Customer Influence

Keith Alexander, whose Washington Post columns I generally quite like, this week reviews the recent history of customer activism and their successes in changing the policies of travel providers.

    Last week, numerous complaints prompted Hertz to back off a plan to introduce a $2.50 reservation fee on all of its vehicle rentals in the United States.

    Hertz acted on the reservation fee after several large clients organized an e-mail campaign and other regular customers posted a “boycott Hertz” message on FlyerTalk.com, a popular Internet message board made up of some of the nation’s most frequent — and influential — travelers.

    In 2002, Delta’s frequent fliers were outraged when the airline reduced mileage awards on steeply discounted tickets. They created a Web site called SaveSkyMiles.com and raised money to send a truck-mounted billboard protesting the change to a Delta annual meeting. Delta reversed the decision in December 2004. Now, passengers on cheap tickets get a full point instead of a half for every mile.

    US Airways frequent fliers mounted a campaign against a 2002 decision to void the value of an unused ticket instead of applying it to a future trip. Passengers — calling themselves cockroaches — organized via the Internet, began holding regular meetings and sent e-mails to US Airways managers denouncing the policy. Nearly a year later, US Airways backed off the plan.

Companies ignore their customers at their own peril.

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 InsideFlyer.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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