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Airlines Discuss Loyalty and Recovery at J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference

Flyers at airport wearing face masks

Delta Air Lines says they are pleased with the spending they are seeing from American Express co-branded cards, while JetBlue may be looking for a new partner. Four major airlines used their time at the J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference to not look at the past, but towards the future of U.S. aviation.

With COVID-19 vaccinations well under way, airlines are starting to look towards the runway of recovery – and loyalty will play a major part for at least two airlines. Both Delta Air Lines and JetBlue talked about the future of their frequent flyer programs at the J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference.

Delta “Pleased” with Amex Spending, While JetBlue Shops for New Co-brand Partner

The team from Delta kicked off the airline presentations, allowing chief executive Ed Bastian to talk about the strength of their brand. During the pandemic, Delta held the longest commitment to blocking middle seats, as well as setting cleanliness standards. As a result, Bastian told the audience that a significant part of their business came not from their most loyal flyers, but from everyday people.

“I’ve been really impressed with the brand, not only in terms of customers, behavior and commitment to the brand,” Bastian said, as quoted in a Seeking Alpha transcript. “A lot of the customers that were traveling were not our primary, most are loyal customers. So that to me was the most important thing.”

In regards to the SkyMiles program, the Delta head noted that outside of the travel and entertainment category, spending on their credit cards with American Express increased in 2020. He interpreted this as a positive sign for Delta in the months to come.

Meanwhile, JetBlue could be looking for a new credit card partner in the future. After solidifying their partnership with American Airlines, the New York-based carrier is looking towards bringing more value to customers. In particular, CEO Robin Hayes noted that the airline is actively shopping a request for proposals on their co-brand products.

“We have a loyalty program in TrueBlue. We’re doing the co-brand RFP,” Hayes said, as quoted by a Seeking Alpha transcript. “We can bring more benefits to our membership base. All these things work together to create a lot of value for our customers.”

Looking towards recovery, Hayes notes that their partnership with American will drive a significant amount of value for both the company, and their customers. Through seamless access to both networks, international travelers will be able to return from abroad on American, and come home aboard JetBlue.

American and United Stay Quiet on Loyalty Plans

While Delta and JetBlue talked about loyalty as part of their long-term plans, American and United Airlines stayed quiet. American CEO Doug Parker explained their decision to seek financing using the AAdvantage program, while United CEO Scott Kirby avoided the topic altogether.

TurboTing March 17, 2021

Hmmmm…… Kirby staying silent on loyalty when he is not exactly a man of few words… I wonder is it because United may be trailing its rivals on loyalty? Loyalty is earned and not demanded. And through United’s many customer Un-friendly moves, i.e. first major to pack the middle seat, “getting rid of change fee forever” but yet bait and switch with “no residual value”, aggressively loading pre-pandemic schedule in reservation system just to massively cut flights 3 weeks out… Let’s press Kirby again on loyalty!

March 16, 2021

I literally booked a delta flight because of the blocked middle seat and just changed a flight to return on April 30th so I could enjoy one last moment of space before they return to superspreader events on May 1. Science" is not one track; it is a multi-disciplinary set of "eyes" that must include precautionary approaches.