One of the perks of air travel is that it is supposed to get better over time. As you accumulate miles on an airline you move up the pecking order for upgrades, early boarding, and other special accommodations.
While I did put in a lot of miles on the road this year, unfortunately it was spread out across multiple airlines. This is due to the fact that my company is smaller and has fewer people traveling. So instead of negotiating a package deal with one airline, my travel department just looks for the lowest cost, making it a bit of a crap shoot on which airline I might be on.
The net result to me is that instead of being Super Special Primo Magnum Platinum on one airline, I am just first or second rung on a bunch of them:
American - Gold - It used to be like the Olympics: bronze, silver, then gold. But now gold is the BOTTOM rung of the American Airlines system which goes Gold, Platinum, Executive Platinum (why not use another metal?). I will add that I got this one the hard way: using segments instead of miles (takes 30 of them).
United - Premier Executive - United got rid of metals all together and uses Premier, Premier Executive, then the elusive "1K", or 100,000 miles ("executive" makes its second appearance in these programs, so some consulting company must have come up with a reason for that). I managed to steer my travel department to United for overseas flights for the back half of the year and I am going to try to go for the 1K club in 2007.
Continental (and Northwest) - Gold - Continental stayed with three metals, but instead of staying with the Olympic standard they go with Silver, Gold, then Platinum. I guess this is to make the bottom rung feel better than they are, but the perks are what is important, not what it is called.
The interesting part next year is if something really happens with a United/Continental merger. As a business traveler this looks like a good deal for me.