InsideFlyer: When did the idea of pitching a loyalty program to Sun Country Airlines first come about?
Katz: Four years ago Accredited Only, Inc. was founded based on the idea that loyalty programs should differentiate more in the financial institutions. Brokerage firms make so much of their forfeit off their top group of people. Yet, loyalty wise, they tend to treat them the same as the guy who’s got the $2,000 IRA. There were a lot of programs available to the affluent group that were not available to the general public.
One thing that people had missed is that the affluent people tend to come from the middle to lower middle class. Most of them have made their money; they have that draw back to the middle class. They will do the $20,000 vacation to Europe for their anniversary, but they will save two dollars on their car wash with their coupon.
So, the idea was to put together a wide range of programs for this very particular group of people.
IF: So, why did you decide to pitch the idea to Sun Country? Was it mainly because you’re both based in Minneapolis?
Katz: They didn’t have a loyalty program at the time, they don’t have a frequent flyer program and it seemed like a natural for us. And people here knew the Sun Country people, so we had an in.
IF: Did you ever consider pitching part of it as an enhancement to WorldPerks?
Katz: No. We were really focused on Sun Country and we’ve stayed away from their competition. It was time for a no strings program. No blackout dates, no Saturday night stay, no blocked seats. We rolled that into a hand full of our club benefits. And we designed a Club.
IF: Did the ‘no strings’ idea develop from your accumulated experience at the agency, or was it contrived specifically to address what many perceive as the Achilles heel of larger programs?
Katz: The Achilles heels of larger programs. Not only that, our past experience with our research of the people that travel more, the more upscale people want things really easy. And they’re willing to pay to have things really easy. We haven’t had one person complain about the fee.
IF: How do you see this program maturing? Or is it so good it does not need to mature?
Katz: That’s the idea, yes, there are things that may change, but it’s really that simple.
IF: At the end of the day, do you think this should rightfully be called a frequent flyer program?
Katz: I don’t know. We just call it the VIP Club. We don’t call it a loyalty program or a frequent flyer program. People really like the program because it is so simple.