IdeaWorks, with partial sponsorship by Airline Information and Global Flight, recently sent a survey to frequent flyer program executives around the world. Surveys were returned from 53 airline employees and over half of the respondents represented frequent flyer programs in Europe and the Americas. The results of the survey show that the complaints from frequent flyers have been heard and 65 percent of program executives identified the lack of award availability as the aspect that frustrates frequent flyer program members the most.
Other complaints included extra fees, difficulty getting upgrades, frustration over terms and conditions and elite status becoming less attractive. Almost all of the respondents agree that award availability is a problem, with 57 percent considering it a major problem and 38 percent saying it’s a small problem. In response to the difficulty to get award seats, almost 40 percent said availability was increased selectively or broadly in 2006 and 59 percent said they are increasing award seats in most or select markets this year to combat the problem.
Interestingly, when asked, “Which best describes the importance your program has to your top management?”, 42 percent said that the program significantly contributes to revenues. Frequent flyer programs began 26 years ago as a way to create loyalty to the airline but with the introduction of co-branded credit cards and other non-airline partners, the income from selling miles has become more important than loyalty according to top management at a large number of airlines.