The Surprising Airline Leading in Customer Loyalty

July 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

When checking out your options for air travel this summer, two carriers have set themselves apart from the competition by creating customer loyalty.

According to the Customer Loyalty Index created by Brand Keys, a research consultancy that specializes in consumer behavior and brand loyalty, the majority of the 42,000 travelers surveyed awarded JetBlue the coveted top ranking. (One sidenote: only seven airlines were ranked in the survey results because Brand Keys requires a certain number of responses before a carrier can be included.)

JetBlue has one of the most generous loyalty programs, which has earned it the top customer loyalty rating of 2016.

JetBlue has one of the most generous loyalty programs, which has earned it the top customer loyalty rating of 2016.

What had this low-cost airline’s customers singing its praises? Its customer rewards program. In 2014, JetBlue decided to aggressively compete with six other loyalty programs by offering the Mosaic Challenge, a 90-day contest that heavily rewarded elite fliers if they would jump ship. It worked. JetBlue’s TrueBlue rewards points don’t expire, and fliers can quickly rack up additional points by booking seats with greater legroom or bringing a pet on board. Rewards members can also choose to donate their points to the charity of their choice.

Another way JetBlue incentivizes its customers to remain loyal is by offering fare options that include a checked bag allowance when purchasing tickets. This applies only to tickets purchased in the BluePlus and BlueFlex categories. If customers purchase their ticket through jetblue.com, they automatically earn twice the points than if they book through another website. All these may seem like little things, but they obviously add up for consumers.
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4 Ways to Prevent Your Miles From Expiring

May 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Airlines are tightening their mileage programs, raising the rates, and setting expiration dates on unused miles. This has travelers looking for new ways to get additional miles, and to hang on to their old miles until they can finally reclaim them.

The Huffington Post recently addressed one of the frequent traveler’s most burning dilemmas: how do you keep your frequent flier miles from expiring?

English: Express by Holiday Inn, Inverness The...

Holiday Inn Express, Inverness, Scotland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, it’s a good idea to keep track of your miles, especially if you’re using more than one loyalty program. The article suggests AwardWallet as a helpful tool. It not only keeps track of your miles, but also alerts you when something is about to expire.

HuffPo also notes that most programs simply require some form of activity every 18 to 24 months in order to keep your rewards on board. And in some cases, not much activity at all is required in order to count. You can often find partners that work with the airline or hotel and do something simple, such as ordering flowers, to keep your miles active.

Best of all, all the miles renew when you do this, not just certain miles as many people think.

Other options include using a hotel or airline website as a shopping portal for your online purchases.

You can even trade miles around using an online travel point exchange, such as points.com.

For instance, if you have 5,000 Holiday Inn Points and 20,000 Delta points, for around 10 percent of the points, you could transfer the Holiday Inn points to your Delta points account. This is very helpful if you have no upcoming plans to stay at a Holiday Inn.

It works almost like a co-op or a bank. The companies themselves aren’t working on these exchanges but simply allowing people to trade points via the points.com website. It’s a really handy way to keep at least some of your travel points alive.

What are you doing to keep your travel points from expiring? Share some of your best tips with us in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Airlines Are Unlocking New Value In Their Frequent Flier Programs

February 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Reversing the direction of what we’ve seen recently in frequent flyer programs, Business Insider says that airlines are now finding value in their frequent flyer programs.

The recent trend has been for airlines to find ways to deny privileges to customers involved in frequent flyer programs (such as putting a stop to mileage runs). That trend probably isn’t going to change, but airlines are finding ways to monetize these programs in a way that, so far, doesn’t seem to be of much benefit to travelers themselves.

Multiple racks of servers

If you’re using Big Data, you need some Big Servers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Getting on board the Big Data bandwagon, airlines have started harvesting and selling the data they’ve gathered about their frequent flyers. They’re selling this data to a variety of sources; Business Insider lists credit card providers, rental car companies, and hotels.

This data is so valuable, Air Berlin recently sold a stake in its frequent flyer program for more than what the entire Air Berlin corporation was valued at.

“It’s extremely powerful data, especially as it tends to be slanted towards the premium segment,” said Marc Allsop, senior vice president and head of global business development at Aimia.

In other words, frequent flyers tend to be very desirable customers. Anyone who travels enough to rack up that many miles tends to have money to spare, even when the person’s travel is on the company’s dime.

Plus, the information being harvested isn’t just related to facts about the person. It can potentially include details about recent trips a particular person has taken.

How do you feel about your frequent flyer information being harvested and sold to a third party? Leave us a comment to let us know if that sounds just fine to you or if you’d prefer to go back to the days when your data was just between you and your airline.

Frequent Flier Program Changes Worry Travelers

May 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve been saving up those airline miles and points for a free trip, you may want to cash them out sooner rather than later. Airline loyalty programs are changing so quickly that travelers are wondering if the programs are even worth it anymore.

English: Different customer loyality cards (ai...

Different customer loyality cards (airlines, car rental companies, hotels etc.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have discussed previously that your frequent flier points are quickly becoming devalued. Delta and United have already produced “eye-popping” changes to their programs, and travelers are keeping a watchful eye on the merger between US Airways and American Airlines to see what happens. Of course, not everyone has to worry too much.

Coach fliers won’t really be impacted from these changes. Many of the frequent flier miles and loyalty program changes are affecting business class travelers. Airlines usually change their programs every couple of years and experts warn that you really should look at the terms and conditions for the programs before committing to a favorite one. Airlines change their programs all of the time because flights are getting so cheap and they are losing money.

Some airlines are even changing their loyalty programs to where it’s based on money spent, rather than number of miles. They even go as far as to offer credit cards. They make tons of money off of these cards, so be critical and wary of the offers you consider.

The way that these programs are changing, travelers are being left in the dust. Airlines are changing their minds so quickly that we recommend that you really think about using frequent flier programs before signing up.

Travelers are more wary as their loyalty points are quick becoming worth up to 40 percent less than they used to be only a few months ago. It’s good to be cautious of these programs and know what you are signing up for.

Frequent Flier Miles Being Devalued

March 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve been thinking about signing up for an airline’s loyalty program, you may want to think again. Some airlines are devaluing their frequent flier mile programs, making free airline seats harder to earn.

Several years ago, airlines said they would never be so bold as to change their loyalty programs. They were afraid that if they changed the program, passengers would go elsewhere. You could earn large blocks of miles and obtain a free ticket fairly easily.

English: Different customer loyality cards (ai...

Different customer loyality cards (airlines, car rental companies, hotels etc.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, airlines have been consolidating, making less competition for booking airfare. Therefore, they have more flexibility in changing their loyalty programs, adding more blackout dates, increasing the cost of rewards, and decreasing the point value of flights.

Peter Greenberg said on his blog that not only are frequent flier miles becoming harder to redeem, but also that the points to every dollar ratio are decreasing. This means that depending on the airline, your points can be up to 25% less in value.

Why is this happening? Why are airlines making it harder to be loyal to them?

It’s because airlines are already flying at close to full capacity, and there are fewer seats available on the market, which means the airlines don’t need to work quite as hard to earn your patronage. And since people are already paying for seats, why give one away? Ultimately, this is one of their methods to stay profitable. And one of the things that is suffering is the frequent flier programs.

Maybe it’s time to rethink how to earn points without being confined to a loyalty program that could be changed in a few years. You could always earn points on a credit card, something that I do on a regular basis. The value of the points you earn on credit cards can exceed the airline benefits and you are not confined to one air carrier when you book your air travel.

Travel Tip: Airport Loyalty Programs

November 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

When it comes to air travel, competition doesn’t just exist between airlines, it also exists between the airports themselves. Unfortunately, many small, regional airports find themselves struggling to stay competitive with larger and more recognizable international airports. For this reason, many of these smaller airports are now turning to loyalty programs to attract frequent fliers.

In a competitive market, such a move makes sense, especially for airports that must compete against neighboring airports that offer more frequent flights and a wider variety of airlines and destinations.

English: Terminal building at the Bob Hope Air...

Terminal building at the Bob Hope Airport, or the Burbank-Pasadena-Glendale airport in Burbank, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Debby McElroy, executive vice president of policy and external affairs for Airports Council International-North America, “Airports recognize that there is competition not only among airlines but also between airports. Loyalty programs can help an airport stand out among its competitors.”

These new airport loyalty programs aren’t too dissimilar from those offered by rental car companies or hotel chains. The programs are typically free and offer frequent fliers perks such as airline miles, parking deals, or discounts at the airport’s shops and restaurants for simply flying to and from the airport. For example, Gainesville Regional Airport offers registered members of their Road Warrior Club access to a private lounge, and those that travel at least once per month are awarded special perks and freebies.

While some airports operate their own loyalty programs, many (such as Bob Hope Airport) participate in the popular Thanks Again’s loyalty program. The program currently works with over 40 airports in the United States and over 170 airport shops and restaurants. Travelers who register with the program can earn points, which can be used towards miles in the loyalty programs of many major airlines, including American Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways.

Smaller regional airports may not have the big name draw or offer as many travel options as their larger counterparts. However, regional airport loyalty programs appear to be working well to draw in new travelers.

We want to hear from you: when it comes to air travel, are you more apt to fly into a smaller regional airport or larger international airport? Would a loyalty program sway your preference? Share with us in the comments section.

Are Free Flying Upgrades About to Disappear?

July 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve traveled by air recently, you may have noticed that those free upgrades which used to be a nice perk of air travel are now happening less and less frequently. For example, some airlines only offer in-flight movies if the passenger pays an additional fee. And now, several airlines that expect a flight to have open seats in business class are putting those available seats up for auction, instead of offering a free upgrade to a frequent flier with a ticket in coach.

A new software program called Plusgrade makes this auctioning process possible. The program allows passengers to make blind bids on available seats, an idea which like all controversial issues, has some pros and some cons.

For short to medium-haul flights.

For short to medium-haul flights. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the plus side, bidding for an upgrade allows all passengers the opportunity to upgrade their ticket, as opposed to just frequent fliers. Some proponents of the bidding process can be viewed as an equal opportunity upgrade. That is, assuming the upgrade fee is in an affordable price range.

However, critics of the bidding upgrade policy say that offering seat upgrades for an extra fee instead of as a free perk to frequent travelers will have a negative impact on customer loyalty. When a traveler continually flies with a particular airline and is perhaps accustomed to the occasional free seating upgrade, taking away this benefit will likely negatively impact the customer perception of the airline.

Obviously, the airlines’ motivation behind offering seat upgrades for auction is to monetize seats which would otherwise sit empty. However, it’s possible that removing the possibility of a free seating upgrade can do more harm than good. In the air travel market, strong customer loyalty can be a crucial competitive advantage, and it may be an unwise decision to risk long-term loyalty for short-term financial gain.

Another issue with the disappearance of free seating upgrades is the lack of transparency in when this might happen and when it might not. According to an article in The (London) Independent, Plusgrade says that only select passengers in coach are selected to participate in the auction for a business class upgrade. Passengers are selected based on the airline’s “internally prioritized goals” – but what these goals are is kept confidential for the time being.

Only time will tell if this upgrade bidding software will be adopted by more airlines. In the meantime, if you’re randomly selected for a free seating upgrade, take it! After all, it could be one of the last times a perk like that comes your way without showing up on your credit card statement.