I never expected a post about airBaltic and BalticMiles devaluing elite benefits to generate a ton of interest and controversy. They’ve eliminated free checked bags for elites, and free advance seat assignments for first-tier elites.
The post spawned a discussion of how bad the Delta Skymiles program is, really.
And it’s now generated a response from the head of the BalticMiles program.
In part because it’s well-reasoned, and in part because he has one of the most awesome names in loyalty, I decided to excerpt Gabi Kool‘s response.
Just read your latest item on BalticMiles. It is indeed unfortunately correct that certain benefits for elite members have been recently reduced by airBaltic as part of the overall annual review of the program benefits by the airline in line with its low cost business model.
On the bright side though the program has developed extremely well on the points earning side in the past 12 months with more than 260+ partners (approximately 100 new partners were added in the last year) allowing members to earn points in almost every household spend category imaginable and many leading regional brands in the Baltics, Finland and Russia (our core markets) actively participating and offering many promotions.
It is probably fair to say to our program has developed fully into a coalition loyalty program, similar to Nectar in the UK or AirMiles in Canada, rather than a pure [frequent flyer program]. With airBaltic’s low cost model and no membership in a global airline alliance, this is the best way to ensure customers have a well rounded loyalty program with ample opportunities to earn and redeem and allowing them to earn a meaningful reward in as short a time as possible. In that sense it is actually a hybrid program nowadays between a traditional [frequent flyer program] on one hand and a retail coalition loyalty program on the other hand, not a common set up as far as we are aware anywhere else in the world.
…[W]e are continuing to build new features in the program and 2014 is shaping up to be a memorable year for our program, members and company where we will reach a big milestone of more than 2 million membets. More to be revealed in March 2014.
…Meanwhile keep up the great work and keep the industry sharp.
CEO Coalition Rewards
Chairman of the Board Coalition Rewards Finland / Russia
See, I just like writing the name “Gabi Kool.”
And it’s also certainly correct that low cost carriers have an interesting relationship with elite status benefits. Frontier, after all, has taken away free inflight DirecTV as an elite benefit.
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