While they rank among the oldest of the modern customer loyalty programs, airline rewards programs continue to have a direct impact on consumers’ choice of airlines, according to a Maritz survey.
In fact, a full 58 percent of the survey’s participants said that an airline rewards program influences their decision when choosing which airline to fly. Interestingly, men appear to be influenced to a greater degree than women. Sixty two percent of the men surveyed factored rewards programs into their flying decisions; the number dropped to 53 percent for women.
“The airlines have an invaluable customer loyalty tool with their rewards programs. Instead of slashing their prices, airlines might want to consider strengthening their rewards programs,” said Carlos Dunlap, director of strategic services for Maritz Loyalty Marketing, a provider of full-service customer loyalty and communications programs. “These programs can be used to entice new customers while retaining current customers and driving repeat business.”
Airline rewards programs are not the only programs influencing the consumer. According to the Maritz survey, 63 percent of participants said a hotel rewards program influences their hotel choices; 60 percent said a credit card rewards program influences which credit card they use for a purchase; 49 percent said a retail rewards program influences where they shop and 43 percent said a restaurant rewards program influences their dining decisions.
“Airline rewards programs are one of the most popular with consumers today, and there’s a golden opportunity for the airlines to reach out to more consumers with their programs,” said Dunlap.
When consumers were asked what types of rewards they prefer to redeem their airline points for, they responded: free travel (41 percent), cash back (23 percent), special benefits or upgrades (19 percent), free merchandise (13 percent), gift certificates (11 percent), special members only offers or discounts (10 percent) and free tickets to events (10 percent).
The airline loyalty program findings are taken from a larger survey conducted in October 2003 by Maritz Research to gauge attitudes and behaviors related to rewards/loyalty programs for retailers, hotels, airlines, credit cards and restaurants. The airline program data is based on 374 interviews with randomly selected adult participants in an online panel and have a margin of error of +/-5 percent.