Top 10 branding insights from the best airline loyalty programs at the Freddies 2008

Alaska Air and Southwest bagged the most prizes at this year’s Freddies. Ideally, all airlines should be like Alaska Air: substantial award choices, good bonus promotions, an easy-to-use Web site and some of the best customer care representatives in the industry. But not all can be right up there.

We went through the full list of award winners and picked the creamiest from the cream of the crop. So here are some of the Top 10 most innovative features from the top loyalty programs in the world.

  1. Amazing discount bookings. Jet Airways’ Jet Privilege program, where in celebration of new routes between India and the U.S. and Canada, members could redeem economy award tickets at a 50 percent discount if they were Platinum or Gold members and at a 25 percent discount if they were Silver or other.
  2. Family Plan. Korean Air’s Skypass Family Plan allowed you and your immediate family members, up to five, to pool miles and to redeem the combined miles for award travel. There was no minimum mile transfer and no transaction fee. How sensitive a deal is that!
  3. Sweet Birthdays. Thai Airways’ Royal Orchid Plus Gold status members could redeem award travel on Thai at 50 percent off standard mileage requirements in all classes of service and on all international routes commencing during the member’s birth month, and the months preceding and following, for a three month validity period. Talk about an extended birthday celebration.
  4. Good to be Elite! Qatar Airways’ Elite members in Privilege Club at the higher levels have unlimited lounge access along with other benefits such as being able to share their good fortune as an elite member with family members who can earn miles based on their elite level. Sweet!
  5. Excess Baggage, no problem. Royal Jordanian Royal Plus Members and Brussels Airlines members could redeem miles for excess baggage.
  6. Fly 2, Get 1 Free. Fly 4, Aloha Hawaii. Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards promotion allowed members who could fly two long-haul roundtrips to get an award. They could earn a maximum of two awards during the promotion, which is the number needed for a roundtrip award trip to Hawaii.
  7. My miles buy music! Air Canada is well known Aeroplan Aeroplan Music Store: Launched in September 2007, members can redeem 5,500 miles for 50 songs – individual tracks or entire albums are available to download in wma or mp3 format; a loyalty industry first.
  8. Once-in-a lifetime experiences. Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles Online Auction allowed members to redeem their miles for unique once-in-a-lifetime experiences, charities, trips or products like a Mumbai Habitat Build on site in India; Tim McGraw and Faith Hill concert tickets with meet and greet and photos backstage; 14-night Cannes Film Festival Cruise; Yankees lunch and photo with Mariano Riviera plus game tickets, and many more. Feeling pampered yet?
  9. One of a kind anniversary raffle. Etihad Airways’ Guest Birthday Bonanza Mega Raffle allowed Members to redeem 100 miles for a raffle ticket to win a prize that included two business class tickets, a four-night stay at the Shangri-La Bangkok and 17 products from the Reward Shop, ranging from a video iPod to diamond jewelry to designer accessories and shopping vouchers. Beyond free air travel, Etihad offers a tantalizing array of “lifestyle awards” like an Abu Dhabi golf outing, a London theater trip, or a Swiss ski safari.
  10. Free travel that’s really free. This is our favorite. Lufthansa and Qantas Airways earned awards for programs allowing frequent fliers to use miles to cover taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges that are usually assessed on award tickets on most airlines.

Agree with this rating? Have had better experiences than these? Share them in the comments now!

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