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UA's MileagePlus as a loyalty program post-COVID, will it change?

UA's MileagePlus as a loyalty program post-COVID, will it change?

Old Mar 15, 21, 6:53 pm
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UA's MileagePlus as a loyalty program post-COVID, will it change?

An recent article, Airlines Discuss Loyalty and Recovery at J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference generated a discussion about the post COVID future of UA's loyalty program. Have broken out that discussion as a separate thread.

Below are transcriptions of presentations made at the JP Morgan conference, so one can read the content unfiltered. Note the linked transcripts may require a free account signup

UA's Scott Kirby talk
Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) CEO Ed Bastian Presents at JPMorgan Industrials Conference (Transcript)

American Airlines Group Inc. (AAL) CEO William Parker Presents at 2021 J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference (Transcript)

JetBlue Airways Corporation (JBLU) CEO Robin Hayes Presents at J.P. Morgan 2021 Industrials Conference (Transcript)

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Last edited by WineCountryUA; Mar 16, 21 at 12:45 pm
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Old Mar 15, 21, 6:53 pm
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UA's MileagePlus as loyalty program post-COVID, will it change?

....and Kirby was completely silent on any question related to customer loyalty or loyalty programs. I think we can all figure out his attitude towards Mileage Plus and Elites in general. Unless competing carriers offer another year's soft landing for those who couldn't fly this year which then forces United to do the same, I would posit Kirby would rather gut the MP rolls altogether.
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Old Mar 15, 21, 7:11 pm
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Originally Posted by bocastephen View Post
....and Kirby was completely silent on any question related to customer loyalty or loyalty programs. I think we can all figure out his attitude towards Mileage Plus and Elites in general. Unless competing carriers offer another year's soft landing for those who couldn't fly this year which then forces United to do the same, I would posit Kirby would rather gut the MP rolls altogether.
What evidence do you have for that? They extended status this year and made requalification a fairly low bar this year.
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Old Mar 15, 21, 10:44 pm
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Originally Posted by HNLbasedFlyer View Post
What evidence do you have for that? They extended status this year and made requalification a fairly low bar this year.
His attitude on the call regarding questions around the loyalty program which were answered by other airline executives, is pretty telling. He ignored the subject matter completely, and we can add that a fairly long pattern of seeming disinterest in MP, and customers in general, much like Smisek in the past.
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Old Mar 15, 21, 11:18 pm
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Originally Posted by bocastephen View Post
....and Kirby was completely silent on any question related to customer loyalty or loyalty programs. ....
What question on customer loyalty program?

The only remotely close question was "is the priority to pay down and un-encumber the slots, gates and routes or loyalty first, in the future, which assets will you use for financing needs?" and Kirby did decline to speak to that -- but that wasn't a question about the programs for customers.

As a Q&A for financial analysts the discussion focused on issue of interest to the analysts.

What questions did the analysts ask the other carriers?
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Old Mar 15, 21, 11:38 pm
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
What question on customer loyalty program?

The only remotely close question was "is the priority to pay down and un-encumber the slots, gates and routes or loyalty first, in the future, which assets will you use for financing needs?" and Kirby did decline to speak to that -- but that wasn't a question about the programs for customers.

As a Q&A for financial analysts the discussion focused on issue of interest to the analysts.

What questions did the analysts ask the other carriers?
https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/a...onference.html
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Old Mar 15, 21, 11:46 pm
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Best to listen to or read the actual discussion transcript before characterizing it. Kirby was responsive to the questions and he was not asked any questions on that subject. Have not read the other transcripts so can not characterize how those discussion went.

Update: Did a quick scan of the Bastian transcript and was underwhelmed by the comments on customer loyalty.

The rest of the quote was
One of the things that, I've been really impressed with the brand, not only in terms of customers, behavior and commitment to the brand, and again, 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.

So this was not a strongly loyal Delta base travelers. It’s a business travelers or premium travelers. This was largely a price seekers that were – that’d have been out in the market for the last year, and yet our brand still stood strong through that period.
even the article you referenced stated
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.
This does not seem to be a ringing endorsement of loyalty programs.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Mar 16, 21 at 12:33 am Reason: Update after reading the Bastian transcript
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Old Mar 16, 21, 7:08 am
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I listened to the Delta and United presentations, and the discussion with Kirby just didn't go into loyalty. At best, it was mentioned very tangentially but it's not as though Kirby was asked a direct question about MP and he dodged it entirely. With all due respect to Mr. Cortez, that was an awfully threadbare "hot take" on a relatively rich source of industry content (not just United).
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Old Mar 16, 21, 7:50 am
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Originally Posted by EWR764 View Post
I listened to the Delta and United presentations, and the discussion with Kirby just didn't go into loyalty. At best, it was mentioned very tangentially but it's not as though Kirby was asked a direct question about MP and he dodged it entirely. With all due respect to Mr. Cortez, that was an awfully threadbare "hot take" on a relatively rich source of industry content (not just United).
I think Kirby indirectly covered loyalty with his discussion of changing the employee culture and building an airline that customers want to fly. Id think that perspective should be celebrated, rather than compensating for deficiencies with an overly generous MP program.
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Old Mar 16, 21, 12:01 pm
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Originally Posted by fly18725 View Post
I think Kirby indirectly covered loyalty with his discussion of changing the employee culture and building an airline that customers want to fly. Id think that perspective should be celebrated, rather than compensating for deficiencies with an overly generous MP program.
So you believe the MP program of today is overly generous? What changes are you proposing?
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Old Mar 16, 21, 12:44 pm
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Originally Posted by fly18725 View Post
I think Kirby indirectly covered loyalty with his discussion of changing the employee culture and building an airline that customers want to fly. Id think that perspective should be celebrated, rather than compensating for deficiencies with an overly generous MP program.
United / Continental will continue to have their loyalty program until every other airline and hotel chain cancel theirs. Why would they pioneer a path that ends a loyalty program? They need their captive audience.
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Old Mar 16, 21, 3:17 pm
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
This does not seem to be a ringing endorsement of loyalty programs.
That's true, but the past year has been far from normal and probably shouldn't be a basis for a significant change of this type. The mix of travelers is completely different, given how many businesses have shut down most/all business travel, while some haven't, and some personal travel continues. United's "most loyal" customers are probably the GSes who fly mostly on OPM that has dried almost entirely up.
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Old Mar 16, 21, 3:28 pm
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Originally Posted by drewguy View Post
United's "most loyal" customers are probably the GSes who fly mostly on OPM that has dried almost entirely up.
When business travel picks back up - UA's most loyal customers will be those fliers who have no choice but to fly UA due to corporate contracts and company policies. I expect UA and the other US based airlines to be even more aggressive in securing corporate contracts.

I'd also point out - a lot of GS out there who are that level simply because a company could designate its officers GS simply for signing a corporate contract.
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Old Mar 16, 21, 3:31 pm
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Originally Posted by drewguy View Post
That's true, but the past year has been far from normal and probably shouldn't be a basis for a significant change of this type. The mix of travelers is completely different, given how many businesses have shut down most/all business travel, while some haven't, and some personal travel continues. United's "most loyal" customers are probably the GSes who fly mostly on OPM that has dried almost entirely up.
Even prior to Covid, there have been signs of FF programs erosion. FT is a small blip to the overall traveling population, and vast majority of people have no affinity toward FF programs and their lingos, even on OPM.
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Old Mar 16, 21, 4:03 pm
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Were they commenting based on very short-term effects? What they say contradict their own numbers and claims of the FFP that:
* members generate majority of rev
* members contribute to outsized rev growth
* higher yields, strong loyalty associated with membership seniority
* attractive demographics (=economics)
yadda yadda yadda

i.e. members "drive significant revenue, higher customer satisfaction, and loyalty to united"
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