What’s One Wish You Have For Airline & Hotel Loyalty Programs?

Over the years I’ve spoken at a fair number of industry conferences. Usually I’m given a specific topic to talk about, and that’s fairly easy for me to do. I bug the hell out of people talking about loyalty programs all day anyway, so being asked to talk about loyalty programs is fun to me.

This coming week I’ll have a brief talk at the Loyalty@Freddies conference, which is primarily a conference for loyalty program executives. Many of them are in New York for the Freddie Awards anyway, so for the past several years there has been a conference in the days leading up to this, where they can share best practices, etc. Some of the perspectives are brilliant, some are predictable, and others are plain shocking.

Freddies
Freddie Awards setup last year

For the most part the conference is just about them sharing tips with one another, though they also bring in the perspectives of frequent flyers to balance things out a bit.

This year I was given a very open ended topic. My talk is just 10 minutes (with a Q&A afterwards), and the topic I’ve been given is “I have a dream – A frequent flyer’s/blogger‘s view on loyalty programs.” The only direction I’ve been given is to share one wish I have for loyalty programs.

I figured this would be super easy to formulate, given that I’m obsessed with these topics. But as I’ve tried to jot down my thoughts, I’ve really struggled. Why? Because how do I choose just one thing?! The other challenge is that my goal with the topic is to be positive and share a dream/wish, rather than to be negative (which is much easier to do nowadays, given the state of things).

My struggle here isn’t that I don’t know what to say, but rather that I have too much to say. So I’d love to hear what you guys think.

What’s the single biggest wish you have for the future of airline and hotel loyalty programs?

I’m intentionally leaving this very open ended and not sharing my thoughts/biases, as I want to be sure I’m doing a good job representing how you guys feel.

Comments

  1. A free ticket / stay should be FREE. No scammy ‘surcharges’. No scammy ‘resort charges’. Some programs get this. I wish they all would.

  2. Commitment to provide at least X number of days of announcement prior to any devaluation, or a commitment to provide a roadmap of expected changes to their FFP on an annual basis.

    Pipe dreams, I know.

  3. If devaluations are ever needed, make them proportional to the amount of award miles handed out nationally in credit card signup bonuses.

  4. Transparency. Banish any variation of “enhance” as a verb or noun. No unannounced or no-notice devalutations. Be open and straightforward with all changes and don’t insult your members’ intelligence. Differentiate yourself by taking risks with a level of candor that other programs don’t.

  5. I just want my upgrade vouchers to clear. On United RPUs/GPUs are hard to clear. In today’s day and age, I don’t expect free upgrades. However, these coupons are part of a status level and I apply them to all my flights and just get them back when they don’t clear.

  6. How about that the programs go back to- at some level- rewarding loyalty! There is a lot you can touch upon using that premise.

  7. I would say that it’s that they stop devaluating their points/miles. When someone signs up for a program and goes out of their way to collect points/miles for something that they want, it’s jacked up when the cost for that thing keeps going up. So many devaluations these days.

  8. To remove fuel surcharges. And to make redemption costs per country and not universal.

    Granted folks in the US earn tons of miles from CC sign ups but folks outside don’t

    So how is it fare they both pay 57500 one way for in business class from Europe

  9. I have southwest premier card. Free drinks or some type of automatic perk other more points for using the card through southwest.

  10. I think the one underlying theme is expectations – that can be either better communication of what to (not) expect or to adjust business practices to meet that reality.

    -Want to sell upgrades instead of giving them away? No problem, but don’t set an expectation of unlimited upgrades.
    -Don’t tell me that lifetime status means anything to tell in court that it means nothing (or guarantee it explicitly)
    -Free flights using a saver chart? Great. But this implies saver availability existing somewhere. Otherwise advertise your standard chart.

  11. Offer IDENTICAL BENEFITS to all countries. Be a Transfer Partner with American Express MR in Canada (and UK, Australia, etc.) NOT just USA. Be a Transfer Partner with RBC in Canada, Not just “Chase” which operates on only the United States of America, which is not the entire world marketplace, it’s one country.

    Just because an executive of a loyalty program lives in the USA, doesn’t mean he has to be completely myopic.

    Market to the world.

  12. Go back to the basics. Why do loyalty programs exist, stop the “cost saving” and start going back to the roots. “Reward loyalty “

  13. My wish and dream for frequent flier and loyalty programs is to keep things simple. There could be a variety of perspectives on what keeping things simple means. What I would wish for with keeping things simple is published award charts with categories/or regions, notices of changes in redemption options are provided at least 11 months out, once tickets are purchased earnings rates occur according to the earnings scheduled purchased at the time of purchase, loyalty is rewarded with every transaction regardless of spend, and (every frequent flier account can redeem for at least one saver award every 2 years, and if you have status then at least one saver award a year. This means that regardless of reward availability you can choose one roundtrip or oneway saver award every two years to the destination of your choice and it will be made available.)

  14. Carrier surcharges would be one obvious wish. Or some kind of point value protection (a “grandfather clause”, i.e. points earned during a set period wouldn’t be subjected to future redemption devaluations).

  15. I have a dream??? MLK would be proud. *eyeroll*

    Who came up with that subject? The people at Pepsi?

  16. Now that the programs are revenue based, release reward inventory. Point systems like Citi Thankyou – basically buy you a ticket. Now that points have a dollar value – inventory should be opened.

  17. I also take a place in the choir singing a song for “trust”.

    Devalue as you need to create balance for your business but don’t do it during the night while I have my sweet dreams about future redemptions and make me wake up with the opposite feeling of loyal.

  18. Reward loyalty. Don’t forget those customers that have been customers for decades, but don’t travel enough to get the top status. We have been your customers for 20-25 years, every year. You reward credit card holders better. You reward new customers in a status challenge better. Remember, we can get credit cards and status challenges with your competition as well.

  19. Miles should never expire, even for members without a status!

    Since I’m a loyal, but not-so-frequent flyer, I’m struggling to collect enough miles before I can use them for a free flight before they expire. For the members of AA, UA, DL or AS this is no issue, but most European and Asian FFP have expiration limits of only two or three years. Anyway, rules demanding account activities within three years or so (like with BA) are bearable.

    Furthermore, Ben, here’s a nice idea for a blog post for you: You could sum up all FFP where miles will not expire (including soft conditions like BA above) at once.

  20. Stop the devaluation moving target. It hurts loyalty. It makes us much less loyal. Sure there are many folks just gaming the system through churning and MFS but many of us are road warrior super loyal customers. Burn us and we don’t forget and we take our weekly flights and 100+ hotel nights per year or 50+ rental cars per year and we go elsewhere.

  21. Eliminate Global Services on UA. It’s ruined the formerly best industry loyalty program (PN9 & R0 anyone?), and somehow AA and DL are more profitable year after year with the top tier based on mileage.

  22. Remove fuel surcharges. Would even gladly pay more miles for tickets without the annoying surcharges. But just want to pay what is advertised.

  23. I wish hotels would provide their loyalty program guests with free overnight ironing. It’s something small but I would consider this a huge perk. When I get into a hotel and have to get up early for meetings the last thing I want to do in between is iron my clothes.

  24. Although I would love everything stated above (an award chart that never devalues! with more J availability! that can be booked without any surcharges!), I think my single wish would be for the whole thing to feel a bit less transactional. Ask if the point of a “loyalty program” is to offer a specific rebate, based on earnings rates at time of initial purchase and redemption rates, possibly with preferable availability if the customer spent a certain number of dollars in the year…yadda, yadda. Or is the point of a loyalty program to make a customer feel loyal to an airline? Obviously the former is easier for a bean counter to understand and assess success, and to some the latter might sound identical, but they really aren’t the same thing.

    I know it’s in fashion now, but I’ve been hating on United for years (before it was cool!), and living near SFO, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to post snarky comments on friends’ travel disaster social media posts saying things like “Your first mistake was flying United!” and they often say something like “Ugh! My husband has status with them from work, so we’re trapped.” That is terrible for United. Sure, they’re getting the business, but it also means that they’re one corporate contract change or status match away from losing that “loyalty.”

    Compare that to how I feel about my barber. I’ve been going to them for years, and they’ve mildly screwed up both customer service interactions (more than once) and haircuts (only that one time), but they’re a small business in my neighborhood, and I usually get the same guy and they generally treat me well. So, they’re not perfect, and I have had a handful of haircuts elsewhere over the years, but it would be fair to say I’m loyal to them, even though they aren’t giving me every 10th haircut for free. (And they definitely aren’t giving me a point for each individual hair they cut, 100k of which can be turned in for a way nicer haircut sometime, maybe even at the super fancy salon downtown, but probably not on a weekend or around any holidays. They’ll let me know when I try to make an appointment whether they have availability that day.) Loyalty programs for travel providers should be about attempting to re-create the relationship I have with my barber, but with a much larger organization.

    I kinda feel I sound like Gary here, saying ~”Either I am a valued customer, or I am not, and how welcome I’m made to feel should not change between Tuesday on a full fare and Thursday in basic economy,” but I honestly feel like that would be better for both their business and their customers. Rebate transactions mean that one party will come out ahead and one behind (the whole point of many blogs is to help readers never be the party on the raw side of that deal), meanwhile, a customer being loyal to an airline should benefit both the customer and the airline. Right now, when I hear “loyal to an airline” I assume that either that person is spending more than they actually should be, and likely can’t be getting a good value for their money, or that the airline has convinced them that they can’t go somewhere else for better customer service or fares because they’re on the status treadmill. (Full disclosure: I have top-tier status with my airline and am absolutely on that treadmill, though I feel like my airline does better with this than most…so you know it’s not Delta. :-D) Any push away from an airline’s customers “having status with” them, and towards “being loyal to” them, would be a big win for both parties. Build trust, be transparent about changes, and make status benefits less dependent on any specific dollar amount spent, either that year or for today’s fare.

  25. Searching for award availability should be as easy and seamless as signing up for a credit card. Standardize the system across all airlines, or at least alliances. This will help create an equal playing field for all!

  26. How to effectively provoke my loyalty so I stick with the vendor and dont go surfing for prices? Be there for me when I need you.
    – I’m loyal to my dentist because I know he’ll make time for me if I have a problem
    – I’m loyal to my butcher because he’ll patiently cut the meat the way I want
    – Ditto the fishmonger, who has all the time in the world to scale my fish
    What do these vendors have in common? A willingness to step outside their regular transaction limits. What about hotels and airlines?
    – I’m loyal to the Novotel Langley because the manager will come running out to the street to greet me and is happy to rearrange my prepaid-fixed bookings
    – I used to be loyal to United because I found agents were empowered to help a 1k in a crisis
    (Then came Jeff, and I went back to BFOD.)
    It’s not about the points, the champagne, the trinkets or even the upgrades. It’s about how you’re treated when it hits the fan. If you’re running late, do they throw you off the plane like BA at LHR with their spiteful auto-offload if you don’t pass security 35 minutes ahead? Or do they assign someone to rush you through a tight connection like Lufthansa at MUC? Which one garners your loyalty?
    And this is genuine one-vendor loyalty, not to be confused with points-shopping and credit-card-churning for the bloggers’ best loyalty-deal-of-the-day.

  27. Make every point worth $0.01. I can use points to buy any ticket I want, any room I want, there are no blackout dates (because it is the same as cash), there is no devaluation, no changing classes of hotels, I can always mix cash and points for any reservation, etc.

    Some people will disagree because they love some great sales that poppup occasionally (I love them too), but lately, the inability to use points has been ridiculous.

  28. Follow the rules of the program. I do not like to ask for things that are supposed to be included so don’t put me in that position. If A certain status or rate includes breakfast give me the breakfast vouchers. If I buy a First class ticket and the airline process is to ask for 1st and 2nd choice and sort in galley don’t give the last of my choice to some person who was upgraded at gate and is of lower F2F status and tell me all that is left is XXX. I would understand if it was AA FEBO because that’s their “rule” but when it’s not…

    If there is a 24 hour refund policy and I ask for a refund, follow the rules and refund

  29. Have actual availability to use your miles, especially with the AAdvantage program at the stated redemption rates, not the inflated rates that are see far too often.

  30. For Hyatt properties (and other brands, I suppose) to stop playing their availability games with inventory and suite classifications.

    Oh heck. Ask Hyatt to roll back their WOH program back to Gold Passport!

  31. Remove revenue requirements for status.
    –I had top status at Continental then United until they put in a revenue requirement.
    –I status matched to American and have not spent a dollar on United since.
    –In 2017, I will fly around 30,000 miles on American, down from over 110,000. I am still flying them because I am executive platinum.
    –In February 2018, my executive platinum status ends in February 2018. So I will probably fly American under 5,000 miles and book away from American after I lose my status.

    Now, if American gets rid of revenue requirements for status, I will probably try to make executive platinum again this year. I can always ramp up my flying.

  32. Lucky — Here’s a suggestion for your consideration:

    My “wish” would be to reverse the movement towards programs that have an explicit cash value for each point, and to instead ensure that each program maintains the potential for “aspirational” wards. Points that have an explicit cash value are not at all engaging for consumers because participation in the program doesn’t offer any possibility for getting an outsize value. In such a program, your best bet is to just “burn” your miles for boring coach trips or a stay at whatever normal hotel you stay at, as soon as you earn enough to redeem. Everyone except elite members won’t have any reason to stay invested in the program. Most consumers would be better off just getting a cash-back credit card and limiting their engagement with the points currency, which is more restrictive than cash.

    The more engaging and exciting programs are those that offer at least the opportunity, when sales are slow, for members to get outsize value for their points by redeeming for something aspirational — an international first-class ticket, or a stay at an exclusive resort that would otherwise be outside of their price range. If there’s an explicit cash value, the points “cost” of the reward would be outrageously high — and it would seem much more prudent to redeem points for more ordinary stays. But the thing that keeps the miles and points community engaged is the potential for an aspirational reward — redeeming points that only worth, say, $4,000 to get an amazing first-class ticket that might otherwise cost $10,000 or more. Maybe it takes years to save up enough; maybe the availability is limited. But ultimately the chance to experience something is what keeps people engaged.

    In the context of this audience, I would argue that keeping an aspirational reward is a good business decision — it’s not just giving away a $10,000 seat for a fraction of the price. Rather, offering the opportunity for people to redeem for aspirational rewards gives airlines and hotels a better way to price discriminate: There are some business travelers who might book a restricted first-class ticket if it were sold for cash for $4,000, rather than booking a flexible ticket for $10,000. But it’s very rare that a business traveler will redeem $4,000 worth of points and miles to pay for a trip, since almost no companies claim any right to require employees to spend their personal miles on business travel. So airlines and hotels can offer a lower-price option to leisure travelers with confidence that *only* price-sensitive leisure travelers are going to be using that option. There’s no risk of reducing revenue from business travelers who don’t care about the price. Firms that establish a cash-value-only program are losing that opportunity. They can’t lower the cash price without running the risk that some business travelers will take it, and as a result, those firms have a hard time offering great values to consumers.

    It’s also a great business move for airlines and hotels, because it helps them get some revenue in time periods when demand is low. Obviously no one will be giving away a seat for $4,000 in points when there’s a decent chance they can sell that seat for $10,000. But a first-class airplane seats or a hotel room that sits empty in slow times is generating no revenue. Selling that seat for points worth $4,000 is an incremental value to the airline — and it gets an incredible marketing benefit because so many consumers ascribe a value to their points based on the possibility that they might get to do an outsize reward, even if they end up redeeming for more pedestrian things.

    Personally, I think the movement to cash-based is the greatest threat to the miles and points community. If every program were cash-based, this “hobby” would quickly become extremely uninteresting since people would just switch to cash back credit cards. This is a timely issue to raise, because the British Airways CEO recently said in an interview with the Points Guy that they want to go cash-based. Delta seems to be moving in that direction, with SkyMiles becoming worth 1 penny each. If American and United copy Delta (and they often do) and fixed-value currencies become the norm, loyalty programs will lose much of their allure.

  33. Some ideas:
    no fuel surcharges
    no devaluations/notice when devaluing/etc
    distance-based mileage earning
    reducing the fees associated with booking award (close-in fee, change fee, etc) – for example, United charges Gold’s a fee to change/cancel within 2 months!!

  34. I think CalanMan hits the nail on the head. Yes, of course it would be nice for cheaper awards, more availability, more upgrades, etc. but I am not holding my breath. I think there are two pillars of “loyalty” programs these days. There is the miles piece which is moving more and more towards just a fixed award — i.e. a point is worth a certain amount and you get a certain amount back when you make a booking/earn a mile/point and you redeem that for whatever by translating the dollars to miles. I don’t consider this to really be loyalty. This is just a cash back service/game. The second pillar is actual loyalty. On this side I lump together all the perks of status. These have a risk of moving more towards the transactional, but I also think there is a ton of innovation ability through technology to still move the needle here. These companies know so much about you but I don’t feel like they use it very well. Take Virgin America. Think what they could do if they linked your Elevate profile to your seat when you board the plane. You could have your personal top menu choices prominently presented. You could pick up a movie where you left off after your previous flight.

  35. for semi-normal joes, it would be nice to have more…and more reasonably priced…lounge access options. i speak on behalf of non-business class folks who don’t have cc’s that gain them access.

    thanks,
    smh

  36. Hey Lucky-
    To get to your answer, you need to spend some time exploring cause vs effect. This is an area where in their effort to boost the bottom line and increase shareholder wealth, they’ve severely over-complicated nearly everything about their business to squeeze as much revenue out of passengers as possible.

    In their zeal, they have nearly completely lost any concept of what a loyalty program should mean. Who’s loyalty are they looking for – customers or shareholders? Shareholders only provide capital, they don’t provide revenue.

    So, think about it and give them a giant KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

    Loyalty programs are about customers, not accountants, not shareholders, and not Wall Street.

    I’ll echo what several said earlier in that regard: get back to the basics and they’ll achieve more than they thought. Reward customers who are loyal and don’t define loyalty necessarily as those who pay the most; it’s bigger than that.

  37. I wouldn’t put much thought or effort into trying to reach a group of “loyalty program executives” who came up with the tone deaf (if not outright offensive) topic of “I have a dream – A frequent flyer’s/blogger‘s view on loyalty programs”.

  38. The topic is “I Have A Dream…and it’s about loyalty programs”? How tone deaf can they be? I imagine the first bit will be roundabout apologizing for the topic and then working into your wish for the future.

    Well, as an AA flyer you, Lucky, have really been disappointed by them lately. I know you want to stay positive, so you could compare and contrast why you are moving away from AA and the good parts of where you are moving (although I’m not sure where that is, actually).

    Also, I know you know this already but try to sell your consulting skills! You’re probably the biggest butt-in-seat blogger out there and you know all the great livery, soft and hard products like the back of your hand. These guys NEED your knowledge of why Cathay Pacific and Singapore are kicking their butts!

    Go get ’em, tiger!

  39. Since we’re dreaming…… give special discounts on flight prices (both cash and mileage on reward flights) based on status.

    Loyalty is fast becoming useless under the restructuring of these programs. Upgrades are next to impossible, SWUs are hard to use for desirable routes and saver awards are becoming non-existent on AA metal. Early boarding and free checked luggage are hardly enough to keep people excited about a program. I’m focusing more on hotel programs now.

  40. I was thinking along these lines… what can hotels chains do for me, if I am in town, but not staying in their hotel chains? (I can be a long term resident in the city, so I do not need to stay at any hotels – i.e. I have my own apartment.)

    But can I, at off-peak hours, use their club lounges? i.e., after evening cocktails hours are over, I can pop by to have paid drinks? I have seen hotel club lounges go empty after 8pm, and they have a fabulous bar in the club lounge, just for cocktail hours. Why not convert it into a revenue generating place (which will otherwise be empty – and missed opportunity), but still limited to guests who are loyal to the chain? (You can also then go club lounge hopping around all the hotels within the same chain in town.)

    And if somehow during off peak hours, the club lounge capacity is near full, then places should be reserved for hotel guests only.
    [alternatively, set a fixed number for loyalty members that are non-hotel guests for entry at any time, so that it will not be overly crowded.]

  41. To add, Lucky, maybe you can think along the lines of “what can airlines or hotel chains do for me, when I am not flying, or staying with them?”

    If they can still provide something when you are not flying or staying with them, it means they are having an influence in your other parts of life, which will make you even more loyal to them.

    What wishes do you have then, for the airlines and hotels to do for you, when you are not in their planes or hotels?

  42. Never devalue my miles
    Never expire my miles
    Never charge me for my free award ticket
    Never make me “have to ask” for the perks according to my status
    Always have the CEO fly long haul economy at least once per year

  43. No surcharges on awards tickets. As was mentioned here before, the often critizised devaluation is mostly a US airlines problem due to the insane creditcard application bonuses. LH has not had any devaluation in years and even BA’s last one was very reasonable. This wish would be misspent, as the US airlines will never do it as long as the CC bonuses exist.

  44. All programs of the same industry should allow for trading miles/points of one currency to another. They can charge a reasonable percentage as transaction fee (10%), which the 2 programs split, so they can make some money off it, and then they let you turn 100,000 United into 90,000 Aadvantage miles, for example.

  45. just have more award availability in premium cabins. companies should also allow elites to request seats to be opened up for awards. Qantas actually does that for its platinums, P1’s and CL’s

    but yeah just more award availability, Qantas loses all of its awards to AA so quickly whilst AA releases none of its own. I’m sure lots of other one world partners cop this as well. especially BA

  46. Gee, I was thinking something completely different. My biggest wish is a better online and IT experience. I have Oneworld emerald with Qantas, and Platinum level with Accor Le Club. My biggest frustrations relate to bad websites, website glitches, website limitations, poor marketing, poor targeted offers, poor communication, and poor online support. I could give 100s of examples – but in particular I have had lots of problems booking flights and hotels, redeeming flights, using vouchers, managing upgrades, loyalty numbers dropping off bookings, chasing missing points, incorrect or incomplete website information, poor online check-in experiences, slow and restricted IT systems, bureaucratic admin procedures, inconsistencies with what the different partners offer, over-promising and under-delivering (eg, I’ve had experiences where it would be better not having any status at all because what is offered is so disappointing). On recent flights with LATAM (Sao Paulo to Madrid) and MH (Bangkok to KL) I couldn’t even select seats in advance (even though Emerald’s are supposed to have access to priority seating).

  47. you’re right it’s hard to suggest just one thing!

    I think the biggest thing I would suggest is ask these muppets to fly or stay with another program. see how the other guys do it… For United – see how BA (sometimes) has the purser come and personally welcome their gold flyers onboard. etc. Experience other programs and see what it is like.

    I find that too many people in the travel industry become insiders very quickly and forget what it is like for the traveling public. They fly their own planes with special recognition or stay at their own hotels. Their loyalty programs don’t apply to their staff.

    It would be good for them to stand in line and watch other people board first; to have to check their luggage due to lack of overhead space because the crew used up 3 bins; to not get the upgraded room at the hotel and to have to pay the resort fee…

    One can dream…

  48. When a schedule opens there should be a minimum of 1 seat or room available in each award category. Ex. American Airlines should initially provide at least one Saver and one Anytime seat on each flight they operate.

  49. Here’s one I didn’t see in all the comments – Give your employees the authority to make decisions (even ones that might cost you a few dollars!) and do the right thing for customers. Simple, to the point and could turn an occasional customer into a loyal customer.

  50. “I have a dream”–Really? 18 days after the original speech, a church in Selma, Alabama was bombed killing 4 children. My dream is that these soulless ghouls known as loyalty executives will somehow discover human decency. There is more to life than VIP lines and free upgrades.

  51. What I want in airline and hotel loyalty schemes is reliable benefits, not just vague offers that are subject to weasel worded conditions. Never hold out anything you won’t actually commit to.

    One reason I like the SPG Guest loyalty program is the the guaranteed late check out for Gold & Platinums, which I value more than anything else (especially given paid late check out fees can be just plain ridiculous), even if resorts and conference properties are excluded (at least it applies to the vast bulk of the chain).

    I hate “subject to availability” – that means it’s totally unreliable (for that stuff I prefer you don’t mention it at all, and just surprise and delight instead).

    Always ensure promises are honoured – no ands, ifs, or buts. Serious compensation if they are not (but prefer that never occurs in the first place).

    Airlines and hotels also have failed to maximise low cost and no cost services they could offer, to make their elites feel valued. Regular small touches are far more effective than a one off random big touch. Things like always making sure your room is ready to go by standard check-in (far too many hotels act like they are surprised when you turn up when you told them you were going to arrive, they don’t do any preparation for your arrival, so you have lengthy check in times and disturbances in the first hour of being in your room), remembering your preferences, and smoothing the path ahead for you.

    So many opportunities missed for leverage really, because loyalty recognition is so often just a token tack on. And that is a shame, because it’s really not that hard, and nor does it have to be expensive either. It just takes real commitment and empathy.

  52. Better and more effective communication. Yes it would be nice to give us a heads up of any changes or devaluations coming up but let’s face it, these programs will do whatever they wish and they’ll always have a loyal following (look at Delta.)
    Within that same umbrella I really hope these programs would invest more in their IT and website departments. If there’s a way to finally book awards online seamlessly that would be GREAT! Look at the Garuda fiasco earlier this year still using old-school procedures. If the same could be done to redeem miles on their partners that would be great too. Most of them are members of the big 3 alliances and I find it surprising that not one alliance has gotten all their members’ award availability all on one site (or is there?) it would be great if it could be centralized at least for Y and J award space.

  53. About “trust” and “don’t devalue” … yeah, what he / she said!

    Everyone’s favorite investor Warren Buffett has said he looks for companies with “moats”. Airline loyalty programs used to be moats: you’re Platinum on Delta so you fly Delta all the time for the perks this year so you’re Platinum on Delta next year so you fly Delta all the time for the perks next year so you …

    But some smart guys got into the airlines’ management and said: “Hey! let’s fill in the moat so we can sell the alligators!”

  54. While we’re all wishing for things that will mostly never happen I’d like to turn back the clock 5 years and see no AA/US merger, AAdvantage back to being what it was (great) & US Airways to go bust and to take Doug Parker with it.

    On a more realistic note I’d just like some Business Class saver awards on American metal please.

  55. Reduce the copay a for upgrades, and actually make some confirmable space available. Also, stop making loyalty programs revenue based.

  56. I’d have to go with either
    1) Do some deep thinking about what customers really want and make that part of what a loyalty program can give to customers rather than what they (the airlines/hotels) want to give customers.
    2) Transparency and advance notice (looking at you, Delta).

  57. Open up inventory. I’ve paid my money to collect my points and I’ve generally been loyal so don’t tell me that there’s no space on that flight for a reward flight

    If points are really ancirrency let us spend them like currency

  58. If there is only one wish, then I must wish that airline and hotel programs provide reasonable notice of program changes, including devaluations. Most of these changes are known months in advance of when they are announced. Six months should be the minimum advance notice. Members invest a lot in these programs with an expected outcome. They are very upset when the rug gets pulled out from under them. It is reasonable to provide notice to the members so they have time to adjust and plan. That helps the members and the programs by making it easier for members to accept change.

  59. I am not a frequent traveler, like most of you, so my number one request is don’t give points/miles an expiration date.

  60. It’s 2017 – Technology is a wonderful thing. How is it that the major hotel chains and their system of company owned/franchised can’t seem to recognize their most loyal and highest rated customers. I am Lifetime Platinum Premier and an Ambassador with Marriott…not ONCE in two years has that status ever been recognized or appreciated by any hotel. Not that I need to be recognized every time, but how hard is it to give some simple hospitality? WTF??

  61. I think loyalty programs only make sense for road warriors and people whose work pays for travel. Any easygoing leisure traveller who pays out of pocket will never be better off chasing status over taking the cheapest most convenient fare at all times.

  62. Stop selling loyalty status in the form of credit cards or other non-activity revenue generators. Reward customers only for loyalty to the brand.

  63. Expectations! I also would like to echo my feelings on expectations. Let me take two programs to explain.

    In that past, Hyatt’s program was the best because you could expect they would give you what they promised. As a top tier, you would get breakfast for you and your family either in the regency club if they have one, or in their restaurant. The would give you something at every hotel either extra points or some amenity. Hyatt’s new program has really missed the ball with this one and they promote a quickly expiring certificate and some apparent “unlimited” suite upgrades.

    American airlines, I used to expect to be able to use their points for free trips if I planned ahead and had flexibility, I used to expect spending $10000 a year to earn top tier status would also earn me tons of points and mostly upgraded coach to business seats too. Today spending $10000 I can’t even expect to earn top status, nor many upgrades, nor all that many points.

    I feel the theme should be expectations. Keep your loyalty program designed so you know what to expect then add promotions or added benefits when marketing determines that is the plan.

  64. I see a lot of comments about redemptions. Let me hit that another way. The airlines have moved to a system where the elites earn a LOT more miles for the same ticket as the rest of us, simply because they are elites, then the airline has no availability to use the miles. Useless.

    OTOH, the hotels have the same problem, but in reverse. They don’t reward status enough. Sure , the hotel programs have plenty of award space once you earn enough points, but the ‘elite earning bonus’ is negligible. Look at Marriott, just as an example, I’m not picking on Marriott. I’m top tier in all the hotel programs and they all do the same thing. With Marriott I get 10pts/$ just for signing up for the program. I get 5pts/$ just for signing up for the credit card. Yet the bonus for being a platinum is only an additional 5pts/$. That isn’t much of a bonus for someone staying 100 nights/year or more in your hotel chain.

    My wish? Either stop devaluing their points or else start awarding more points for my loyalty.

  65. As others have said… how about loyalty programmes actually start rewarding loyalty. You know, the butt-in-seat type loyalty, not credit card points. Also, years doing business should count for something. I’ve had entire years go by where I’m not flying more than a handful of flights a year, but I still kept choosing the same airline. When my travel plans ramped up, I continued to use the same airline. Nothing for that.

    Also, rewards should be rewarding. As you mentioned last week with AA’s half-hearted effort to recognize status. A little effort on the part of staff goes a long way.

    This reminds me of a local restaurant/bar I frequent. Food is not haut cuisine — it’s burgers and sandwiches. About once an hour, the line cook who has worked there for ~30+ years comes out and thanks everyone for coming. The owners don’t make him do this — he does it all on his own. Wait staff has been around for years. They see me pulling into the parking lot and already have my preferred drink waiting for me by the time I walk in. The waitress knows what I’m most likely to order, the line cook sees the order and recognizes who it is. and this is from a dive of a place! Not spending $10k on a F ticket here.

    I felt bad one New Year’s Eve as the restaurant was still open. I went in for my usual and felt apologetic about the place being open. The cook says to me, “naw, thank you for coming in and giving me something to do — it keeps me employed and a roof over my head.” Perhaps the airlines need to dump their self-centered crews and find people who want to work and serve customers and are thankful to be where they’re at.

  66. Of course there are a multitude of issues, and — yes — it’s difficult to keep focused and whittle down the “laundry list.” Several others have mentioned this already, but airlines/hotels need to remember that points-and-miles/frequent flier-and-hotel loyalty programs are indeed a TWO-WAY STREET, and the airlines and hotels need to be loyal to US, the passengers/guests or there is NO REASON for us to be loyal to them!

    What that means in practice is no devaluations. Honor the program as YOU originally offered to US, as we agreed to participate in. Certainly some programs are better at that than others. For example, I’ve not felt “ripped off/demeaned” by Virgin America or Alaska, for example, or Southwest. On the hotel side, Starwood and Hilton have been fine. (Perhaps more accurately, I should say if any of these five programs *did* diminish services, rewards, and/or benefits, I have either not been affected or I’ve completely forgotten.)

    A close second is fuel surcharges.

  67. After reviewing as many replies as I could, it Looks like no devaluations is the winner.

    Alaska has it all figured out. They do everything from start to finish to demonstrate customer respect and appreciation and that translates into their relatively generous and flexible loyalty program. No question that Alaska understands loyalty.

  68. More award availability at realistic (I.e. “MileSaaver”) levels.

    The deeper thought: with the combination of devaluations and decreased award availability, I often feel like I’ve been sold a false bill of goods; the airlines sell us on accumulating miles by marketing aspirational trips that simply are no longer attainable.

    Given that inflation exists, devaluations are inevitable. But if availability is squeezed away too, especially as miles become harder to earn, there’s really no more value proposition in miles/points programs for the consumer.

  69. TWO things:

    Simplify, simplify, simplify.

    And, cut it out with the sneak attack devaluations. Eliminating all devaluations is too much to ask, it seems, but show a little respect please. Make your announcements in advance like a grown up dealing with grown-ups. This telling everyone how great flying with you is, and then snatching things away, stinks. Keep the 3rd pillow or tulip-shaped liqueur glass and deal with us honestly and decently like the customers we are. Value us or you can’t expect that we will value you.
    Ya know, word gets around.

  70. I think this is easy actually, and there area few good examples – actual guarantees, which two things come to mind:

    1) Upgrade guarantee with specific instrument type – i.e. like Hyatt does for suites – both hotels and airlines should have some (even limited number) that guarantee as soon as it is applied (assuming space available when you go to use, to be fair.) AA EXP SWUs same thing…

    2) Guaranteed space – if seats or rooms are open for pay, they should be open for points/miles. Virgin America, Southwest, etc. have done this. And without the “games” hotels can pay. Again, to be fair, waiting til last minute shouldn’t open up non-existent space, but if they are selling, points/miles should be useable. This meets the many comments to regarding AA saver space…

  71. Be as loyal to us as we are to them. I little appreciation and trust, as echoed here in countless posts, goes a long way.

  72. Have the loyalty program run by the marketing department not finance/accounting. Marketing sees it as a revenue generator and accounting as an expense. It does not get any simpler than that.

  73. Make loyalty programs that are actually worth being loyal to, instead of this never ending race to the bottom all of the major airlines and hotel brands are engaged in.

  74. Allow bids for upgrades depending on tier status. I’m gold with a few airline and know sometime a I might be one of a small number of gold passengers. I accept I am not entitled to automatic upgrade but if I had the chance to bid for it I would.

  75. If I could put what I want from a program, it is this: Honesty and transparency. If you’re devaluing, admit it in a letter…even if you gloss over some stuff in promotional materials, a candid and somewhat apologetic letter will generally leave me in a better mood than feeling like you just blew smoke somewhere inappropriate. But that’s also horridly vague and could frankly apply to some hotels and airlines and not just their programs.

    With that said, I do have a pair of connected wishes that I think are more specific and realistic (they’re airline loyalty specific; I really only use hotel loyalty programs as an adjunct to airline programs):
    (1) Online partner searchability really needs to be a thing. This was my biggest gripe with Virgin America: There was effectively no way to search for availability on Virgin Australia (for example) while to check availability on Virgin Atlantic you had to check Virgin Atlantic’s website and hope that availability carried over. Being unable to check this without going through phone games (particularly long wait times, etc.) is problematic. I don’t deeply mind if I need to book over the phone for some reason, but checking space availability before I waste an hour or more on the phone bothers me. I’ll also say that if I can call an agent and say “I want flight X connecting to flight Y”, that can turn a 30-minute guessing game phone call into a five minute call…which frees up the agent to work with more customers.

    (2) Attached to this would be “If two airlines are redemption partners, they need to actually need to have redemption availability. If they are not going to, as a rule, have premium cabin availability then they both need to list this at the outset and indicate rare availability if they intend to allow it as a sale.” Again looking at Virgin America, they effectively had no availability in any cabin on Singapore but listed Singapore as a redemption partner (I heard stories of folks having Virgin America agents do twelve month searches on various Singapore routes and coming up empty). Likewise, if an airline intends to not make space (or certain types of space) available on certain routes to partners, everyone involved needs to disclose that.

    If airlines had to post where they had (effectively [1]) not recieved availability from each partner (by cabin and route) within a given timeframe, I think this might actually lead to the alliances leaning on some of the “alliance flouters” (for example, SQ is infamous on this front from what I’ve heard) and I think that given clear evidence of non-availability on a large number of routes their erstwhile partners might end up having a polite discussion…especially since that I suspect that while some airlines can make a go of things without an alliance or assembling their own web of interlining partners, others would be very hard-pressed to survive (calling SQ on the carpet, I strongly suspect that SQ needs *A more than *A needs SQ).

    Both wishes are more down to transparency in the name of making educated choices, as a consumer, about what airlines to focus on earning with than anything else.

    Aside from this, I would be in favor of seeing something like a 30-day notice rule imposed upon any changes to programs, alliances, etc. I’d also like to see it coupled with a “no withdrawal of space around the announcement” rule (e.g. you can’t say you’re dropping a partner in a month but then have zero space available with them during that time) as well as a requirement that the last week or so of any arrangement have the booking system in “full operation” (e.g. no cutting the system off a day before the end of bookability for “maintenance” or scheduling the last day on a known holiday) with a requirement that if the system goes down in a significant fashion during the last few days they have to extend the arrangement accordingly. The breaking of the VS-VX partnership and the AirMiles fiasco in Canada inspired these.

    I’m actually in the middle ground on fixed-point-value programs: On the one hand, I tend to view the model as being a bit more sustainable and less susceptible to the availability complaints we hear a lot (even if I’d hard-bar devaluations to existing points…if the point is worth $0.025 when you earn it, it should go on your books as a liability at that price and it should always be worth $0.025). On the other hand, it turns around and makes those awards susceptible to “bad pricing behavior” (e.g. round-trip-is-cheaper-than-a-return pricing). Perhaps a compromise would be in order, pegging award redemption levels to the lowest available bucket (either one-way or return) in the class of service requested (so if Business books into J/D/I/Z, awards would as well).

    That all being said, with fares probably pretty close to as low as they can get (at least domestically in the US) and airlines exercising pricing power and actually turning profits(!), I don’t think devaluations are really inevitable. The problem in some ways is that in real terms the cost-per-point to the customer has been falling over time. If that’s steady or rising (in a distance-based program, someone who has to spend $10k to earn a given sum of points now might have to spend $11k for the same points in a few years) that really goes away so long as the program doesn’t mismanage points distribution (e.g. going overboard on CC earning).

    [1] I’m thinking things like “space not being made available until so close to departure that partners won’t book it for fear of ticketing going awry” as an exception here.

  76. Very specific request: that AA open Saver availability in Business class to Europe and realize how the lack of availability diminishes any motivation to be their customer. And, if they do loosen up the seats, don’t jerk us around with lousy routing or long layovers or mixed cabin scenarios.

  77. Stop changing the value of any reward/points/ etc. I view that as fraudulent and akin to stealing.

  78. Wish they would make their policies understandable and consistently applied so consumers have a reasonable set of expectations for what their loyalty is (and is not) worth. If I am not captive to a certain Airline/hotel chain, what is the value proposition?

    To extrapolate some specific examples:

    For American, why are Saaver awards not available on seats with widespread availability at low revenue rates? And why can I redeem US–> Africa on Qatar but not on Etihad?

    For Delta, PUBLISH A CHART!

    For SPG/Marriott: Is there a way of creating a unifying set of policies between the SPG/Marriott camps or will any attempt at merging the programs be unsatisfying?

  79. LOYALTY PROGRAMS SHOULD STAY LOYAL TO THEIR CUSTOMERS!
    Point in fact Malaysian Airlines;
    My partner and I where loyal customers for 12 years flying Business Class, Auckland, New Zealand to Europe, Paris, once each year.
    Used air points to take a side trip and twice to upgrade to First from Business. On the second time they changed the service from a A380 to n A330, one month before our date of departure. Which did not have a first class. OK they where having some troubles, a plane going missing and one failing out of the sky, but we stuck with them through these troubling times.
    When They changed airplanes they simply informed us of the change and then we get an email telling us they are removing a huge number of air points (this is why we could up grade in the first place). When we asked for an extension for the use of the air points we where refused.
    This to me is no loyalty at all. We do understand that they have the right to change the plains but why not be loyal to two of their good customers and simply let us use the air points on a flight the next year? Kind regards;
    Robert Clark

  80. Well, you’ve already had a tremendous amount of great feedback so I’ll keep this brief:

    For me, the biggest concern is that the loyalty programs have gotten diluted. I am on the road 60-70% of my life and I do my best to stick with the same brands for flights and hotels. I’m an Executive Platinum /Million Miler with American and a Globalist for Life with Hyatt). I am fiercely loyal and, as a result, I’d like to believe I get the best service and benefits. I’ll never be a Concierge Key with AA because the majority of my travel is domestic (only 2-4 International trips/year) and I generally purchase non-refundable tickets (only prudent as my clients reimburse for travel). My observation is that I am getting fewer upgrades and less value overall from my investment in brand loyalty. The brands collect more and more personal information but don’t actually act on it to enhance “my” experience. And, frankly, the quality of service received in terms of professionalism, friendliness and recognition is inconsistent and
    loyalty level doesn’t necessarily mean improved service. My one request: Stop taking away/diluting benefits for those who demonstrate extreme loyalty year-over-year and deliver on the brands’ service promise (staff professionalism, friendliness, recognition of loyalty members are FREE and go a long, long way to improve/maintain loyalty).

  81. Guaranteed FF seats on your choice of flights p/a, the number of such flights being based on status perhaps?

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