There’s a long history of loyalty programs targeting people while they’re young, hoping to build a lifetime relationship with a customer. And some of those ideas are resurfacing today.
Lufthansa offered their JetFriends program for children aged 2 to 17. United Airlines had the College Plus program which would reward students with 10,000 miles when they earned a degree (someone going for advanced degrees could earn 10,000 miles for college and then for each subsequent degree).
American Airlines recently announced that miles won’t expire for any member under age 21. That would have helped me – as a teenager I let AAdvantage miles I earned from flying to Australia 30 years ago expire.
- Airfare savings. 10% off coupon code, then after your first flight you receive a 15% off code and a 20% off code after your second flight – they also plan to introduce “additional savings for your flight companions”
- Free checks baggage. 10kg extra baggage allowance
- Elite status bump. Receive an increase of one level of elite status when you graduate if you travel at least once a year while a member of the student program
- Refer-a-friend. Earn 5000 miles by referring someone else to the program which details to be announced.
Enrollment requires being 18-30 years old and “a valid and current student identification card.”
We’ll have to watch the United Airlines lawsuit to see whether older passengers can see in California for being charged more than students for their fares.
United Airlines has offered bonus miles for traveling with a pet. Continental Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, El Al, and Japan Airlines have even offered loyalty programs the pet can join themselves. And people have been known to earn miles for their musical instruments. So targeting extra miles for specific kinds of customers, and specific interests is hardly new. It’s also hard.
Seeing more efforts along these lines is a sign that loyalty matters again. When planes were full airlines didn’t have to work as hard building relationships with customers or marketing to fill empty seats. That’s all changed, and we’re beginning to see a renaissance of the frequent flyer program. Hopefully that spirit lasts even once we’re back to normal times and traveling again.