Leveraging Frequent Flyer Programs: A Small Idea to Win New Customers

Why don’t airlines allow mileage accumulation on award tickets?

Sure, why reward someone twice — they’re already getting a free ticket, right?

But most everyone offers a free ticket to the same destinations for the same price. It could be a nice way to one-up the competition, and miles aren’t particularly expensive for an airline (see the USAirways giveaway from the Fall, or Continental in the Spring on 2001).

Okay, fine, airlines are cutting back and not rewarding more. Or they see the future in low-cost carriers rather than in business travelers — so their new market is less-dependent upon loyalty programs. I think they’re off base, but that’s just my uninformed opinion. 🙂

But what if they did something a bit more targeted?

What if they said — no mileage accumulation on award tickets, except for tickets used by new members.

That is, if I give a free ticket to a friend (with all my miles, I give lots of award tickets away), and that friend isn’t already a member of the airline’s frequent flyer program, the promotion would be — sign up for the program and earn miles on the award ticket.

Airlines give out miles as frequent flyer signup promotions all the time. Delta gave away as many as 10,000 miles for signup late last year. That promotion didn’t even require a flight on Delta.

In the formulation I’m offering, there would be a real opportunity to acquire a new customer — get them in the frequent flyer program, put them on a flight, give them some miles. And it would be a real opportunity to let an existing customer (who is gifting an award) be an evangelist for the airline. And they’d see that rewards are real, because they’re flying on one!

What better way to make a new customer? And it would be cheap!

So, again I ask: why haven’t any airlines done this?

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 Milepoint.com, 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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