Airline Loyalty Programs Don’t Make Sense Anymore

Joe Sharkey over at the New York Times has some valuable advice for frequent flyers: don’t bother.

For most customers, loyalty to any particular airline is a losing proposition. He points that numerous attempts by airlines to try to increase their revenue are often at the expense of their most loyal customers. For example, a consequence of Delta simplifying its pricing structure was that business seats became easier and cheaper to get for the average customer. But this was at the expense of frequent flyers, who found free upgrades to business class to be much harder to get.

Price discounts for frequent flyers and those who belong to loyalty programs are also on the decline: the price between buying a ticket online and what someone who belongs to a loyalty program pays is becoming inconsequential.

On one hand, this is all good news for people who don’t fly often: the playing field is being leveled and average customers are getting better deals because of it. But we’re capitalist enough to believe that customers who have spent large amounts of money should get preferential treatment and decided perks. Companies should recognize customer loyalty — loyal customers indicate that you’re doing something right. It’s a point of pride.

Give the average Joe a pleasant flight, but don’t degrade your loyalty programs so much that the advantages of customer loyalty aren’t obvious… you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you do that. Perhaps, in this one instance, airlines should take their lead from Animal Farm: “All Animals Are Equal… But Some Are More Equal Than Others.” Just don’t openly refer to your customers as “animals,” please.

Still Loyal to Your Airline? You Must Be Looney Tunes [New York Times]