Skift Take

Travel loyalty programs really are frequency programs. As frequency is directly linked to emissions in travel, how can travel companies find environmentally friendly ways to reward its most valuable customers?

Travel loyalty programs are big business, even over the past year when people were forced to travel less.

At the start of the pandemic, major airlines used their loyalty programs to raise billions of dollars. In effect, its loyalty members saved the airlines by continuing to spend on their airline credit cards, even when they were not allowed to fly.

When raising funds during the pandemic, American Airlines’ AAdvantage was valued at $24 billion, and United Airlines’ MileagePlus at $22 billion, far more than the airline market caps at that time.

For hotels also, loyalty members are highly significant. Marriott has by far the largest membership base with around 140 million members in its Bonvoy program, which account for half of all stays in Marriott hotels. At Hilton the share of stays by its members is even higher, at around 64 percent.

In a new report by Skift Research, we look at these loyalty programs from a different angle.

Sustainability in Travel 2021: Environmental Impact of Hotel and Airline Loyalty Programs quantifies how loyalty programs promote and reward consumer behavior that’s environmentally damaging.

In the report we question whether the frequency approach to loyalty programs fits in the 21st century. Rather than focusing on additional stays or mileage, can the industry think of more innovative ways to promote brand loyalty and increase the lifetime value of its loyal customers?

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What You’ll Learn From This Report

  • The importance of loyalty programs to travel players, and the continued interest by travelers
  • The average CO2e emissions to achieve the lowest and highest hotel status tiers
  • The average CO2e emissions to achieve the lowest and highest airlines status tiers
  • How these emissions stack up against the emissions from other activities
  • How airlines and hotels can start a process of moving away from only rewarding frequency of travel

Subscribe to Skift Research Reports
This is the latest in a series of reports and data products that Skift Research puts out to help you understand the trends in the travel industry. Tap into the opinions and insights of our seasoned network of staffers and contributors. Over 200 hours of desk research, data collection, and/or analysis goes into each report.

After you subscribe, you will gain access to our entire vault of reports conducted on topics ranging from technology to marketing strategy to deep dives on key travel brands. You will also be able to access our proprietary Skift Recovery Index and Skift Health Score data and reports.

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Tags: airline loyalty, carbon emissions, environment, loyalty programs, skift research

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