Fly The Evil Skies


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On the subject of frequent flier miles, Gary says:

“Miles are evil. They create apathy on the end of the service

The he asks the real question:

“Have decades of frequent flyer programs instilled institutional apathy on the part of customer facing employees? Perhaps we are talking about apathetic DNA across entire corporations or even within the entire airline industry. If one believes customers won’t
leave even when treated poorly, where is the incentive to ‘step it up?'”

Back in the late 1990’s, I was flying weekly between Chicago and Palo Alto. 1,846 miles out on Monday, 1,846 miles back on Friday, week in, week out.  I racked up hundreds of thousands of miles, was “1K” on United, got an upgrade every flight, and was willing to put up with a lot of their crap. 

Flash forward a bit, and then I’ve moved to the Bay Area proper, and am no longer flying over 100,000 miles a year.  Now, all the compensating behaviors have gone away from the United side since they no longer view me as a “high value” customer since I’m no longer part of their super-premier program.  I’m still flying a lot, but not on a route that they have a lock on.  And instantly, all the poor service that I used to tolerate became untenable.

Since that time, I may have flown on United half-a-dozen times in the last ten years.

So, it’s interesting.  For me, it was less about “loyalty,” and just about the fact that I happened to frequently travel a route that they had a systemic lock on (since I was flying between two of their hubs).

I agree with Gary.  The mileage program did nothing to induce “loyalty” for me.  Once there were trips on other routes, all bets were off.

November 20, 2009 | Permalink


I tend to agree, I fly Virgin America because of their great customer service, and I love their new modern planes. You actually get a small taste of what flying was like before the airline industry became Greyhound with wings. (I swear, I was on a SouthWest flight last week with a guy who hadn’t bathed in weeks and was wearing flip-flops, shorts and filthy t-shirt).

The only problem is that Virgin does not fly everywhere and they don’t even fly everywhere I want to go. If I can choose Virgin then I do, otherwise I go with the lowest price carrier, because I feel they’re all pretty much the same (though I try to avoid AA, and lean towards Alaska if the price difference isn’t huge).

Eventually, I think we’ll see even less competition in the industry. You wanna fly LA to NYC -see carrier “A”, wanna fly SF to Las Vegas? -see carrier “B”.

Posted by: ChaiG | Nov 20, 2009 3:20:41 PM

The Mileage “loyalty” Programs end up being little more than schemes to bribe and manipulate customers to accept what should really be unacceptable. As a long term frequent flier, I have come to refer to them as the customer exploitation programs. They do manipulate behavior, but I’m left basically hating almost ever airline for the experience.

In particular, I too am a United 1k, only because I live in Colorado. United is really horrible. I accept the miles. I do whatever I can to get whatever fraction of the benefit I’m promised. And I absolutely despise the experience. I am a frequent flier on United, but I am in no way loyal. I know from the frequent fliers I sit by that my perspective is very common. And I know the United flight crew know this as well. They also seem bothered that I am there.

Posted by: Patrick Bultema | Nov 21, 2009 8:20:25 AM

Can the same be said of the customer reward cards and programs? How much crap are we willing to put up with to get the discount based on cumulative purchases? Customer service ain’t great at my local grocery store, but it saves a little money to concentrate purchases there. That’s not loyalty in any real sense, though.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Christopher Carfi
Ant's Eye View
Social Business strategist advising clients such as Google, HP, Cisco, P&G and others.


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