White Collar Travel: Don’t judge a business traveler by his mileage account

There is something incredible about mileage balances that stretch to six digits. The travelers who have them, you suspect, must be the real deal, living entirely on the road. There’s another class of business traveler, however, who is both quite valuable to the airline and is frequently overlooked. They fly domestic, but usually less than 2,000 miles a week. They’ll get short breaks of a few weeks every now and then. As a result, they don’t rack up the miles and miss many of the perks. But, they spend a small fortune over to the airlines every year.

These travelers will never make platinum status – many won’t even see gold. They lose the bragging rights that come with abundant mileage counts but still carry their lives in the bags under their eyes. How do these business travelers get shafted? Let us count the ways …1. Upgrades are rare
They fly all the time but only occasionally find themselves at the front of the plane. To these guys, scoring an exit row seat on the aisle becomes a stroke of good fortune.

2. Vacation dreams vanish
Since they don’t accumulate many miles, these business travelers can’t console themselves with dreams of comp’ed spa treatments in unusual locations. If they pick up enough miles in a year to get an overseas flight, they’ll have to take the perk in coach.

3. They spend more for comfort
Out of pocket, these passengers make purchases to render travel more tolerable. Food, magazines and gadgets become necessary to survival in this weekly grind. Upgrades mean that passengers don’t have to invest as much in their own sanity.

4. They lose bragging rights at the office
It doesn’t sound like much to the uninitiated – and looking back, this activity seems downright idiotic. But, it’s easy to get caught up in the mileage game. The frequent short-haulers lose out, and they hear about it back at the office.

5. They know the airlines don’t care about them
The shorter domestic flights don’t always cost less than the longer ones, but unlike the hotels, airlines don’t reward spending. Instead, they recognize distance. A business traveler flying from New York to Austin every week for a year can spend as much as one running from Boston to San Francisco for the same length of time – maybe even more. But, the benefit will never be the same.