Skift Take

American Airlines has the value of your loyalty down to a science. But can that data prevent elites from defecting to other carriers?

It’s no secret that airlines have turned more toward a revenue-focused strategy to manage frequent flyers in the last few years. Rewarding the most lucrative passengers better encourages high-revenue travelers to stick around while the cheapskates get pushed to the side.

What hasn’t been known, until now, is how fastidious the airlines have been around pushing toward those revenue goals. Last week, Skift’s Brian Sumers visited the team in charge of loyalty at American Airlines and learned that data aren’t just part of the calculus for working with customers — data drive the entire operation. And interestingly, in many cases the airline actually knows when you’ve been cheating on it and flying with other carriers.

This isn’t to say that American is necessarily taking action upon this data. In the last few months, the airline has experienced several negative changes, including tighter seats and a slump in catering quality, testing the loyalty of even the airline’s fiercest advocates. American has also been expanding basic economy cabins, which some passengers view as negative although the airline obviously doesn’t. At the very least, American now has data proving that some of its AAdvantage members are leaving.

— Grant Martin

Skift Stories and More Expert Insight

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InterContinental Hotels Is Closing In on a Luxury Acquisition: InterContinental Hotels Group is getting closer to announcing a deal for a luxury hotel brand, but buying Belmond isn’t part of its plan.

Future of South African Airways In Doubt After Years of Losses: South African Airways may not be able to continue to operate as a going concern, while the struggling state-owned airline has failed to properly record financial information and the value of assets, according to the auditor general.

WestJet CEO Leaves Suddenly With Discount Airline Launch on the Agenda: WestJet Airlines Ltd. CEO Gregg Saretsky resigned unexpectedly as the Canadian carrier grapples with testy labor negotiations while attempting to create a new discount operation.

Virgin Atlantic Adds Basic Economy to Fend Off Rivals: Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. will split its coach class into three different ticket grades in an effort to head off the challenge presented by an emerging low-cost, long-haul sector led by Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA.

United Hits ‘Pause’ on Its Bad Idea to Replace Bonuses With Lottery-Style Perks: United Continental Holdings Inc. retreated from a plan to replace modest employee bonus payments with a chance for a lucky few to win luxury cars and six-figure cash prizes, following a backlash from the airline’s unions.

Hilton CEO Says Brexit Is Hurting London Hotels: Brexit is beginning to weigh on London’s hotel market, according to Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., the second-biggest company in the global industry by rooms.

Travel Loyalty Program Trends to Take Advantage of in 2018: Here’s a look at the shifting loyalty landscape so you can position yourself to take advantage of program trends in 2018.


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Tags: aadvantage, american airlines, loyalty

Photo credit: American Airlines is increasingly using data to track loyalty member behavior and trends. American Airlines / American Airlines

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