A recent research report by Carlson Marketing and Peppers & Rogers Group titled “Building Stronger Relationships with Frequent Flyers, The Secret to Loyalty Program Success” looked at some of the factors that influence customer loyalty to a frequent flyer program. At the top of the list — how well the attributes of the program (e.g., ease of redeeming for award travel) are executed. When asked what the most important thing that airlines need to do about their frequent flyer programs in order to improve relationships with their customers, respondents replied, “Make it easier to earn and redeem miles.” “Make reward programs understandable.” “Increase opportunities to earn miles.”
But how much influence does an airline’s frequent flyer program actually have when a customer is choosing to buy a ticket from one airline instead of another? Carlson’s study concluded, not surprisingly, that customers who are not members of an airline’s FFP consider price first and schedule second when choosing to buy an airline ticket. Base members look equally at price and schedule, but take into consideration the FFP. Elite members, however, consider the airline’s FFP to be almost as important as price and schedule.
Bernadette Kirby, subject matter expert on airlines for Carlson Marketing, EMEA, says “airlines can enhance the role of their frequent flyer programs in building productive relationships by enhancing their quality.” One important factor is the ability to earn and redeem miles for award travel. The availability of award seats was rated most important by members but was rated lowest in actual performance.