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Do you understand how to earn and redeem miles?

The past years airline loyalty programs changed considerably. Initially, you earned miles based on the distance flown, but it is now usually based on the ticket price. As a result, frequent flyer programs are now useless for the vast majority of travelers.

Only those who fly first or business class on expensive tickets paid by their companies still benefit from most of the current loyalty programs. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is an exception because this is still based on the miles flown and, thus, all flyers benefit.

A more recent development is that loyalty programs also became more complicated. Small wonder that half of US airline loyalty program members do not understand how to earn or redeem miles, according to the J.D. Power 2018 Airline Loyalty Program Satisfaction Study.

The survey measures member satisfaction with airline loyalty programs on the basis of 4 factors (in order of importance):
1) earning and redeeming rewards;
2) program benefits;
3) account management;
4) member communication.

Results are based on 3,025 responses from frequent flyer program members, while the survey was fielded in May-June 2018.

“Airlines have a huge opportunity to improve when it comes to customers' ease of understanding the rewards program. JetBlue does very well in this area, though, across the industry, it is only happening about half the time," says Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power.

Airline loyalty program member satisfaction climbs 123 points (on a 1,000-point scale) when members understand how to redeem miles and 131 points when they understand how to earn them. But half of general loyalty program members say they do not completely understand how their program works. Among status members 30% say they do not completely understand their program.

The difference in understanding between the 2 groups may suggest that general members do understand the most important thing: most programs are no longer useful to them. This might be the reason why they do not even try to understand how the program works.

When airline staff use members’ names or when they recognize their preferences, overall satisfaction increases by 120 points among status members and by 78 points among general members. This seems irrational as it has nothing to do with the program as such, but it offers carriers an easy chance to increase member satisfaction by using software that Southewest Airlinescreates the illusion of a personal approach.

The industry average of satisfaction with frequent flyer programs amounts to 776 on a 1,000-point scale. Below you will find airlines’ individual scores.

1. JetBlue Airways TrueBlue 812
2. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards 798
3. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 791
4. Delta Airlines SkyMiles 786
5. American Airlines AAdvantage 749
6. United Airlines MileagePlus 747

Tags: loyalty programs, member satisfaction, earning miles, redeeming miles

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