60 Seconds with Shuta Saito, JAL Passenger Marketing, The Americas

60 Seconds with Shuta Saito, JAL Passenger Marketing, The Americas

Few frequent flyer programs have been around as long as JAL Mileage Bank. The 20-year-old program began with 40,000 members, and today there are over 12 million worldwide. We were fortunate enough to chat with JAL’s Shuta Saito, Passenger Marketing, The Americas, about where the program’s been, and where it might be headed.

Inside Flyer:
Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of Mileage Bank. On what day was the program officially launched?
Saito:
Thank you. JAL Mileage Bank was officially launched on November 14, 1983. Just the other day I was looking through our past promotional brochures for the program and it’s astonishing to see how the JMB program has evolved over the last 20 years.

IF:
Am I correct in saying that the program was initially called “JAL MileageBank — USA?” Does that mean that originally it was for U.S. members only?
Saito:
Yes, that is correct. JAL Mileage Bank USA was launched in response to the U.S. majors, who introduced their frequent flyer programs following deregulation. The industry was not experiencing this in our other regions so it was conceived specifically for the American Region.

IF:
Why did Mileage Bank break into different regions?
Saito:
JMB expanded to Japan, Europe and Asia/Oceania regions as market climate and demand changed, but by 1997, the four JMB regional programs were unified. JMB is now one program and has uniform award levels and uniform core programs. We do have some awards unique to some regions and special regional campaigns.

IF:
British Airways recently “globalized” its program, eliminating the various sets of rules for different regions. Is there any thought of doing something similar — creating one worldwide program?
Saito:
Our program is “globalized.” Perhaps it just seems we are not because we do have some awards unique in certain regions and special regional campaigns. However, there must be consideration given to each region’s needs to accommodate our members. In the long run, what doesn’t benefit the member won’t benefit us.

IF:
Lufthansa’s Miles & More and Air Canada’s Aeroplan recently introduced co-branded mileage-earning credit cards for members in the U.S. Are you considering your own U.S. card?
Saito:
Our largest credit card partnership is with JALCard, a subsidiary card company. At the moment we are considering a JMB mileage-earning credit card that can be settled here for American Region members.

IF:
Has the recent merger of JAL and JAS had any effect on Mileage Bank?
Saito:
Absolutely … The biggest enhancement to the JMB program is the expansion of our Japanese domestic network, offering more flights and conveniences for customers. We have also seen a sizable increase in JMB enrollment this year and I would like to think this indicates that we are meeting our goals of customer satisfaction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *