USA Today reports on the trend towards airlines rewarding high revenue flyers instead of high mileage flyers. For instance:
- Delta has moved towards a revenue model for elite qualification.
- United has formalized its VIP program.
- American and Northwest offer revenue tracks (parallel to mileage tracks) towards elite status.
The article doesn’t point out that in most cases the perks for high revenue flyers aren’t new perks. In several cases they are even less generous than the old perks for high revenue flyers. The airlines are simultaneously cutting back and transitioning perks to a revenue-based approach.
I think this is ill-advised. They run the risk of losing the loyalty of the high volume flyer who while not necessarily as lucrative are certainly built into their current businesss model.
If the planes were completely packed solid, there might be a reason to ration out scarce perks (or to expand operations). In the current climate, it makes no sense to alienate existing customers. Instead, the American and Northwest approaches of augmenting benefits for high revenue flyers rather than cutting benefits for high mileage flyers seems to make more sense.
The question, though, and this remains to be seen — are the days of perks for all but the highest yield travelers coming to an end? That seems to be the current mindset of the industry, and there will be plenty of moves in that direction, but I don’t expect it to entirely succeed.
But we might all have to start flying Northwest and America West.