Pilot Lifestyle
November 13, 2015

When I opened the letter from the big hotel chain, I really wasn’t sure how to react.  Some would say it was funny… others, infuriating.

My emotions fell somewhere in the middle.

The letter informed me that my stay-points were getting ready to expire.  If I didn’t have a “qualifying activity” in the next few months, they would wipe my account clean of all points.

The brand of the hotel isn’t really important.  As they relate to flight crews, they’re all the same.  (If you must have a hint, the company name starts with M, ends in T and rhymes with chariot.)

Airline pilots spend about a hundred and fifty nights a year in hotels.  With a few limited exceptions, we do not receive hotel points for our stays.

Airlines negotiate the best rate possible for the enormous amount of hotel rooms they purchase for crews on layovers.  Once a certain price level is reached, the hotel chain reneges all opportunities for the pilot to pad his or her rewards account.  Some clerks have also explained that all “direct billed” rooms do not qualify for points.

Either way, although we spend more time in hotels than most people, we aren’t getting the points.  I’ve stayed thirty to forty nights this year at the chain noting that I have no “qualifying activity” for the past two years.

Years ago, during my first furlough, I got a taste of the good life as as real hotel customer.

When I flew for the fractional, we worked a seven day on, seven day off schedule.  On day one, I would airline to a jet (accruing frequent flyer miles), fly it around for seven days and then airline (more frequent flyer miles) back home.

Unlike airlines, fractional operators cannot predict where flight crews will be spending the night.  My company used a travel agency to reserve rooms on the same day as our arrival.  I would pay for the room using my own credit card and later receive reimbursement via expense report.

Therefore, I earned an enormous amount of hotel points.  I reached and maintained the highest status level with all the major brands.  When I arrived, I received upgrades, access to the concierge lounge and free snacks and water in my room.

(However, it is worth noting that some corporate flight departments actually forbid their pilots from receiving any perks from doing business with other companies.  Even though he was eligible, one pilot friend was not allowed to accrue hotel points while flying for that corporation. Ouch!)

I still have some modest point balances from my days at the fractional.  Since I don’t want to lose them at the chariot chain, I decided to try an old trick that used to work at all hotels.

“Can I get a stay credit if I put my number on my account?” I asked the clerk the next time I found myself signing in at this particular brand.

“Sure. If you give me your rewards number and credit card for incidentals, you’ll receive the points for what you charge and earn a stay credit.”  He really sounded like he wanted to help me earn a qualifying activity.

In the past, pilots were able to accrue “stay credits” at most hotels using this method.  With the rewards number on the folio and an actual incidental charge, the rewards program would credit the account with a “stay.”  Although they wouldn’t receive a lot of points, pilots could earn the elite status for having enough “stays” throughout the year.  Most hotels have closed this loophole, but apparently it was still an option at this location.

So, I provided all the necessary information in an attempt to circumvent my “airline pilots aren’t real customers” dilemma.  Later that afternoon, I purchased a dark chocolate candy bar from the gift shop and charged it to my room.

The next morning, I received a bill under my door.

The hotel was going to charge the candy bar AND the room rate and tax to my credit card. UGH.

I went downstairs a few minutes early and resolved the issue with the front desk.  They re-routed the room charges back to the airline and charged my card for only the over-priced candy bar.  What a pain in the rear… but, worth it to save my points.

I checked my rewards account a few weeks later.

As of today, there is no sign of the candy bar points or stay credit for that evening.

The website is still echoing the same sentiment that my points will vanish in about a month.

It didn’t work… So, I give up.

This blog posts marks the end of caring about hotel points forever.

I pledge to be satisfied with my standard room near the elevator or ice machine.

I also pledge to waive all bitterness for receiving absolutely zero recognition for the hundred and fifty nights a year I spend in hotels.

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About author

Renewed Pilot

I've endured a roller coaster career in the U.S. Aviation Industry. Currently flying the 737 on my third try with the same legacy carrier, I have also flown for a regional, fractional and start-up carrier. My piloting experience includes the 737, A320, 727, Citation Excel, Citation Bravo, Saab 340 and many light singles and twin engine aircraft. I reside in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee.

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There are 3 comments

  • Ron Rapp says:

    I feel your pain — those points can be a lot to give up. I fly for a 135 operator which uses Marriott almost exclusively, and I use their credit card, so I end up with a couple hundred nights credit each year despite only actually spending maybe 100-150 nights there. Every year I’ve been able to take my wife on a weeklong vacation to Hawaii or St Thomas just on points. I think the hotel point systems are better than the airline loyalty equivalent. No blackout dates or charges for using your points.

    Have you tried simply calling them and asking to retain your points? I remember one year early on I was 10 nights short of maintaining Platinum status and they gave it to me gratis just for asking.

    • Hey Ron…

      Oh, I remember those days! When it came time for a vacation, we’d just book the entire trip on points.

      I became a little too dependent on the hotel points. When my company booked me at a non-chain hotel, I was actually annoyed. 🙂 When on the road six nights a week, it was all about padding the points account.

      I thought about calling to see if I could keep the points active. But, I don’t anticipate building the point level with any qualifying activity. So, I redeemed them for a small e-gift card. It may cover dinner or lunch on a layover… IF I’m stuck with no other option than the hotel restaurant. (ie: EWR.)

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  • Allan Cordero says:

    Funny how the airlines drool/need/bend over/cry for those business travelers that make up for most of their revenue and pretty much never pay the ticket themselves. They even have corporate plans, sales teams that contact big companies to get their employees to travel. Company gets discounts and employees get miles/perks/upgrades/free bags/free flights/hotels/car rentals.

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