Flight Attendants Revolt, Refuse to Offer Credit Cards Inflight

TravelZork shares with me data on oneworld airline S7’s co-brand credit card acquisition. He attended a presentation by S7’s loyalty director Natalia Nikolaeva.

She offered details of the airline loyalty program’s co-brand credit card product. It’s actually shocking to me how few of her Russian customers earned the card’s signup bonus, only 11% for the base and 20% for their premium product. Ouch!

And she shared some great details of how they worked with their bank partner to launch the card, and how customers are learning about it.

But the most fascinating statistics center around what’s driving customers to sign up for their credit card. One data point in particular stands out: their inflight magazine is 5 times more effective than flight attendant announcements at getting customers to sign up for their card.

TravelZork relays that S7 Airlines had to discontinue their flight attendants promoting the credit card because their crews refused to do it.

In contrast United Airlines announced this summer that they were making inflight card offers mandatory. They also increased the bounty for successful applications from $50 to $100 for a promotional period.

United’s President Scott Kirby had come over from American Airlines where he knew that on board was their single most effective cardmember acquisition channel so he started the practice at United. Previously, he explained, United didn’t do it because their bank partner Chase wouldn’t pay extra for it. He understood that more cardmembers was good for both the airline and the bank so they had to find a way to make it work.

I share credit card advice all the time, but I don’t have a captive audience. You can read my posts or not. In contrast inflight entertainment pauses for flight attendants to make their announcements. Passengers especially don’t like having their naps interrupted on early or late flights. And sometimes the information given out about cards inflight is wrong.

However inflight credit card announcements aren’t going to go away no matter how much customers complain because in the U.S. they’re effective. At S7 in Russia? Not so much, the flight attendants are refuseniks.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. […] So it’s always shocked me that Southwest Airlines didn’t do this. It’s not a flight attendant’s duties, in their union contract. But at American and United flight attendants earn incentives for card approvals. It’s voluntary, but many do it. (In contrast, Russia’s S7 Airlines discontinued pitching cards inflight because their cabin crew simply woul….) […]


  1. Wouldn’t it be incredible if passengers coordinated to start loudly booing when in-flight credit card announcements are made? I bet they’d have the FBI meet you at the gate if you started it. For “interfering with a flight crew[‘s annoying announcement]”

  2. Gary, for comparison, any stats on what percentage of new customers earn the bonus on US airline cards?

  3. When I was a salesman at Jordan Marsh (look that dept store up you young ones). When we got a customer to complete a credit card application we got ……a $1.00. Yes a Dollar. The store was not even accepting Mastercsrd or Visa then since no one had one. The did take amex only because the Olympics came to Lake Placid

  4. Boo them? How about the other way around? How about all the passengers sign up for the credit card, make corporate pay the stewardesses huge amounts of sign up bonuses, and then never once use the credit card? How long until crappy UA realized there was no profit in in-flight shilling?

  5. Not a fan of in-flight shilling, but unless they had a test and control with magazine apps with an attendant featuring the card and magazine apps without an attendant featuring the card the 5x number doesn’t carry much weight.

    It’s likely the announcement drive magazine apps.

  6. The bounty is pretty lucrative and explains the huge proliferation in credit card discussion channels – even The Onion does it now.

    Do they make the pitch on long-haul flights overseas outbound or inbound?

  7. Flew on Frontier, one time only, and never again. The inflight badgering by the flight attendant’s was all it took. Without a doubt, one of the worst airlines in the air and they really want people to get their credit card? I am certain that they will soon figure a way to charge for the air you breathe on their planes.

  8. Frontier stewardess promised Frontier airline would credit back the card’s annual fee but have refused to make good on the deal. Barclays says it’s Frontier’s responsibility and Frontier says it’s Barclay’s.

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