Last week, Aegean Airlines devalued their Miles+Bonus award chart for some of the most popular awards. Aegean Airlines has been my main airline of loyalty for the last 7 years and how I keep Star Alliance Gold each year (great for lounge access anywhere in the world, even in the US when flying domestic United flights!). So, when I saw the Aegan award devaluation, I had some conflicted feelings about loyalty towards Aegean going forward. With airline programs devaluing all the time, I am sure you have had your airline do something similar so I just wanted to put my thoughts down on my thoughts with “my” program.
The Aegean Award Devaluation – And Why It Has Me Conflicted
Airlines devalue, seemingly, all the time. Some of them even do the devaluations with no notice at all, just like Aegean did (and they still have not commented on it). When a program makes a stealth devaluation, it certainly brings concern to anyone holding miles in that program. But, here is why I don’t feel completely “betrayed” as an actual loyal customer of the airline for this action.
I start each section with a “+” or “-” to indicate what kind of perspective it is.
+ Aegean’s CEO Actually Apologized for Delays in the Flight Schedules This Summer
This actually sounds like something we hear from time to time when a metro train in Japan leaves a minute late – the company coming out to apologize for the delays without being forced to. The Aegean CEO issued such an apology this summer and it was very refreshing to read from an airline. This shows that the airline actually does care both about their passengers and the image that the airline projects to their current and potential customers. I like being loyal to an airline that would do something like this as it shows they care, without bad publicity forcing an apology (kind of like the big US airlines).
– Aegean Has Done This Before
While it was a much lower-profile award devaluation, Aegean has made a stealth devaluation in the past. They did this to their European/North Africa award zone. I hit them on it at the time because I was afraid of this kind of stealth action. In fact, here is what I said in this post from 2 years ago about this devaluation:
“But, the fact that they made this change without warning and by a somewhat significant amount (a 19% increase for business class) is what is concerning to me. I really hope they do not do the same thing with other awards, especially some of their sweet spots. A 20% increases on their business class tickets between the US and Europe would mean a new cost of 54,000 miles.”
And, it turns out, their latest award devaluation actually did hike the cost of business class awards between the US and Europe to 55,000 miles – just 1,000 miles off from the percentage increase they made to their regional chart.
+ Aegean Had Not Made an Award Change in at Least 8 Years
I made this one a “+” because that is pretty unusual for an attractive award chart like Aegean’s to go over 8 years without a devaluation! Of course, it is expected that such a change would occur at some point. After all, in that timeframe, they allowed the pooling of miles, they allowed the sharing of miles for a small fee, they became transfer partners with Marriott, they started mileage sales, and it was just too attractive of a chart.
But, the downside of that was not that a devaluation was made because I believe Aegean exercised great restraint in not making a devaluation before this (their difficult award rule of one connection helped with this) but it is that they did not make any announcement at all beforehand to give members time.
– Aegean Miles Are Still Relatively Hard to Come By and They Have a Restrictive Connection Policy
When compared to other Star Alliance partners like United, Aeroplan, and Lifemiles, Aegean miles are considerably harder to earn. There is no major US bank program that allows transfers to Aegean. Also, many of the cheaper partner tickets do not even earn miles (in fact, even some business class tickets do not earn miles!).
This makes their change of business class awards between the US and Europe to be very difficult to swallow. For example, you can book from the US to western Europe with Aeroplan for 55,000 miles (in business class) – which is the same amount that Aegean charges now. And, all things are not equal for another negative reason…
That negative reason is that Aegean allows only a single connection on award tickets while other Star Alliance partners allow for more than that. This restrictive Aegean policy had been one of the things that I thought would keep Aegean from devaluing. But, they devalued and they did not change this which makes Aeroplan a clear winner over Aegean for future awards – especially if you book SWISS or Turkish business class (because Aeroplan does not charge fuel surcharges and Aegean does).
+/- Aegean Made This Devaluation BEFORE Their Big Mileage Sale
For the last two Black Fridays, Aegean has run a very lucrative mileage sale of a 100% bonus. That let you buy enough miles for a US – Europe business class award for less than $700 – a relative steal when you consider what it would cost otherwise! A positive from Aegean was that they made this devaluation before the award sale. This was big since it would have angered a ton of people if they bought miles and then found that they were no longer worth what they thought they were. Again, this is something we can expect from US airlines (like Alaska and Southwest this year).
The “-” in this was that Aegean actually never told members about it. They made the devaluation at the start of their original member year (November 24), which made sense, but they did not tell anyone about it. We had to find out about it for ourselves. Hey – at least we knew before we bought miles (and I did not buy any this year).
+ Aegean Is Still a Great Program for Their Elites
Here is the final part of the issue for me – Aegean is a foreign program for US members and a very small one at that. At the end of the day, Aegean is an airline and award program that has people that fly their airline as their biggest market. It means that they do provide some great benefits for their actual airline customers and if you fly the airline and spend time in Greece, there is a lot to love about the airline. I mean, check out this post for all the things that Aegean Gold members get for discounts and more!
So, while it will take me flying more miles to earn enough miles for my favorite US – Europe awards, flying the airline itself and dealing with them as an elite makes it worth it for me. Plus, there are still ways to earn miles through family pooling and some 100% earning economy fares with partners. Also, if I need to top-up, I can always take advantage of one of their mileage sales.
I love Aegean as an airline and I really like what I receive from them as an elite member. While I strongly am against the stealth award devaluation that they made, there are enough positives about the airline that I will keep crediting my flights to them going forward. After all, they do have a customer-serving attitude from the top down – which is what made this stealth devaluation so conflicting for me.
I would still rather be an elite member with them than be an elite member with United!