Yesterday I wrote about frequent flyer programs rolling back unpopular changes they’ve made to their programs.
One reaction was that the example I gave was atypical. I focused on a 2008 announced change by American to begin charging a $5 fee to redeem miles online.
Here’s one comment,
That’s a valid point but this is just one example from 6 years ago. Pretty thin argument IMHO.
It seemed relevant to me, but as far as American’s changes go it was a change in the past made by American and contemporaneously with the last major change they made to their overall award pricing. But more importantly it was just an interesting case study in how a frequent flyer program can learn while still attempting to save face.
There are plenty more examples of where consumer outrage has led progrms to roll back unpopular changes. Here are five:
- United required a Saturday stay on a roundtrip ticket in order to redeem a saver award. They rolled back the change amidst consumer backlash (while Northwest slipped in their own version of the change – which stuck for many years).
- United made systemwide upgrades redeemable only on nearly full fare (H and above) tickets in 2003. There was enough of an uproar that they even issued additional sweet spot certificates valid on nearly any fare for the same year, and had less restrictive international upgrades the following year (that still excluded the cheapest fares). That policy remains in force today.
- US Airways planned to count only full fare tickets towards elite status. The public face of the airline explaining this change is now the CEO of Spirit Airlines. At the time he described customers buying the inexpensive tickets they offered as not having the kind of loyalty they were interested in. Ironically Baldanza only wanted the highest fare passengers, and now he only wants the highest fee ones!
- US Airways announced the end to flight bonuses for elite members in 2008 and reversed course. And they even did so retroactively. At the end of 2008 elites all received the flight bonuses they would have earned while the change was in place (May 1 – November 19).
- In December 2002 Delta announced they would stop giving full elite credit to discount fares. Two years later they rolled back the change and also rolled back award fee increases.
To be clear, I don’t think American is going to roll back its own recent changes, but I do believe it is at least in their best interests to learn and do better both considering what changes to make and communicating those changes in advance. This is a billion dollar business on a standalone basis and they’re too smart to risk that golden goose.