Emotional airline loyalty programs
Today, behavior-driven loyalty programs aren’t enough to entice airline passengers. Almost half of millennials, specifically, have changed their airline loyalty in the past year, according to a 2023 OAG survey. At the same time, more than 20 million U.S. travel loyalty members alone faced a status downgrade in 2023, due to COVID-related decreases in travel.
In this situation, loyalty members attracted by the discounts and the convenience of their status were willing to switch to whichever airline provided the most convenient or discounted option. And while inflation hasn’t slowed leisure travel demand, customers are looking for the airline with the best deal.
Conversely, emotional airline loyalty programs drive passengers to identify with a specific airline, be airline ambassadors and make habitual buying decisions that defy rational explanation.
How can the aviation industry make the shift? Airlines can resegment their loyalty programs based on customer interests and values instead of purchase frequency. Partnering with brands across industries and centralizing this customer data will help airlines inform new segments. Starbucks and Delta’s loyalty partnership, for example, allows passengers to redeem Delta points with their weekly beverage purchases in between their trips.