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