Happy 30th Birthday

By | Category: Travel rumblings

How many loyalty cards do you have? A nectar card. A Tesco one. Maybe one for Boots. If you’re a regular flyer you might have one for an airline or a hotel chain. And then you might be a sad case like me who has a bulging wallet with some 20 odd cards.
The granddaddy of them all is from American Airlines which this month, celebrates its thirtieth birthday. The AAdvantage loyalty system is but the largest in the world having some 66 million members. That’s more than the population of the entire UK counting every man women and child. Or France. Or Italy. Such has been its success. It’s been copied or improved upon by dozens of organisations around the world because, if those of you old enough to think back before it, what did we have in the way of loyalty rewards? The Co-op divy, Green Shield Stamps and Luncheon Vouchers.
Prior to AAdvantage other airlines had tried loyalty plans. In the 1970’s there was the Family Reunion Club idea from British Airways where those with relations in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa (I think that was all) could join and get a discounted price for the flight to visit them
But are loyalty cards of any use to the passenger any more? As I said, I have about 20, some of which I haven’t used for some time because they don’t appear to be worth the trouble. I confess that I have been a gold or platinum card holder of AAvantage for many years. The initial reason was that I had clients in the places to which American flew. Now I use them for… And that’s the problem. The advantage of avoiding the queues by checking in at business class has disappeared with online check-in. They charge to use the lounge so there’s no value there. So I am left with accruing points but I can do that with any airline. I still have to pay the taxes when I redeem them. If they are cheaper than BA or United or Air France or whoever, I’ll use them but the loyalty schemes are clones of each other.
No for its next big birthday American and all other airlines need to rethink the entire system of loyalty. If they want my loyalty there has to be something new, different and worthwhile to attract and keep me.

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