The 4th Battleground: Loyalty

By David Griffiths & Abbie Holmes

VP Content, Head of Insight & Insight Consultant
3 minute read

In several of our Battleground blogs we’ve spoken about loyalty being up for grabs. Today we’ll explore how members of Loyalty programs have felt that airlines have responded to the pandemic and look to understand which might be picking up more customers and who might be at risk of losing a few when flying resumes.

Loyalty programs, and their effectiveness, have been put in the spotlight by passengers. We’ve seen a 82% growth in conversation, with the key areas of miles and points, membership status and flexibility coming up time and time again.

Maintaining loyalty status has been a key priority for members of these groups from the outset of the pandemic, but with a far reduced ability to travel, it really has depended on the airline on to support them in this endeavour. Members of loyalty programs feel they have worked hard to earn their status, consistently choosing to fly with a particular airline, even if it meant compromising route, schedule and pricing in some cases. They feel this loyalty should be repaid now.

The effects of COVID-19 on the Travel and Aviation industries are unparalleled, leaving numerous unanswered customer questions: When will I be able to travel again? I’m close to earning a higher status, how can I earn points without traveling? Are my hard-earned miles going to expire before I can use them?

Most airlines have adopted some form of expiration extension by now. The downside of this becoming a sort of industry standard is that an extension of status or miles is no longer enough to distinguish one loyalty program from the others.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been uncovering insight from naturally occurring passenger conversations via blogs, reviews, news comments, and various other social platforms to support or industry partners. From this, we’ve learned that in nearly 8 million recent loyalty programs conversations, flexibility and earning/redemption capability have not been universal.

On the positive side, passengers have been calling out a North American carrier as a good example. In addition to extending status and points balances until the end of 2021, this carrier announced several initiatives to make sure their passengers know they are appreciated. Many of the requirements for status tiers were reduced by 50%, whilst also doubling balances for those that book. On the flip side, we saw lots of passengers from a Middle Eastern carrier that had offered an expiration extension, but with ‘unrealistic’ stipulations as many passengers put it. Under their policy, you need to have earned 80% of the requirements to have your status extended by 12 months. Otherwise, the extension is only 3 months, which is less than satisfactory as many are unsure of when they will be able to be fly again.

When this passes, passengers who feel they have been taken care of will be the most ready to repeat those behaviours that saw them take extra flight and less convenient routes. Those that perhaps were seen as penalizing their customers or might be adjusting statuses of grounded customers offer little incentive to return.

David Griffiths,
Head of Insight Fethr
VP Content Black Swan


Abbie Holmes,
Insight Consultant

Thank you for reading, and for more information or to explore any of the above in any further detail please get in touch with Patrick Prefontaine at patrick.prefontaine@blackswan.com or by using the contact form below.

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