60 Seconds with Russ Hinckley, Managing Director Northwest WorldPerks

60 Seconds with Russ Hinckley, Managing Director Northwest WorldPerks

Question:
With Continental ditching America West, is there any chance that WorldPerks might become a full-fledged partner with FlightFund by reciprocating miles on domestic flights?
Hinckley:
Our America West partnership has been expanding to the point where our members may now earn and redeem miles for free flights on America West from the 48 US to Canada, Mexico and Alaska. There are no plans to expand our agreement beyond current reciprocity.

Question:
WorldPerks has recently received a lot of criticism for being unable to accommodate award travel. Are there any remedies to this situation?
Hinckley:
Northwest has actually increased the percentage of seats available for award travel over the past two years. In fact, in 2001, Northwest had the second-highest percentage of award seats available of all the major carriers. We do receive criticism about the availability of award seats, primarily because people’s expectations are inappropriately set. Customers need to realize that demand for travel to prime destinations during peak periods will always exceed supply. To successfully secure award seats, customers need to be flexible with travel dates and times. They should also consider flying into alternate airports (when possible) or using the RuleBuster option.

Question:
What was the rationale behind eliminating the 20K domestic off-peak awards?
Hinckley:
Eliminating Off-Peak award pricing was one of our 2002 WorldPerks program changes, implemented in an effort to simplify the program for our members and agents. While we understand that the reduced number of miles needed for an Off-Peak award created some value for our members, it was difficult to communicate and often created confusion for our members. We do not feel the benefit of the Off-Peak award offset the complications created by the two-tiered pricing system.

Question:
Will WorldPerks ever consider awarding elite status based on segments flown rather than miles flown?
Hinckley:
While we are aware that several other airlines offer segments as a means of elite qualification, we are not sure this method works for our Elite program. One of our primary benefits is the complimentary domestic upgrade. This is a point of difference versus other airlines and a choice/loyalty factor for our members; elite members must get upgraded on a reasonable consistent basis. We constantly track our upgrade success rate to make sure this is happening. The challenge is that first-class seats are a finite resource. If we overpopulate the tiers, the benefit goes away. Thus, we work hard to optimize the size of our elite tiers. Using segments as an elite qualification guideline would likely diminish our elite benefits. Only publishing a mileage threshold gives us more flexibility in optimizing the size of our elite tiers. We use other criteria beyond mileage accumulation for elite selection like segments, residence, revenue, products purchased, etc. Mileage and segments are both really surrogates for customer value; we try to consider customer value directly in our elite criteria.

Question:
What is the coolest benefit of WP’s that you think is the least known/used?
Hinckley:
Although it’s fairly well known, I think the coolest WorldPerks benefit is our Elite upgrading process. The automatic notification, the fact that is it unlimited and we fulfill at a high rate makes this very cool!

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