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.