New Student Frequent Flyer Program Points To A Renaissance In Loyalty

There’s a long history of loyalty programs targeting people while they’re young, hoping to build a lifetime relationship with a customer. And some of those ideas are resurfacing today.

Lufthansa offered their JetFriends program for children aged 2 to 17. United Airlines had the College Plus program which would reward students with 10,000 miles when they earned a degree (someone going for advanced degrees could earn 10,000 miles for college and then for each subsequent degree).

American Airlines recently announced that miles won’t expire for any member under age 21. That would have helped me – as a teenager I let AAdvantage miles I earned from flying to Australia 30 years ago expire.

Now Qatar Airways has a new student loyalty program (HT: God Save The Points) Key benefits:

  • Airfare savings. 10% off coupon code, then after your first flight you receive a 15% off code and a 20% off code after your second flight – they also plan to introduce “additional savings for your flight companions”
  • Free checks baggage. 10kg extra baggage allowance
  • Elite status bump. Receive an increase of one level of elite status when you graduate if you travel at least once a year while a member of the student program
  • Refer-a-friend. Earn 5000 miles by referring someone else to the program which details to be announced.

Enrollment requires being 18-30 years old and “a valid and current student identification card.”

We’ll have to watch the United Airlines lawsuit to see whether older passengers can see in California for being charged more than students for their fares.

United Airlines has offered bonus miles for traveling with a pet. Continental Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, El Al, and Japan Airlines have even offered loyalty programs the pet can join themselves. And people have been known to earn miles for their musical instruments. So targeting extra miles for specific kinds of customers, and specific interests is hardly new. It’s also hard.

Seeing more efforts along these lines is a sign that loyalty matters again. When planes were full airlines didn’t have to work as hard building relationships with customers or marketing to fill empty seats. That’s all changed, and we’re beginning to see a renaissance of the frequent flyer program. Hopefully that spirit lasts even once we’re back to normal times and traveling again.

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. Gary: I had a United 12/21 Club card in the mid-60’s, when every airline had them. Anyone between 12 and 21 years old could buy “membership” for a few dollars, and fly standby on almost any domestic flight for 50% of the coach price. I flew ORD-DTW each way for about $8 to visit my fiancée.

    Back then, there were many airline loyalty programs aimed at young people. I was offered Red Carpet Club lifetime membership when I graduated law school, which I accepted.

    But, everything old is new again. No one ever wants to look back at what someone else did, to see if it was effective or not.

  2. I remember when I was a kid my family flew Delta Airlines and they had a mascot specifically for kids called Dusty the Air Lion. I remember there was even a soda called pawberry punch just for kids (and I have a feeling adults could order it too.) They even had a quarterly magazine. I wish they continued it but sadly it’s a relic of the 90s.

  3. If brand loyalty matters again, why are airlines making exceedingly unpleasant moves against loyal customers?

  4. Love this! Didn’t have any kind of loyalty program for students on offer when I was in college and this (and hearing from people who had them ‘back in the day’) gives me hope there’ll be good options for this generation of students. Young people are paying a ton in college costs and deserve this kind of thing.

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