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Have Loyalty Programs Made Airlines Complacent About Customer Service?

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#1 FrensicPic



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Posted 09 June 2017 - 09:29 AM

Have Loyalty Programs Made Airlines Complacent About Customer Service?

If you show your loyalty to an airline by continually flying that carrier (and maybe using their co-branded credit card), you might expect that this would result in better customer service. However, one top airline executive thinks the industry’s reliance on loyalty rewards programs are actually making customer service more impersonal.






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#2 me_little_me



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Posted 11 June 2017 - 07:17 PM

The complacency comes from the realization that nearly all consumers buy on price and convenience and people need airlines because, in this busy country, it is the only way to maximize one's little vacation.

Too few trains that are too slow.

Cars that can't get us long distances in a short time.

Too little time so we must get their fast.

Lowest price is king.


So pack them like cattle, unbundle the "extras" so the price looks lower, cut back on employees providing the "service" and merge to reduce competition. All these make for lower prices (what customers want) and more profits (what the airlines want).


Loyalty programs always worked better for business customers. They fly more, they don't pay for their own fare and they (not their companies) reap the benefit of loyalty programs. I took my family on a lot of free trips including a number of business/first class to Europe on my company travel and stayed at a lot of free hotels but not once did I ever use those points on company travel. Once I retired and stopped traveling so much and started paying for it myself, I selectively made trips and stayed at hotels based on price and convenience, not on loyalty.


For many who traveled a lot like I did, I could join every loyalty program and reap benefits on virtually all of them.

#3 Anderson



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Posted 11 June 2017 - 11:33 PM

It's complicated: The airlines have done their best to trigger "customer lock-in" with their programs and that does let them get a little lazier than they might be.  While it's feasible to switch, doing so potentially involves abandoning piles of points and having to deal with a different international network, etc.


I'll offer a personal example: I was a regular flyer on Virgin America for a host of reasons and wound up with a massive pile of points with them (around 250k at one point) as well as top-tier status.  Well, Alaska swooped in and bought them out.  For my purposes, Alaska's setup is in many respects the devil's armpit compared to Virgin America: I was able to get status on Virgin with about three transcontinental round-trips plus some incidental legs in F.  With Alaska, to get equivalent status, I think I'd need somewhere in the range of twice as much travel (or dump a lot of travel onto AA, BA, etc.)...and they're going to gut the F product that I came to VX for.  So now I've got a bunch of points tied up on an airline that is no longer the airline I signed up for that I'm going to need to do some random crap to keep active (e.g. I might get stuck biting the bullet and getting their credit card at some point) while the switching options aren't great.  I might see if I can put something together with Delta, but even there the options are lousy (e.g. to get the same slot on a flight to Australia, I'd probably have to spend $7-8k with DL versus probably around half that with VX, and the gods only know what I'd get in terms of status for that spend on DL).

Of course, the alternatives are pretty sucky...VX really did have the best mix of program and product from my point of view, to the point that I'm "cheering against" Alaska.  But this is a good case where I'm "stuck" with an airline that is basically useless to me at this point.

Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)

Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)

Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#4 jis



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Posted 12 June 2017 - 08:36 AM

It is all a crapshoot anyway.


I had almost a million miles in two different airline programs with Silver status in one and Gold in the other. They merged. So I landed up with Platinum status in the resulting airline and lifetime Gold with a shade less than 2 million miles. Completing two million will enhance lifetime status to Platinum.


Fortunately, it was not like I was about to or thinking of changing airline affinities, so this is fine by me. But it could be quite sucky for someone else with different imperatives.


The only unfortunate thing is that ione has to fly on the iron of the primary airline to get lifetime status. Even though you can amass all sorts of Elite Qualifying Points on alliance partners, those do not count towards lifetime status. Only actual miles flown on the iron of the primary airline counts towards that.

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