So you thought that frequent flyer programs were designed to benefit the customer; loyalty schemes that rewarded those faithful to an airline with better deals and cheaper flights in the future? Think again! Scheme is definitely the right word when it comes to these incentive-based programs. I can think of a few others, too: rip-off, scam … you get my drift.
It turns out that customer-loyalty programs such as Qantas’ frequent flyer one are big, and I mean BIG, business. Qantas rakes in about $400 million a year from its loyalty program. The Australian carrier on-sells points to its large corporate partners (e.g. NAB, ANZ), who in turn essentially sell the points back to customers through credit card spending/shopping programs.
In short, most of us are actually paying for any frequent flyer points that we ‘earn’ and, as many disgruntled travellers have also discovered, airlines don’t want you to use those points, prompting various conditions about expiry dates and account activity.
Talk about a farce!
Are you part of any frequent flyer programs? If so, what’s your experience of trying to use points to book a flight?