Although frequent flyer programs have been around since the 1980s, the fundamental value equation hasn’t changed much over the years. Some still require a steep number of miles or points to redeem free flights and upgrades, while others include restrictions such as strict expiration and blackout dates. However, technology is ushering in a new era of more flexible travel loyalty, for both airline and hotel customers.
It’s an exciting time for travel loyalty. The space is only going to continue to evolve, making the loyalty experience more user-friendly and relevant for travelers. Here are a few of the latest trends that you'll see in travel loyalty in the near future.
Unique Reward Redemption
Unless you’re a frequent traveler, it’s easy to forget to track and use the miles and points you earn. After all, it can take years to save up for that free trip you’re dreaming of. In 2016, more loyalty programs will be integrating into digital wallets and making their currencies more easily accessible through apps like digital and mobile wallets. As more digital and mobile wallets incorporate loyalty into their offerings, it will be easier to access and manage your all your loyalty accounts and even finding ways to earn and redeem those rewards in new ways.
For example, American Airlines AAdvantage members can redeem their miles for magazine subscriptions, gift cards and identity protection software. AAdvantage and other loyalty programs including Delta SkyMiles and JetBlue TrueBlue even let members donate airline miles to support military families or nonprofits in need of help with travel expenses.
In the past year, hotels have been increasingly competing with online travel agencies, like Hotels.com and Booking.com, by offering travelers a variety of benefits when they book direct. Some of these perks include free meals, quality Wi-Fi and digital check-ins. In 2016, airlines will fight to take a share of the money spent on these online travel agencies by enabling travelers to more easily book hotel rooms and earn more points for doing so.
One loyalty program integrating this model is Miles & More, one of Europe’s leading frequent flyer and reward program. Using your new Points Travel loyalty platform, Miles & More makes the most of its loyalty currency while at the same time supporting its long-standing hotel partnerships and offering members new ways to earn points and miles. For example, Miles & More members have the opportunity to earn, at a minimum, 1,000 airline award miles per night at 100,000 participating hotels globally. In addition to increasing the airline’s piece of the travel industry pie, integrating hotel and airline loyalty will give travelers more opportunities to earn airline miles and hotel loyalty points for future travel.
Private Sale Loyalty Programs
Flash sales have long been a hit in the retail industry, with online retailers offering deep discounts on merchandise for a limited time and invitation-only sales for specific customers. In recent years, the airline industry adopted this trend, with a rise in flight flash sales from popular airlines like Southwest, United and JetBlue.
As airline CRM systems become more sophisticated in 2016, you'll see an increase in these deals and, in many cases, they will be exclusively targeted for those engaged in airline loyalty programs, so now is a better time than ever to start signing up.
Photo: Flickr / Travis Olbrich