[ 60 Seconds ] With Renee Levine, director, Business to Consumer Marketing and Carol Spano (Gold Tier manager) of British Airways Executive Club North America

60: What percentage of passengers are Executive Club members?

Renee Levine: The percentage of passengers that are Executive Club members is about 50 percent.

60: There is a lot of industry talk about BA’s sophisticated CRM system and the various hidden codes in the BA system. What can you tell us about some of these rumored designations like VIP, CIP, SFU, etc.?

Renee Levine: While I can’t divulge our CRM secrets, what I can tell you is that we internally do review details about where our members fly, how often and in what cabins. Based on this information, we reward, entice, or thank our members in ways that are personally relevant to them. These include personal thank yous, bonus miles, complimentary upgrade and companion tickets, presents, outbound phone calls to offer our assistance, and generally more personalized levels of service both at the airports and over the phone. For those of you who have been flying BA in Club World or First for three years or more, or who flew to more than three continents last year on BA, you know what we mean! As for “VIP”, “CIP” and “SFU”, these are not generally terms we use within our CRM system.

60: How does BA determine who gets Premier status. Could you provide us with any insights into that? Also, have you considered granting members the opportunity to use award points to “purchase” premium memberships? If not, why not?

Renee Levine: In order to maintain the integrity of the program, we do not allow members to “buy” premium memberships. If you do in fact fly frequently in premium cabins, you will find yourself quickly moving up the tier ranks. Actually, the published benefits for Premier and Gold are the same, so once you’ve made it to Gold, you’re reached the highest level of Executive Club.

60: Last year, there was a oneworld promotion where if you flew a certain number of flights, you got 100,000 miles or points. Is there any similar promotion in the works for this year, given the slowdown in air travel?

Renee Levine: Oneworld promotions are driven by all carriers in the oneworld alliance. What this means is that before we can launch another promotion like that, we need to get agreement from all members. Given the popularity of past promotions, the alliance will likely be considering all promotional opportunities in the future and how to best reward our most loyal flyers.

60: Much has been made of extending elite-level benefits to members of many programs brought about because of the rather slow yearlong economy problems and companies cutting back commercial travel. Is there any decision BA Executive Club has made in this area for 2002?

Carol Spano: We have extended tier memberships in the past. What we noticed was that the flying pattern of those members dropped off dramatically; some stopped altogether. The reason, they told us, was that they had no need to achieve Gold since they already had it, so they were looking to fly other carriers and achieve status in other programs. This does both our members and us a disservice. We do look at individual cases in which extenuating circumstances may have arisen and make decisions on a case-by-case basis where necessary.