory holds true with hotels and car rental companies.
3. Decide how to use your old miles, redeem them, donate them, or transfer them. Build the highest level of elite membership you can with your new partner.
As a loyal customer you have power, and that power gives you leverage. Just be sure it's with the right company.

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