Watching the Gutting of a Frequent Flyer Program

Michael C. emailed me about changes to the CSA Czech Airlines OK Plus program, which I verified on Milepoint.

I normally don’t cover minor European frequent flyer programs much, although there are occasionally areas of strong value in them, I’ve long written about bmi and even made occasionally mention of the Turkish program for easy Star Alliance Gold qualification and some sweet spots in their award chart.

But most of my readers don’t have a keen interest, judging from the comments and the feedback by email that I’ve gotten.

This is important, though, because it illustrates the draconian changes that can happen with little notice, and there’s more than a little schadenfreude.

  • Each mile expires 24 months after being earned.
  • All miles expire if you don’t take a Czech flight every 24 months.
  • Business class upgrades cost more miles.
  • Crediting flight to OK Plus’ corporate program means no mileage earning for the passenger.
  • Elite status now requires at least 2 Czech flights in a calendar year, you can’t earn status just by crediting flights on partners.
  • Platinum members no longer get guest lounge access vouchers for friends.
  • Platinums get to nominate a Gold member, but now to be eligible that person must have already flown a Czech flight.
  • Platinums will only get lounge access when actually flying with Skyteam.

Usually when an airline is in financial trouble, the best strategy is to double down on the loyalty program, to leverage it for more business. After all, the airline is in control of the value of the currency and only will have redemption costs later, if the carrier makes it through troubled waters.

Viewing the loyalty program as an area ripe for cost cutting seems self-defeating, since it also affects the carrier’s revenue stream.

Clearly the folks at Czech think otherwise.

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, 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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  1. I’ve flown CSA many times especially when they still served North America. They are in such dire straits as far as surival is concerned that this change to OK Plus sounds to me more like a “beginning of the end” shut down mode. The Czech gov’t is desperately trying to find a seller and I had read somewhere a while back that the sale HAD TO happen this year otherwise the future of CSA was in jeopardy. KLM and Air France were thought to be suitors, but apparently neither one of them want it. Its sad, the Czech’s were a perfect example of a successs story coming out from under the shadow of the Soviets.

  2. I used to enjoy flying CSA as well. Due to their financial troubles they have cut many routes, increased prices tremendously and are now gutting their FFP.

    It’s a clear case of mismanagement of the highest degree. Take for example the cutting of Air France code shares to Paris. The next day AF has added flights to PRG and CSA has once again lost valuable customers.

    One would almost believe that they are actually trying to run CSA into the ground.. (which is something that has been suggested more than once)

  3. Can an airline Platinum member normally use lounges when without flying on their member airline or alliance partners?

  4. @Xandrios: CSA is being shut down slowly. It was even mentioned indirectly in one interview with its CEO. He basically said CSA is going to shut down but unlike Malev, CSA will be cutting down routes one by one and let it’s competitors (yet non-low cost airlines) take CSA’s place on each route. This way they can prevent a devastating drop in pax numbers at PRG airport.
    There is a little change CSA will make it through the rough times but is there someone who believes that?

  5. As a UA 1K Million Mile Flyer, I read the title and was looking forward to reading your thoughts about the MileagePlus® program.

  6. @Karlyn it varies by airline, eg until recently British Airways had an ‘open doors’ policy, their Golds could use their lounge any time

  7. With the demise of BD Diamond Club, and the recent changes to LH’s M&M, where would you recommend a premium cabin flier to go, Gary?

  8. @Louis it’s actually worth checking out United because Mileage Plus is finally bonusing premium cabin fares in a reasonable way, their award chart is still quite favorable, too. And so are the routing rules.

  9. Forgot to mention I like to redeem on SQ and NH in their F cabins. LH gives me this access. Never had much luck with MP. Has this changed much?

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