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J.D. Power, a data analytics company, has released a report on airline loyalty programs. The 2018 study ranks consumer satisfaction with six major airline loyalty programs. These include JetBlue Airways TruBlue, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, Delta Air Lines SkyMiles, American Airlines Advantage, and United Airlines MileagePlus.
The main takeaway of the study is that 50 percent of general members and 30 percent of status members do not completely understand how to earn or redeem points. The study juxtaposes this information with data on member satisfaction, which improves by 123 points on a 1,000-point scale when members know how to redeem points and by 131 points when they know how to earn points.
The study also finds that general member satisfaction is improving faster than status member satisfaction. While both general and status member satisfaction levels have improved from last year, general member satisfaction is improving faster. This is driven by enhancements in how points are earned, how points are redeemed, and what benefits the program has.
“Airlines have worked hard over the past several years to demonstrate the value of their loyalty programs, particularly to general members,” says Michael Taylor, Travel Practice Lead at J.D. Power.
“While those efforts are paying off in the form of improved overall satisfaction scores, airlines have a huge opportunity to improve when it comes to customers’ ease of understanding the rewards program. JetBlue does very well in this area, though, across the industry, it's only happening about half the time.”
The study reveals several other points of interest as well. Overall satisfaction scores increase 120 points among status members and 78 points among general members when their name is used by airline staff or when their preferences are recognized.
In addition, 46 percent of loyalty program members say they have the program’s mobile app on their phone or tablet, but less than half of those say they use it. Among members who have the app, satisfaction is significantly higher when they use the app frequently. Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of members prefer to save their points to redeem larger rewards, while 13 percent prefer to redeem their points for quick discounts.
The study measures member satisfaction based on four factors: earning and redeeming rewards; program benefits; account management; and member communication. Results are based on 3,025 responses from rewards program members and was fielded in May-June 2018.
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