The AOL AAdvantage program is beginning to crumble — less than two years after its launch. When it launched on Oct. 2, 2000, AOL AAdvantage claimed to be the largest rewards program in the world, attracting 9,000 new memberseach day. Coupled with the fact that AOL reaches 46 million unique visitors per month, the potential market was massive.
With its new currency, AOL AAdvantage miles, the program was supposed to revolutionize the industry by providing members with new and exciting opportunities to earn and burn miles (both online and offline). In fact, at the AAdvantage Partner Summit 2000, Dennis Gonnier, senior vice president at AOL Interactive Properties declared “Two companies want to change the world of miles — AOL and AAdvantage.”
That launch, and the accompanying proclamations, seems so distant now. So what went wrong? How could a program as promising as AOL AAdvantage have been reduced to “re-evaluating the features and benefits of the program” in less than two years?
The cause of the fall is attributable, in part at least, to the economic realities of the times. AOL AAdvantage was launched in the heyday of dot-coms and the majority of its partners were dot-com companies. It’s telling that the 20,000-mile AAdvantage partner promotion provided AOL AAdvantage its last gasp. AAdvantage members clambered to the site to rack up partners and miles. But it appears to have been too little, too late.
The first victim of the re-evaluation is that mileage-earning opportunities through the AOL AAdvantage Rewards program will be limited to Opinion Place surveys. All members who have transacted with an AOL AAdvantage partner to earn miles should be awarded the miles within eight weeks of the activity date.
Members can continue to redeem miles for merchandise and AOL Service, but the strength of the program always relied on the abundance of earning opportunities. Let’s face it, AOL AAdvantage’s redemption offerings were never very competitive.
At this points, it seems the program has been dealt such a blow that it may not be able to recover.