Half of Frequent Flyer Members Say They Have No Idea How Rewards Work

Aug 15, 2018

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If you’ve ever been confused by the complexities of your travel loyalty programs, you’re not alone. Half of all people enrolled in frequent flyer programs have no idea how to earn or redeem rewards.

That is what marketing data firm JD Power found in its 2018 Airline Loyalty Program Satisfaction Study, which it released Wednesday.

The study results showed that “about half” of all airline loyalty program members said they didn’t know how to earn or redeem their points and miles. And even among loyalty members who hold status with the airline, 30% told JD Power that they do not completely understand their program. The survey also revealed that clear understanding of loyalty program award earnings and redemptions was one of the most powerful drivers behind customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The survey, which polled 3,025 loyalty program members, found JetBlue’s TrueBlue program was the top-ranked loyalty program, beating out six other US airlines for the No. 1 spot.

The biggest driving force behind JetBlue’s continued popularity with travelers stems from the program’s transparency in award earning and redemption. TrueBlue program members widely reported that they understand how to earn and redeem TrueBlue rewards points.

“Airlines have a huge opportunity to improve when it comes to customers’ ease of understanding the rewards program,” said Michael Taylor, Travel Practice Lead at JD Power.

While JetBlue’s TrueBlue program ranked the highest in overall member satisfaction, Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program came in second and Alaska’s Mileage Plan ranked third. Delta SkyMiles ranked closely behind Alaska’s Mileage Plan, scraping above the industry average, but both American AAdvantage and United MileagePlus programs fell significantly below the industry average.

According to the study, confusing program details negatively affected customer satisfaction: Airline loyalty program member satisfaction climbed 123 points (on a 1,000-point scale) when members understand how to redeem points, and 131 points when they understand how to earn points. Furthermore, general member satisfaction improved faster than program satisfaction amongst members with elite status.

If you are part of the 50% who is confused by redeeming your hard-earned miles and points, do yourself a favor and give TPG‘s Beginner’s Guide to Points and Miles a perusal. Rewards rookies looking to bolster their loyalty acumen can also look at our Beginner’s Series here.

If you’re looking for a “JetBlue-quality” frequent flyer program comparison, check out our guide on The Right Way to Compare Frequent Flyer Programs. To get right to the good stuff, peep the Best Elite Status Programs guide here.

Featured photo by Shutterstock.

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