As frequent flyer programs face constant accusations of devaluation, how do airlines provide value to regular customers? A senior executive from American Airlines pulled back the curtain on how AAdvantage works, revealing that they know how often you fly, what your experience is and if your loyalty lies with another airline.
If you are a member of American Airlines’ AAdvantage program, be warned that the airline knows your elite status with other carriers – even when you don’t use your frequent flyer number! The revelation was one of many looks into the frequent flyer rewards program during an interview with Skift.
Bridget Blaise-Shamai, vice president for loyalty at the Dallas-based airline, revealed a number of tactics and ideas which guide the Aadvantage program. For instance: using customer data and analytics, American often targets high-value customers on other airlines to come over to AAdvantage. How they do it is a secret – but the goal is to get more flyers who spend the most money to convert.
How much you fly is not the only thing AAdvantage cares about. They also collect data on your experiences with the carrier, like how many of your flights were late or when your luggage gets lost. Based on this information, the airline can determine how likely an elite flyer is to drop off their program, from which they can work to earn their business back.
Analytics also helps the airline determine not only how many miles you should receive, but how they can improve. For instance, if you experienced a delay on your last three flights, American can analyze how those happened, while offering you more compensation for your inconvenience.
How do those miles get used? Blaise-Shamai downplayed claims that AAdvantage offers the least amount of award seats among legacy carriers, while claiming their credit card partners put zero pressure to open more space. Instead, she noted that the carrier listens to customers first and holds the goal of being competitive with other airlines. That means offering more seats in the future, not the ability to buy champagne in the lounge.
But what keeps a flyer loyal to one airline? While Blaise-Shamai conceded that fares or hub status were two of the primary drivers, high-tier benefits and customer service can be the differentiating factor. Among Concierge Key flyers – the highest, invite-only loyalty status – the key to happiness is service.