“loyalty” schemes – Do they Really Care?

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  • Anonymous


    I have been flying long-haul for over 25 years and have clocked up Millions of Miles with various carriers. It has traditionally been difficult to support one scheme, since most airlines were autonomous and these ‘One World’ like agreements were not around, however I have supported certain airlines very well. But this seems more and more to be a one way street, rather than a ‘One World aliance’.

    On a certain US carrier, I have an oval on my frequent flyer card with “x-Million miles” in it, recognition of how many miles I have flown with them. However when taking my family to LA a year ago with this airline and having a ‘Executive Platinum’ (work it out) card, perhaps I could have expected some support from them when they lost our bags outward bound. No such luck, it took them over 3 days to return my bag and left us with only 2/3 of our belongings (we tend to split all our belongings ‘n’ ways over the amount of cases we carry, so that this increasing issue does not leave any one of the family with no clothes… When I called to complain – initialy not invoking my status – you would think I was the Tax Man… I was treated with near contempt, receiving a half hearted commitment to get my bag (identified as still in London) out to LA ‘when they could’ – perhaps on one of more than 3 flights from LHR to LAX per day??

    I have since stopped using this airline and moved to United. Who are just now digging their heels in on a Customer Service issue that really should not have been an issue… So my question; do they really give a hoot who we are, and who we fly with? I for one don’t think they do… P. Froom (Berkshire)


    I have been a regular flyer with British Airways now for the past 5 years or more, during which time I have managed to amass some 600,258 air miles.

    I had intended to utilize some of my air miles to travel on holiday to Hong Kong. However, when I attempted to book and upgrade seats, for myself and my partner, to Club World, I instantly hit a barrier, in that the on-line system would not permit my booking to go through in the normal manner. Indeed, I found that I was unable to utilise any of my air miles, in any combination, for these flights, which I was prepared to book and pay for almost 11 months in advance of the intended travel date.

    Upon enquiring through the Executive Club telephone number, I was informed that this was not an uncommon situation, and that BA were in fact targeting the full fare business traveller and would therefore not release BA miles seats, until they had capitalised on the full fare business traveller. I imagine by then, few if any, seats would be available in Club World. Yet BA offer a upgrade for miles on their web site.

    I find it incredulous that a blue chip company such as British Airways, which is actively marketing its air miles programme via credit cards, on line partners and other media communication methods, is at the same time placing insurmountable barriers prohibiting customers from using their resultant air miles


    I cannot be certain whether you are aiming to redeem air miles or BA Miles. These are different schemes http://www.airmiles.co.uk is a reward scheme like nectar, whereas BA Executive Club issues BA Miles which is a loyalty scheme; the response below assumes you are using BA Miles.

    Though there are often restrictions on certain heavily travelled routes, it is often the case that airlines restrict certain award availability on routes they might otherewise be able to sell. This can be as simple as not permitting inbound redemptions on a Sunday night, to blocking entire routes (eg Sydney over Christmas).

    Though I am a user of these schemes, I would rather an airline generated profits for re-investment in the premium products by selling seats and maintained the exclusivity of the premium cabins than gave away too many of their premium seats to mileage award redemptions.

    Airlines in the US have been giving away premium cabin upgrades for years, and this is evident in the diminished on board product, especially in what passes for First Class domestically.

    Having said that, I would persist on ba.com and calling, as you may find award availability opens up nearer the time. I have always been able to fly within a day of my preferred dates using miles, with about six months advanced notice.

    As a BA Gold Card holder (which surely you must be with all those miles) you can normally call up and they will find you an economy redemption on most services; though naturally this is a very poor use of miles.

    As a rule, it is always best to ensure there is availability for upgrading before you finalise your booking.

    You have hit upon the ideal strategy to keep your miles topped up – upgrading from WT+ to Club World is excellent value and allows you to earn back many of the miles you spent on the upgrade in the first place.

    This is particularly valuable if you are a Silver or Gold card holder as the 25% and 50% bonuses respectively can mean an effectively free upgrade from WT+ on longer routes such as NCE-LAX, for just 25,000 BA miles round trip.

    Starting your trip in mainland Europe is especially good value.

    I am perplexed that you cannot find availability in February 2009 to Hong Kong – there seems plenty of availability in both Club and FIRST on that route; though that assumes you are flying from London; perhaps you are originating elsewhere and it is those sectors which are causing the problem?

    It would cost you 240,000 BA Miles to fly both of you LHR-HKG return in FIRST and just 160,000 in http://www.newclubworld.com if you were in possession of a BA Amex card 2 for 1 voucher, which might be an alternative option.

    Apart from considering changing the days you fly slightly, you could consider redeeming a full reward in FIRST, where there is usually more availability, vary the cabin (eg outbound in F, return in J), or see if one of BA’s oneworld partners such as Cathay Pacific have availability on this route for the dates you require.

    With some flexibility, I am certain you will be able to get to HKG using your BA Miles.

    Finally, if all else fails you could try http://www.oasishongkong.com with returns from LGW in business class from £1300 including taxes.


    I’m not sure if airlines really care about us, other than to the extent that they want us to fly with them again. They care about the FF programs, as they are saleable and a boon to the Balance sheet (look at Air Canada’s sale of their FF program and there was the possibility that the Qantas FF program would have been sold if Airline Partners bid had succeeeded last year).

    They care about profit – remember the addage that if Economy is full (on long haul flights), it has paid for the trip – and the cream is the paid Business and First Class pax. They care about high tier passengers (particularly ones that are highly profitable).

    In your situation, AA was also constrained by another party in the transaction of getting your bags on board your flight – the Baggage Handlers. LHR has become a nightmare for all airlines and pax in that regard. AA have to rely on the Baggage Services people to locate the bag(s) and then alert AA to their whereabouts. It’s then AA’s job to get it aboard their next service or find other carriers who will take it on their behalf, then advise you as to the outcome.

    Yes, it’s disappointing when you weren’t getting a timely response from AA, irrespective of your ExPlat and MM status.


    This does not suprise me.
    Like many others, my Choice has been stretched across Star Alliance for Long Haul, & KLM/Sky team within Europe.

    Trying to book an on line award on the KLM Award Miles site just, any date i put in states “Not Available”. No problems…i use the calender they display, showing all the other avialable dates within 2 months…

    BUT, none of them are available either!!! Air France managing KLM as a brand, has not been great for the Flying Dutchman program, all centred in rance, no more feeling of the KLM Brand, or great Customer Relations they had. Phoning costs us, & the responses are unhelpful & i dont find them courteous, constructive, just argumentative!
    I really have noticed a difference in how we are regarded, even as a previous Platinum, now Gold member. They wont even send out luggage tags these days!
    SA, its almost impossible these days to get a flight out of Europe on TG or SQ, & totally impossible into Sydney. I fly here several times a year.

    A contact in SQ, has informed me that SQ have blocked awards to SA on the A380 services, & “sort of” on the 773 services out of Europe etc with the new SQ 1-2-1 layout in Raffles & suites in 1st.

    Having said that, yes they are all full with revenue customers..

    Interestingly. Eihad Airways (where i am Silver at the moment), cant seem to do enough! There are prompt responses to queries, polite constructive, helpful, & they are as a whole refreshing in their approach in all aspects.
    They are of course, a young airline but boutique in style, & they want our business, so they make an effort. Perhaps like a young professional starting out on the career ladder, they make greater effort, enthuse the challenges, & seek to complete their task to the optimum to get on.

    Pehaps we should start to re-consider our memberships, & go out of the Large alliances where possible, & stay with a smaller group or “An”Airline, here n there if your travel allows this.
    I really think & feel the same, these Membership groups are huge, impersonal, value us less, need us less than in previous years. As individiuals, i think we have to look after our own interests, & my business goes to Etihad where Eastwards & Australasia, & i remain with KLM for Europe etc.

    We will remain one voice in Hundreds of millions of members, unless we make a move & new choice. I have made mine. My Gold SA is over.


    Yes, I’m a Gold Executive Club member.

    At the moment BA are only permitting economy BA miles bookings to Hong Kong. No Club World or First bookings are being accepted regardless of the BA miles combinations you are trying to utilize.

    What is annoying most is that the BA miles scheme is being marketed in such a way as to give the impression that BA miles are easy to redeem across all cabin classes. In practice this is not the case. BA is intentionally placing restrictive barriers on the use of such a loyalty programme, which is not in the spirit of rewarding loyal customers.


    sirwolfie I really think you should just be a bit patient and see what opens up in the coming weeks, and keep checking ba.com regularly.

    Fancy a jaunt to HKG for Easter?

    Plenty of availability right now – in fact on these dates I can get Club World award availability on all three flights:

    Outbound – Friday 21 March 2008
    dep 18:40 21 Mar
    arr 14:40 22 Mar
    Heathrow (London) to Hong Kong BA0025
    British Airways Club World

    Inbound – Monday 24 March 2008
    dep 01:10 24 Mar
    arr 06:20 24 Mar
    Hong Kong Heathrow (London) BA0028
    British Airways Club World

    160,000BA Miles plus £215.82 tax

    There are absolutely definitely seats being made available in all cabins on these services, and by varying dates, avoiding peak holiday periods, combining classes or simply waiting a few weeks for award availability to open up I have absolute confidence that you will be able to use your BA Miles to get where you want to go.

    Incidentally, there is still quite a bit of last minute availability for Club flights to SFO San Francisco for Easter, as well.


    VintageKrug, thank you for taking the time to comment; admittedly this is the first time that I have attempted to redeem any of my BA air miles, and my experience thus far has not been the least bit enjoyable. I am by nature a very patient man, honest.

    The BA website is currently showing availability for my intended travel dates in 2009, however, when I proceed to book and upgrade to Club World either via the web or through the Executive Club telephone helpline, I’m told “we have been unable to confirm your booking, please try later” I have been told that this is not an uncommon problem and that BA are milking the business sector first.

    Whilst I fully understand and accept that there will inevitably be limited availability on flights for BA miles passengers on all routes, BA are hardly playing fair IMHO. They are saying one thing on one hand, but in reality they are blocking bookings with BA miles, even though they freely admit that availability is showing on their web site.


    Ah, now I think see your problem.

    You are saying that although there is award seat availability visible online at http://www.ba.com, you are not able to book those seats online, and when you call they are faced with a similar problem?

    My suggestion; call back and get an agent who knows what they are doing.

    If award availability is showing I have never come across a situation where it cannot be booked. Your probably just got a duff agent.

    My only possible confusion is if you can see seats for *sale* and yet cannot redeem an award on the very same flights.

    This is because the “buckets” of seats are allocated to different fare codes; fully flex, semi flex, non flex and award booking. And as mentioned above not all flights have award buckets available.

    Award bookings book into the same bucket as MFU Miles for Upgrade tickets; so whether a full redemption award or an MFU you need to go online via your online tool in your Exec Club Account and look up the dates to see award availability.

    If it’s there, on the dates, class and flights you need, then I cannot see any reason why it should not be released to you online; call up and escalate it if you cannot get resolution to this issue, and don’t take no for an answer!

    Plenty of online sites like http://www.flyertalk.com where BA lurkers will themselves be able to assist you if you still have no joy booking.

    Good luck! 🙂


    Having followed the exchange regarding lack of available ‘airmiles’ slots, I have to say that last year I booked a very long trip for my entire family around the world with AA and Hawaiian (Via AA).

    I could not do this on line either because of the complexity of the routing and some of the ‘crop duster’ flights involved, but phoned AA here in Europe (Dublin I believe?). The rep there was excellent and not only found me what I wanted, but fine-tuned our trip to better serve us… It really has to be said that as we all seem to agree the ‘Airlines’ are tightening their belts and one of the results seems to be that they overtly seem to ‘care less’ about us, equally a good employee who does the right thing and flies the flag for the airline is andeed a jewel in the swamp of ‘couldn’t care less ‘and ‘just doing my time’ airline staff who now seem to be out there… Well done (in this case) AA! EDR6106.


    Update; I did eventually manage to get through to an operator who knew what he was talking about and who came across as very contentious about his job. I have now managed to book my flights on the day and at the time I wanted.



    Very pleased for you – one of the first rules of FF schemes is if at first you don’t succeed – ring back and get someone who knows what they are doing!!

    I hope the BA staff member was conscientious, rather than contentious… 😉


    Yes, you are correct, it should read conscientious.

    I have to say however, that trying to upgrade using BA miles has not been an easy or pleasant experience. It took me 3 attempts before I was able to talk to an agent who knew what they were doing. The two previous agents both stated similar explanations as to why I could not upgrade, despite availability being shown online.

    Perhaps BA needs to reinforce its procedures/policy for BA miles customers to its agents.


    I believe that airlines shareholders should be concerned by FF schemes as they represent a liability to the airline that is not shown on any balance sheet. This is growing in size as it becomes more and more difficult to redeem miles.
    I suppose that the airlines could free themselves of the liability at some point by simply closing the scheme and in so doing force every member to redeem their miles in lollipops or otherwise useless awards.
    I have also been given the excuse “need to protect revenue” on some routes as an excuse for their being no awards redeemable for the whole year. I challenged that by saying what about customer/brand loyalty protecting the overall revenue – of course I did not get any sensible reply as that seems to be beyoond that airlines comprehension at least. The same airline never has seats available on their own routes and instead palm award flights off onto partners and generally only in economy where I suppose they are able to get cheap seats. Poor value really.

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