Singapore Airlines (SIA) will make changes to its PPS (Priority Passenger Service) Club from this September. To move the club upmarket, SIA is insisting that travellers spend much more on their tickets.
Until now PPS has been one of SIA's well kept secrets. Passengers seeking a loyalty scheme tend to be steered towards SIA's popular Kris Flyer frequent flyer scheme which is linked to other Star Alliance carrier programmes.
By contrast PPS is a stand alone loyalty scheme within SIA. Its membership is available only to passengers booking premium class tickets with SIA. Besides earning miles, PPS members get better recognition from the airline. For example they can use the first class lounges when flying business or economy class. They're higher in the pecking order at upgrade time and are likely to get their excess baggage charges waived.
Previously PPS members need only spend between S$9,000 (GBP2,992) and S$30,000 (GBP9,972) a year (based on a minimum yearly milaeage of 50,000 miles) with SIA which would be easily achievable for a passenger based, say, in Europe and flying regularly to the Far East and / or Australasia.
But these easy times are coming to an end. From September 1, SIA will up the minimum travel spend (excluding taxes, fees and charges) almost threefold to S$25,000 (GBP8,310).
Membership of PPS Club's higher Solitaire tier will become more difficult too. SIA is scrapping lifetime membership at this level. It now insists Solitaire membership can only be earned with a hefty S$250,000 (GBP83,100) spend with SIA over a five year period.
Says Ravindra Bhagwanani of FFP consultancy Global Flight, "Yes this is an attempt to make the PPS Club more exclusive. But it's also a more questionable one. There are drawbacks for the estimated 80 per cent of current members as they will simply be kicked out of the programme."
"This and the recent changes to the programme let us view it in a completely different light. It no longer provides the outstanding value it used to do for premium passengers. While other airlines are keen on attracting them [premium passengers], SIA seems to want to get rid of them. Telling members who are spending between S$9,000 (GBP2,992) and S$25,000 (GBP8,310) that we don't care about your business might not be a clever thing to do."
If that wasn't enough, PPS members are being stopped from using the first class lounges unless flying first class. The ability to access first class lounges irrespective of travel class will now be available only to Solitaire tier members.
Says a PPS spokesperson, "We have been receiving feedback that the Silver Kris lounges have become increasingly overcrowded. Some lounge changes are being made to maintain the lounges' exclusivity and comfort."
SIA's changes haven't gone down at all well with existing PPS members. Frequent flyer weblogs suggest that two-thirds of members will either let membership lapse or would be unable to re-qualify.
Report by Alex McWhirter