Why Low Cost Carriers Now Care About Loyalty Programmes

Frequent flyer programs have long been a fundamental part of flying. However, they’ve never really been a big part of low-cost Flying. All of that is beginning to change with low cost carrier loyalty causing airlines starting to introduce their own frequent flyer systems.

Frequent flyer programs are used by airlines to encourage loyalty similarly to coffee shops. Coffee shops typically operate a “buy x coffees and get one free” program. Airlines build on this in many ways. For example, you earn air miles for each flight you take. These can be used as payment or part payment for trips. There is also the loyalty bonus which many airlines offer. Let us take British Airways as an example. Every member of the Executive Club program receives a blue level membership. Continually choosing British Airways allows customers to build up their perks, which can include free seat selection, priority boarding, and lounge access.

Low-cost carrier loyalty programs are unlikely to include lounge access.

Budget Airline Frequent Flyer Programs

Low-cost carriers have traditionally not needed frequent flyer programs. The reason being that their low fares were already enough to attract passengers from the flag carrier airlines. Now, in addition to competing between themselves, traditional carriers are introducing saver fares. Just this month, CEO of EasyJet, Johan Lundgren told the Aviation Festival in London that the airline is investing in its loyalty program.

“We have a loyalty program, but we haven’t really invested in it. I think there has been a view that low-cost carriers don’t involve themselves in loyalty programs. But I don’t buy that. Any company today needs something where you can reward and recognise your customers.”

EasyJet is looking to introduce a new frequent flyer scheme in 2019.

Spirit’s CEO, Ted Christie mirrored this view. He told the International Aviation forecast Summit: “By driving loyalty, first of all, you’re getting the first look. The customer is coming to see you first to buy their ticket. That’s a tremendous value to any product. Secondarily, over time loyalty breeds the interest in being willing to pay you more for the same product.”

No Lounge Access

Low-cost carriers typically carry a different clientele to the mainstream carriers. This is reflected in the programs the airlines are likely to implement. Such luxuries as lounge access and upgrades are unlikely to become the norm. Instead, passengers should expect to get perks such as priority boarding and free bags. These are things that don’t really cost the airline anything to implement, but the saving could have a significant impact on the passenger. At the moment this is, however, all a guess. Both EasyJet and Spirit have yet to announce what their frequent flyer programs entail.

Low cost carrier loyalty
While not offering a loyalty program as such, Ryanair rewards passengers who book hotels through them. Photo: Ryanair

Ryanair currently operates a slightly different type of program. Instead of rewarding frequent flyers, the airline is attempting to drive traffic to its other services. If passengers book a hotel room from Ryanair Rooms, the airline will credit 10% of the cost of the hotel to the passengers account to use for flights.

What would you like to see offered by a low-cost carrier’s frequent flyer program? Let us know below!