Nils Lindhe, Vice President Sales and Marketing, SAS EuroBonus

Nils Lindhe, Vice President Sales and Marketing, SAS EuroBonus

Nils Lindhe, Vice President Sales and Marketing at SAS, has been in this position since September 2013. Before that, he held positions at TradeDoubler, Lowe Brindfors and Razorfish. He has a track record with building multi-territory businesses within digital marketing and e-commerce and is a graduate of Stanford University School of Business.

Nils Lindhe
Nils Lindhe

InsideFlyer
You’ve been with SAS for almost a year now, what changes to EuroBonus have you seen during that time?
Nils Lindhe
In recent months, we launched a series of innovations and improvements in the EuroBonus program. We added key benefits such as fast track and lounge access to the Silver tier level, while at the same time lowering the threshold to reach this level from 10 roundtrips to five. We launched Diamond, a new tier level above Gold for the most frequent members and added key benefits like Give away a Gold Card and an exclusive concierge service in collaboration with Quintessentially. We made major improvements to the points and cash booking flow by capping prices and giving higher tier level members substantial discounts. We also introduced new coalition partners within retail banking, food and fuel. And this is just the start!

InsideFlyer
If you were to compare frequent flyer programs in Europe to those in North America, what do you see as the main differences? And what about the travelers, what differences do you see?
Lindhe
We always look at the U.S. FFPs for inspiration as this is the most mature and developed market. However, we now see a major trend in the U.S. where the FFPs are moving towards more revenue-based accrual schemes. Some European FFPs follow this trend, but since the market is more fragmented and competitive in Europe, I believe these programs will stay relatively more generous than the American programs. On the traveler side, the general understanding of how FFPs work is much higher in the U.S. and members are more savvy about both accrual and redemption possibilities. In Europe we still have an educational task in front of us, especially since more programs are increasing the number of partners where you can earn and redeem points.

InsideFlyer
As a frequent flyer living in North America, is SAS EuroBonus a program worth considering for membership? Why?
Lindhe
SAS EuroBonus is one of the world’s most generous frequent flyer programs. You earn points based on the service class and not booking class. This becomes very rewarding if you plan your travel in advance. Further, we have an outstanding redemption scheme with the points and cash feature that gives full availability on all flights and service classes for highly attractive prices, especially if you are a premium member.

InsideFlyer
Do you think frequent flyer programs are better off as stand alone entities or should they stay tied into the airline?
Lindhe
An FFP has two major assets, its customer database and the award trip mechanism. If you separate the FFP from the airline, the airline risks losing a major source of competitive edge in CRM [Customer Relationship Management] and the FFP typically tends to get fewer award trips at higher prices from the airline. I therefore believe that FFPs that are integrated to airlines or have very strong ties with them will stand a better chance in the future.

InsideFlyer
What’s one aspect of SAS EuroBonus, and frequent flyer programs in general, that you would change if you could wave a magic wand to make the change?
Lindhe
I would like to create customer experiences that make it as easy to understand and engage in a program as it is to book a flight. We suffer from a situation where we have a very advanced program that is highly appreciated by the most loyal frequent flyers but is perceived as complex and difficult to grasp by other customer groups.

InsideFlyer
How do you view the move by airlines in the U.S. to more revenue-based programs that mileage-based programs?
Lindhe
I sympathize with the business objectives behind these moves but I see a risk for the loyalty programs, that ultimately are there to build customer lifetime value, by being too shortsighted in maximizing revenue and profitability from their loyal customers. At SAS we try to go the other way by saying that SAS should be loyal to our most loyal customers by looking more at customer’s lifetime value when designing the program’s features and benefits.

InsideFlyer
In recent years, much has been said about the lower elite tier benefits of frequent flyer programs eroding with so many elite members, how is EuroBonus ensuring that these lower-tier elite members are happy?
Lindhe
As I mentioned, we have a highly attractive accrual structure and reward scheme that all members benefit from. We work hard to encourage our low-tier members to find new ways to earn points through our partners in co-brand cards, fuel, food, utilities and other sectors. As for benefits, we are taking a big step in offering our Silver members a taste for what it’s like to be a Gold member for three months a year during holiday seasons by offering a fast track to Gold and lounge access during this time.

InsideFlyer
How does SAS EuroBonus work toward keeping members engaged in the program?
Lindhe
We have come quite far in building skills, processes and systems related to big data and CRM. We use the phrase “True CRM” to describe what we want to do, i.e. give the right member the right offer in the right time through the right channel. Once you get good at this it becomes the key driver to keep engagement up by showing that you understand your members and give them offers that are relevant to them.

InsideFlyer
For our final question, we are asking everyone we interview—please tell us about one particularly memorable trip you took.
Lindhe
Back in 1998, I was working a lot within Eastern Europe and Central Asia. I spent a week in Almaty, Kazakhstan, looking for new distributors for our products. The flight home was scheduled for 3:30am from an airport that previously was a military installation. It took two hours to get through security and once all of the passengers had boarded the plane a big fog came in over the valley. Everyone, including the flight crew, really wanted to get home and the captain chose to taxi up and down the 4 km long runway to find just enough clear sight to take off. After one hour of going up and down the runway he spotted a few hundred meters of clear sight, put the pedal to the metal and with cheers and applause from everyone in the airplane we finally took off!

 

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