Changes Without Notice? One Airline Used to Offer a “Redemption Guarantee”

The late 1980s saw a number of changes to frequent flyer programs. At the time they were pitched to better reward high value customers. Everything old is new again.

And just like today some of the changes were idiotic. United, for instance, limited members to redeeming awards for people with the same last name. That meant if a husband and wife didn’t have the same last name, they couldn’t redeem for each other out of their accounts. A woman who changed her last name when getting married could give awards to her husband’s family — but not to her own sister or parents.

Several changes stuck, but programs rolled back others in the face of protests by members.

And Continental Airlines tried to take advantage of the uproar, committing to give members a window to take advantage of current rules if they ever tried to devalue.

The OnePass program, which covered Continental and Eastern, offered a “redemption guarantee.” If they ever increased the mileage price of awards, they would provide:

  • a 2 month warning
  • the option to choose the award you’re saving for, and have up to 3 years to earn the points for that award at current pricing.

Vice President of Marketing Mike Ribero, who went on to launch Hilton HHonors and run e-Rewards, said at the time that the redemption guarantee “assures our customers won’t see their dream vacation slip through their fingers just as they reach out to take it.”

That’s a common sense idea that’s long left the industry.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Indeed. That’s the biggest thing that dynamic pricing of awards removes: the ability to save for a reward.

    When people save up 80,000 miles and the next day that award on Delta went from 80,000 to 320,000, loyalty has to take a hit.

  2. This was one of the reasons that I loved OnePass. Also being in NJ helped. But, I never really needed it. I wish some FFP would bring it back.

  3. Like all terms and conditions of frequent-flyer programs, the so-called guarantee was subject to modification or cancellation the the whim of the airline.

  4. I remember One Pass. I used to fly Eastern a lot (and Continental occasionally) in the late 1980s. It was a decent loyalty program.

  5. I loved OnePass. I live in ATL, flew Eastern, and then upon their demise went to Continental, mainly due to OnePass. To the best of my knowledge, OnePass/CO was the first alrline to begin giving out free upgrades to FC to their Elites when that cabin wasn’t full. Delta did not do this. In fact, even if you had an “upgrade” coupon from Delta, it would never work because you needed the highest fare to upgrade. Because of CO’s upgrades, Delta started bleeding customers in the ATL to NY market. I believe that is why Delta too had to start giving away free upgrades to First, to match CO. They never wanted to do this (as is evidenced now by their trying to sell every seat in First, even if it’s only for a few bucks, rather than reward their best customers.

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