A lot has happened since we last spoke with Norwegian last year.
Increasing its transatlantic services by more than 50 per cent, the low cost carrier has added more frequencies, new bases, and routes to the US and further afield. A new Edinburgh-New York route launched earlier this month, to be served by the B737 Max later this summer, while flights from Gatwick to Seattle and Denver are set to start from September.
Expanding in the east, a new Gatwick-Singapore service marks the airline’s first foray into Asia from the UK, also set to launch in September. Last week, we learned that it plans to operate flights to Buenos Aires from Gatwick, starting February next year – the carrier’s 11th long-haul route.
It’s been a big year, and there’s no doubt that all this growth plays into the hands of its growing loyalty programme, Norwegian Reward.
A year on since our last interview with the programme’s senior vice president, Brede Huser, we sit down again to find out what’s new, how best to spend and earn cashpoints, and if there are any additional perks for UK members.
In the last year how has the programme fared with UK members? How are you looking to attract more?
We’re still growing, but we’re growing faster than ever, approaching six million members in the next couple of months. The UK is our fastest-growing market, and we expect to reach one million members in the UK by the end of the year. The UK is very important to us and we’re doing everything we can to develop the programme to increase the appeal with the UK membership base. We’re doing that, in addition to growing the airline network, by partnering with different corporations to offer our members more ways to earn Cashpoints, not just when they’re travelling but in their daily life.
How has the introduction of the“rewards” aspect of the programme impacted membership?
Rewards have been received very well by members, we saw almost an immediate increase in members. If you take the months leading up to the introduction of the rewards and there on out, we have increased the growth by 60 per cent. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, we grew between 650,000 and 750,000 members every year, and in 2016, we grew by almost 1.3 million members. So we saw tremendous growth both in new markets and existing ones. In the Nordics, we almost doubled our membership growth after the introduction of rewards.
There are currently four rewards available, which can be redeemed every six flights flown. Will you increase the number of rewards?
We are always looking for opportunities to increase frequent flyer, flight and cash benefits. Something we will be launching in the near future is free long-haul flights to our best customers, so if you complete a minimum of 40 flights and earn 3,000 cashpoints from the airline, you will receive a long-haul ticket, free of taxes and with very few blackout dates.
Will you look to add lounge access as a reward?
If you look at the airline, the only place where lounge access is included is if you buy a premium ticket on long-haul routes. Our challenge is the cost, to put a member through the door costs £20-30, that’s very expensive, so that’s our challenge. I would love to do that but it’s tough. What our membership behaviour shows us is that fast track is the least popular reward, but the most popular reward is cashpoint boost. We were very surprised to see this, but cashpoints was most popular, followed by seat reservation, then luggage.
One of the good things is the ease of redemption, as you can use cashpoints as full or partial payment with no blackout dates, so when you collect them, it’s extremely easy to use. If you’re a business traveller, and you book a Flex ticket, you’ll get 20 per cent cashpoints on the price of the ticket, which you can use to take your family on holiday. If you book a Flex or Premium ticket to New York, you’ll earn 2,500 cashpoints, which is enough for a short-haul return trip to Spain.
Will there be any more travel-related benefits in the UK?
This year we launched a partnership with hotels.com, where members earn five per cent cashpoints along with special rates when booking through hotels.com. We have partnered with a global lounge supplier [Lounge Pass], and in some places we have partnered with local suppliers, so we’ve covered our entire network with lounges.
*Currently, Norwegian has a number of travel-related partners providing airport parking, ground transfer, car rental and hotel rooms, including hotels.com and Bloc hotels at Gatwick.
Any new and notable UK partnerships?
We have a partnership with a company called Research Now, where you can earn cashpoints by giving your opinion through a survey. That’s a very easy way of earning cashpoints. The number of points earned depends on the length of the questionnaire. It’s not a huge amount, but if you keep doing it, it adds up. We are always looking to partner with good retailers or subscription-based providers. In the Nordics we have great success with mobile phone providers and utilities, TV and insurance, so we want to grow our base with these.
You’ve recently launched the points-earning family account – could you explain this?
This is a feature requested by our members, which basically has two dimensions. When you earn cashpoints, you can earn them together and pool them into one account, so if you buy tickets for two adults and two children, you can collect the cashpoints from all flights booked and spend them from a family account, so it makes it easier to earn and spend.
*Users are not restricted from the account if they are not a family. A group of friends or a small business can create an account in order to benefit from pooled cashpoints.
Cashpoints expire after two years; do you plan to extend this to compete with programmes with longer expiry dates?
This is not something mentioned by our members, because of the ease of redemption. People can use them for partial payments, and our members fly more often than every two, or three years. At present, there’s no demand for more time.
What determines the percentage of cashpoints that you can earn from any of the partners?
This is based on every contract and what kind of product they have. Some partners have high margin products, like insurance companies, where you can earn more, and others low margin products, like groceries. It all depends on the business of the partners and how much margin they have to play with.
You launched a new e-shop in the UK, which lets members earn cashpoints when making online purchases. How has this been received?
We don’t have any official figures yet, but the take-up has been good so far, but we need to grow the product. What we have seen is that once people start using it, they keep using it, and use it regularly. We expect quite good numbers, but we need to grow it. We are planning to do a lot more marketing activities to increase use, and recruit users.