For most airline loyalty programs a consumer’s value is based on the “What have you done for me lately?” concept. Show up and spend more money or expect to see status (and the associated benefits) taper off. But life happens sometimes, with changes that sideline a customer.
Getting them back into that loyal mindset after a hiatus can be especially difficult. Delta Air Lines announced a new program this week that intends to ease the transition back into travel after such a break. The “Reclaim My Status” allows SkyMiles members to quickly return to their Medallion status tier after a major life event.
Many changes in recent years engendered a consumer feeling that the “loyalty” is all about consumers spending more money with the airlines for fewer benefits. Delta’s SVP for Customer Engagement and loyalty Sandeep Dube hopes that this program can help shift the conversation, suggesting that “Loyalty is a two-way street and as a leading consumer brand, we are always looking for new ways to take care of our customers.”
The program is not a simple “pause” button for a previously earned Medallion tier. In order to reclaim the benefits the passenger must meet travel and spend thresholds within a 90-day window. It is very similar to the status match programs that exist to attract high value customers away from other airlines in that sense. In this case, however, it is a match to a lapsed status rather than to an existing competitor.
Qualifying life events include becoming a parent, recovering from a serious illness or injury, changing jobs and earning a degree. SkyMiles members must request the match from Delta and then wait for confirmation, typically expected within one week, to begin the 90-day challenge period.
Similar programs, typically targeting new parents, are available from other airlines as well. British Airways Executive Club launched a one year status pause for new parents last March, for example. Alaska Airlines offers a similar program. Hawaiian Airlines allows for pausing status around qualifying medical events. Qantas, Virgin Australia, Iberia and others will also pause or extend status for qualifying events. For airlines that don’t formally deliver such programs it is generally possible to ask for similar treatment, though approval remains at the discretion of the airline.
These programs are not the norm but they are also not completely unheard of. And certainly increasing the conversation around the idea of a “two way street” for loyalty is a welcome development. That said, these status pause programs are as much about making sure that a loyal customer does not start shopping elsewhere, retaining that wallet share, as they are about delivering benefits to the passengers. Yes, they are good for consumers, but they are also typically very, very good for the programs as well.