A (dis) loyalty programme lesson

Posted on October 23, 2011


I love the regular emails I get from American Airlines. Did I say “love”? I meant “hate”.

It’s not that the emails themselves get worse. Strong, improving production values, in some ways better services being promoted (‘Wi-Fi onboard’ anyone – why wouldn’t ya?). It’s more to do with past treatment.

A few years ago, as someone that doesn’t live in the US, I used AA what I considered fairly frequently. Maybe no more than once every 3-6 months but not bad for someone out of the country using over half a dozen other airlines.

Then my job changed. Trips to the US, while still important to me for family reasons, became much more about three other airlines.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to use AA. I still compared their offers, thought about multi-leg trips with them that might save a hundred or couple of hundred pounds or so – especially when that involved cashing in airmiles.

And there’s the important bit – the airmiles. After a period of inactivity – to their credit, can’t have been less than a year, but I don’t know how long – I was told my mileage was being reduced to zero. Zip. Nada. Rien.

Now consider the implied meaning of a ‘loyalty programme’. With that one action AA didn’t put themselves back in a pack that contained dozens of other major airlines I rarely use. They went to the bottom.

They had, in essence, ensured my… what’s the opposite of loyalty?

I get that airlines want airmiles to be an incentive for customers to keep on using them, maybe to spend more money even, through buying miles, upgrades or other extras that accompany any flight.

But I also get the point of airmiles and wider customer loyalty programmes isn’t to make someone think worse of a company. Why bother at all?

Footnote: If you’re interested in airlines, loyalty programmes and that kind of thing two sources I’d recommend are:

– Brett Snyder aka @crankyflier or www.crankyflier.com (and not just because of a sometime BNET affiliation); and

– The Middle Seat section/newsletter on WSJ http://on.wsj.com/pGWw9o

Posted in: customer service