Opinion

Why Loyalty Programmes Are More Important Than Ever

For most business travel, loyalty programme status is now the only way to speed through the airport, experience the lounge and enjoy other perks

One of the most rewarding aspects of my career has been the glamour of business travel: gliding through airports, sitting back in the lounges, lying back on inflight beds, arriving in impossibly cool places, all with the glow of being treated like a star.

Sadly, upwardly mobile 21-year-olds now don’t quite get the same treatment; in fact, most of us don’t. This is for two primary reasons. First, the almost ubiquitous tightening of corporate belts and the related exposés of shameful financial waste of its chief protagonists has led to a general downgrading of travel and its perks. Almost all firms force their staff to fly economy for flights under four hours, and there are strict budgets for accommodation.

Second, while most of us joined a large corporate or a professional services brand name out of university, joining a startup has become just as appealing for graduates, with technology the major driver of such moves, This has a set of benefits but travel isn’t one of them. Apart from their cost restrictions, small companies cannot easily command preferential fares through procurement negotiations with travel companies, rendering it even less likely that employees will be able to experience the glamour of yesteryear.

This all makes loyalty programmes more important than they ever used to be. In the past, they were a nice-to-have but now they are core. For most business travel, airline or hotel loyalty programme status is the only way you’re going to speed through the airport (through fast track), the only way you’re going to experience the lounge, the only way you’re going to priority board and the only way you’re going to experience a great suite (through a status upgrade) or treat yourself to a discounted stay at a luxury hotel. It’s also an important employee morale tool: if you can buy first class tickets for a holiday on miles and stay in a villa in the Maldives on points, the horrible grind of work economy travel can seem worth it.

These changes in the travelling landscape and the burden it places on loyalty schemes puts particular pressure on airlines and hotels to up their game with their programmes.

A good example is Cathay Pacific’s new Business Plus programme, designed to help small- and medium-sized businesses earn rewards when their employees fly. For companies of this size, with employees flying regularly, it’s a no-brainer to sign up: the company and individuals get benefits with absolutely no risk.

But loyalty programmes are clearly equally important for the airlines and hotels themselves, creating customer attachment to the business and its brand. I can definitively vouch for this based on my travel habits over many decades. And using points to upgrade to business class or a large hotel suite has the benefit of letting a customer aspire – to how business travel used to be.

By the Anonymous Global Nomad

In the past month:
Flights taken: 17
Miles travelled: 17,434

Safe travels and see you next time. Send your thoughts to cathayeditorial@cedarcom.hk 

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