Three keys to making loyalty programs work for the airline brand of the future

In the last two months, I traveled on a dozen different airlines, in three continents. Each with a different loyalty program. And each just a difficult to understand for the so-called “elite” traveler. It seemed that while trying to please an ever-increasing variety of travelers, airlines were creating a veil of confusion before the traveler even signs up for the program.

So then, what should an ideal frequent flyer program look like to make it truly work for the airline brand? Taking inspiration from the best loyalty programs in the world, as well as my own observations from the two conferences in Miami I spoke at last week, here are some thoughts.

What would make me a loyal traveler with an airline?

    1. Simplicity – How often do you know exactly what you can redeem from the points earned from your next flight? What if it was as simple as for every $1 spent, you will be able to redeem $0.01 off your next ticket or a partner purchase? I think keeping the earning-burning process as simple as possible would attract many more customers for the airline’s loyalty programs, than currently possible. I think Westjet’s new loyalty program s doing a good job at this.
    2. ComparabilityMost travelers these days are part of multiple loyalty programs. When I choose to be “loyal” to an airline, I would love it if at the time of booking, I’m shown how many miles I’d earn on that specific flight, as compared to the competing airlines (which I can choose), and what can I redeem those for? This would boost retention, because more customers would “stick” to your loyalty program, than others’. I’m yet to see an airline that does this well.

  1. Extensibility of benefits to beyond the airport and the plane – Currently, benefits are concentrated in priority security lines at airports, airline lounges and optional upgrades in-flight. How about cultivating new touch-points in the travel life cycle where the elite travelers are pampered online and offline before even traveling. How about allowing them to earn points if they “check-in” on Foursquare at the airline office, or building a travel app like Lufthansa’s MySkyStatus that offer true value to the customer? Airlines like Qantas (screenshot above) and Etihad are venturing in this space.

So, what’s your favorite FFP and why? What would your ideal FFP would look like? One that can be offered by LCCs as well?  Let’s discuss in the comments or over on Twitter (@simpliflying)

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