What's Happening in Airline Loyalty Programs

Frequent flyer and loyalty programs are big business for airlines and they are constantly tweaking and enhancing their schemes to satisfy existing members and attract new ones.

So what have the major airlines done for us lately? And what changes are in the wings?

Etihad

According to Etihad Guest Managing Director Yasser Al Yousuf, their program has more than five million members and more than 200 partners.

“In the last 12 months, we have launched new lifestyle partners, enhanced the program lifecycle and personalised member offers based on their journey with us,” said Mr Al Yousuf. “We are also looking at aligning our tier benefits with some of our partner airlines, including Virgin Australia, Jet Airways and Alitalia, as well as reviewing our accrual and redemption tables to deliver a more competitive scheme.”

From October 2017, Etihad Guest Gold members will have access to Business Class Lounges at Abu Dhabi International Airport even when flying Economy and benefit from a 25 per cent increase in miles accrued on select fares in Business and First Class. From January 2018, there will also be changes to the calculation of some Etihad Guest Miles.

“The number of Etihad Guest Miles required for a GuestSeat on Etihad will decrease on certain routes and increase on others to keep our fares competitive. There will also be an increase of US$50 on the Carrier Surcharge across some of our Business and First Class markets,” said Mr Al Yousuf.

Virgin Australia

A spokesperson for Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer program said the biggest change in the past 12 months related to their new Economy X product.

“Economy X, which domestically features extra legroom, priority boarding and preferred overhead luggage space, is offered free-of-charge to Platinum Velocity members, and any companions travelling on their booking, for all domestic and short-haul international flights,” she said.

“We’ve also added a range of new partners and members can now earn points with EnergyAustralia, Virgin Active and Bupa, as well as transfer their Flybuys points into Velocity Points.”

Qantas

A Qantas spokesperson said there had been four significant recent changes to the airline’s Frequent Flyer program.

“We launched Qantas Business Rewards, a new loyalty program aimed at small to medium-sized firms, from sole traders to companies with several hundred employees. When an employee flies Qantas for work, the business earns Qantas Points, in addition to the Points and Status Credits the employee can earn as an individual Qantas Frequent Flyer,” she said. “We have also introduced our own credit card. The Qantas Premier Mastercard®, issued by Citi, will reward

Qantas Frequent Flyer members with an earn rate of up to two Qantas Points per dollar spent.”

Similar benefits apply to Australian small and medium businesses registered with Qantas Business Rewards and using an American Express card. The spokesperson also said Qantas Club fees now earn points too.

“Qantas Frequent Flyer Bronze and Silver members can now earn three Qantas Points for every dollar they spend on their joining and annual Qantas Club membership fee,” she said.

Emirates

An Emirates spokesperson pointed to an expanded partner platform and improvements to flight redemptions in their Skywards program to more easily access premium experiences.

“In the last 12 months we’ve formed new partnerships with Rocketmiles, Wall Street Journal, Dubai Duty Free and several others. Cash+Miles allows flight redemptions using a combination of cash and Skywards Miles and starts from as little as 2,000 Miles. We’ve also made it easier to search, subscribe and receive notifications of upgrade availability,” she said.

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand highlighted enhanced partnerships and greater value for their ‘Airpoints’.

“In October 2016 we established our own Airpoints coalition (grocery, fuel, energy provider etc) and now have more than 60 partners where members can earn Airpoints Dollars. Airpoints is unique globally in that one Airpoints Dollar equals one New Zealand Dollar (or Australian Dollar if you are in Australia) and so, unlike points based currencies, our members know exactly how much their loyalty currency is worth,” said a spokesperson.

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