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Last Wednesday, 2pm EST marked the moment we had all feared. As if the Marriott acquisition of Starwood weren’t bad enough (although I actually haven’t decided how I feel about it yet), American Airlines (AA) delivered a huge blow to the last of the highly lucrative, ‘big 3’ airline award charts.
I’m not going to write about the changes as many already have (you can read One Mile at a Time’s comprehensive summary here), but I did want to take some time to share some thoughts I had after watching my social media become saturated with the most recent travel hacking carnage:
- I’m sorry that it now costs 15,000 more miles round trip to fly to Japan in economy off-peak. It will make it that much harder for my dad to visit his parents in Japan every year.
- I’m sorry that it now costs 5,000 more miles to visit Europe. It will be that much more expensive for one of my co-workers to travel there for his honeymoon next year.
At the same time as I’m sorry about those things, there are a couple of things about which I don’t:
- I don’t empathize, and I refuse to have empathy for those who won’t be able to take ten long-hauls in first class next year. They should fly in business, or better yet, scratch the trip entirely and fly a friend to them and seat them in coach. That’s a good way to earn gratitude.
- I’m not sorry, and I refuse to be sorry that someone can’t fly their whole family to Europe in business class. Put your parents or spouse or significant other on business, sit yourself in the back of the cabin, and be happy that you gave someone you care about an incredible experience. That’s a good way to show your appreciation for what they mean to you.
It’s easy to lose sight of this, easy to fall into the rat race of perfect Instagram photos and Facebook posts, easy to forget (particularly with Rolling Stones and Business Insider articles plastered across our social media) that we (i.e. travel hackers and travel enthusiasts) function in an incredibly small, privileged world. Most people in the world have never been on a plane, and most people who collect airline miles just want to find some way to get home to see their family for Thanksgiving. The Delta devaluation? Awful. Southwest and Virgin America redemptions? No getting 5 cents per mile. But in all these instances, at least people can get where they want to go. Put simply, travel is a way to be connected to the world around you.
I’m not saying the AA devaluation is good. It sucks. It reduces the usefulness of what was previously a very valuable currency and will force me to be more strategic about my redemptions. But I’m not going to sit here worrying about it, and I’m sure as hell not going to sit here and feel sorry for you.
Instead I’m going to be grateful I exist in a reality where travel is even possible, and be grateful for all the wonderful experiences I’ve had and people I’ve shared with them.