All’s fare: Loyalty a low priority for flyers
By Michael Fabey
While airlines — big and small, legacy and low-cost — talk about devel- oping a brand and forging customer loyalty, recent findings in the National Leisure Travel Monitor show
leisure passengers really don’t care much about being loyal.
Industry experts say pricing is the determining
factor in this down economy for picking an airline
for most leisure trips. That’s proving to be quite
a challenge for carriers
that must somehow fill
their planes without
giving their seats away.
“I don’t think there’s
any brand loyalty left at all,” said consultant
Vaughn Cordle of AirlineForecasts. “The passengers go for the best-value proposition” that meets
“It’s schedule, price and then price after that,”
Cordle said. “It’s just common sense.”
That appears to be one of the findings of this year’s
Monitor. When asked what type of airline they preferred, 21% of leisure travelers said they preferred
legacy airlines, 29% said they preferred low-cost
carriers and about half said they had no preference,
suggesting that the majority are keeping their options open.
Somewhat paradoxically, while leisure travelers aren’t particularly loyal, just over 40% continue to participate in airline frequent flyer (i.e.,
“loyalty”) programs, up from 27% in 2001.
The Monitor said
the increase underscores “the growing
belief that consumers
now demand a quid
pro quo for their patronage.”
As airlines have been cutting capacity and slashing fares across the board to attract passengers to
‘I don’t think there’s any brand loyalty left
at all.’ — Vaughn Cordle, AirlineForecasts
the flights and planes they have left, the carriers
have also accelerated their efforts to “unbundle”
their prices, charging fees for items that they had
historically provided gratis, such as checked bags,
extra legroom and other seat preferences.
While there has been some backlash — Delta
recently had to backtrack on its plan to increase
checked bag fees on most of its international flights
— carrier executives say passengers for the most
part have embraced what the airlines call their “
ancillary revenue” model.