Poll Results: Trust in Frequent Travel Loyalty Programs is Important

This is one of several airplanes on which employees at the Technical Operations Center at Delta Air Lines work simultaneously to ensure that the fleet of aircraft meet the most rigid standards of safety to earn your trust as a customer — but what about your trust in frequent travel loyalty programs, if any? Photograph ©2010 by Brian Cohen.

How important to you is your trust in a frequent travel loyalty program?

Almost 69 percent of FlyerTalk members who participated in a poll — posted on FlyerTalk on February 5, 2014 and closed earlier today — voted that trust in a frequent travel loyalty program is overwhelmingly very important; while an additional 17.67 percent of FlyerTalk members believe that trust in a frequent travel loyalty program is somewhat important.

The final results of the poll are shown below:

Click on the poll shown above to access the FlyerTalk discussion pertaining to how important is your trust in frequent travel loyalty programs.

Of the 232 FlyerTalk members who participated in the poll, only a total of 13.37 percent believe that trust in a frequent travel loyalty program is not important.

The definition of the word trust — according to the Oxford dictionary of American English — was posted in an article posted last month here at The Gate: a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.”

“I would love to trust loyalty programs, I really want to”, FlyerTalk member Nanook lamented. “But only if that loyalty is returned. I was loyal to AA, but when I try to book a business class award to Europe, they want to route me onto Air Berlin (no business class within europe), or on BA through LHR (extra taxes). No, I want to fly on American, so I have to book several oneway tickets to take advantage of my many miles. Same with United, they always want to send me through IAD or through IAH on an LH 380 (hate IAD and hate the business seats on that plane). They don’t want the easiest and most direct route for me on an award ticket. So I go to whoever gets me what I want and be damned with the loyalty to any of them. If I have to pay for a ticket, I won’t be loyal to them. I go for whoever has the best price for me at that moment.”

I wrote here that perhaps there are different levels of trust. Apparently FlyerTalk member BigE agrees: “Are people treating trust as if it were a binary decision? You do or don’t? I’m pretty sure it’s graded.”

Although some FlyerTalk members do not believe in trusting a company or a frequent travel loyalty program, BigE continues: “I think trust/reputation is extremely important with companies. Why should I try to accumulate miles/points if I can’t trust the company to let me keep using them? A company could radically devalue their ‘currency’ overnight, or even terminate the program. The only thing stopping them from doing this is that they need our trust. Some companies deliberately cultivate trust by being transparent and principled. Others do not. I trust UA now MUCH less than I used to. I have little trust in them to be fair about delivering upgrades to elite (rather than selling to the highest bidder). I don’t fully trust them to honor million miler status. I don’t fully trust them to continue making awards available, or to maintain the current price structure, or follow any principles. So I probably won’t fly them as much.”

Having been “burned” by at least one particular frequent guest loyalty program, FlyerTalk member nsx comments: “When a program makes a small devaluation without notice, I infer that the management probably thought it was too minor to warrant an announcement. Such changes happen in almost all programs. When a program makes a major change without notice, I presume an intent to prevent members from protecting themselves from the effects of the change. That’s treachery, not loyalty.”

I wrote here that I would advise to those who administer frequent travel loyalty programs — the term perhaps a misnomer in and of itself — that they clearly know and understand the differences between loyalty and trust with regard to their members, as it could mean the difference between retaining and losing a customer. This seems to be the case with FlyerTalk member ericfr: “I’m FB Platinum Elite for life, and I now avoid flying Air France KLM (or fly just enough to keep my miles valid). Why? Because in the past 5 years they have changed the program twice and reduced by half the value of my 2m miles (Europe to Asia used to be 120K return in business class, now over 200K-240K). If they had compensated a good customer, they would not have lost $100Ks of business.”

It is one thing to have a customer avoid patronizing your business whenever possible — but when that customer is a lifetime member of a frequent flier loyalty program and avoids the airlines which participate in it whenever possible, that to me speaks volumes about trust…

…but does trust work both ways? FlyerTalk member antinseattle offers this insight: “51 percent > are doing things that don’t follow T & C’s. if you think the are, then well, you haven’t been around well seasoned frequent travelers. So why should loyalty programs be 100 percent honest, if customers are not 100 percent trustful?”

That may be a good point. Do those people who “play” the frequent travel loyalty programs to their fullest benefit possible — sometimes taking what could be considered unfair advantage of them in ways which may be perceived as deceitful — contribute to the policies being implemented from some frequent travel loyalty programs which may be perceived as unfriendly to members?

Forget frequent travel loyalty programs — one man was sentenced for defrauding airlines by claiming to have lost luggage when in fact that was not true. Is fraud committed by customers against business entities increasing? Is this a case of which came first: the chicken or the egg?

Let us conclude this article with a thoughtful quote from FlyerTalk member pinniped — but please continue the discussion with your thoughts both in the Comments section below, as well as in this discussion on FlyerTalk:

“In an ideal world, I would say that the ability to trust a corporation is important to building a long and valued business relationship. However, in the real world, I realize the only thing that matters at all is this quarter’s share price, as that is a driven of the CEO’s bonus this year, and that CEO is statistically likely to be gone in two years. Thus, I expect that most publicly-traded firms will seek to cut costs and attempt to maximize the value extracted from me in the very short term, even at the expense of long-term health of the business. In general, the airlines have defined their relationship with their passengers as adversarial. They do it with sneaky fees that aren’t really pinned to delivery of a good or service, intentionally-poor customer service at every touchpoint imaginable, 20th-century websites, and an unending culture that their ‘give-a-f…’ is broken today. They hate us. We hate them. So the best we can do is play the game as best we can and hope most other passengers don’t play it well as we do.”

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