Easyjet is trialling a frequent flyer loyalty programme with benefits including increased flexibility on bookings and a price guarantee.

The budget carrier has been running the trial, which involves more than 15,000 passengers in the UK, France and Switzerland, for the past three months. It said that 91 per cent of participants said the programme appealed to them.

Easyjet said its decision to trial a loyalty programme follows the news that it has increased the proportion of bookings made by existing customers to 57 per cent, up from 50 per cent in 2010. This percentage rises to 62 for returning business travellers.

Paul Moore, the airline’s communications director, told Business Traveller that the programme will not be earnings-based.

Instead, it will allow high-frequency passengers, regardless of whether they fly Easyjet Plus or not, to be offered a price guarantee (including refunding the difference on routes where Easyjet’s competitors offer a lower fare) and the facility to move their flights. There will also be a dedicated call centre.

He said: “Our passengers have explicitly said that ‘We find that sort of redemption scheme frustrating,’ which is good for us to hear as the cost and complexity of it put us off and we’ve also got a very high load factor so… that just felt like not the right way to go for us.”

The programme does not currently have a name and high-frequency passengers are invited to join, typically by email.

Moore said: “This is very much about people who fly with us many, many times a year. So if you’re flying with us three, four or five times a year, actually Easyjet Plus is probably the best mechanism to recognise and get benefit from that frequency. If you’re flying with us ten, 20, 30, 40, 50 times, then that’s when we might consider you for the trial.”

Moore added that the programme is “absolutely not an Avios or a Flying Dutchman… almost the last thing we would want to do is to give something a name that makes people think it was one of those [type of loyalty schemes]”.

As the programme is still being trialled, Moore said it will be finessed and developed according to passenger feedback. He admitted that as it currently stands, it is “partly deliberately vague because we want to retain the blue sky that we have over our rivals”.

The trial follows the success of the airline’s Easyjet Plus scheme, which launched in 2008 and allows passengers allocated seat choice, dedicated bag drop and fast boarding (see news, March 2008).

CEO Carolyn McCall said in a statement today: “Popular new initiatives like allocated seating meant many people tried us for the first time and we are absolutely focused on driving loyalty so they choose us flight after flight.

“In setting up our trial, we listened to our passengers to understand what they most value and tailored the scheme to reflect this. Unlike traditional airlines’ difficult to use mileage schemes, our loyalty scheme gives passengers benefits they really value and is simpler to run.”