Did anyone pay attention when Robert Shiller warned about the real estate bubble or Nouriel Roubini sounded the alarm bells about the impending global economic crisis? Probably not as much as they should have. So feel free to ignore this one, too: travel loyalty programs — and particularly airline programs — are a bubble. And it may be about to pop.
All the signs are there. Delta Air Lines’ recent, precipitous devaluation of its loyalty program is just the latest. Your hard-earned frequent flier miles now die with you, and can’t be inherited by your next of kin. (Yes, Delta can do that.) This follows a wholesale downgrade of its SkyMiles program. Several hotel chains, including Marriott and Hilton, have also decimated their programs in the last few weeks.