When hearing the words “loyalty program,” many consumers immediately think of airlines. Because the loyalty program is such a cornerstone of the industry, airlines have become savvy of the fact that offering customers just the right program for their circumstances and preferences may be the edge they need to pull ahead of the competition.
 
With this in mind, J.D. Power has released enormously significant data in the form of its annual “Airline Loyalty/Rewards Program Satisfaction Report.”
 
The report reveals key data points that very well may chart the course of airline loyalty programs over the next year. Among the survey findings is the revelation that, while airlines often place focus on how and where flyers are able to earn points, many consumers still base their satisfaction on how easy it is to spend those points and the overall terms of the program.
 
“Major changes to airline loyalty/rewards programs are unfolding industry-wide right now,” said Rick Garlick, global and travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power. “Airlines are juggling a delicate balance between business needs and passenger satisfaction, but they must never lose sight of the fact that members want programs that allow them to easily earn and redeem airline rewards. However, if airlines make it too easy, it takes away some of the value of having higher reward status.”
 
Millennials, often considered to be a notably fickle segment, actually demonstrated the highest rate of satisfaction with their airline loyalty programs. These younger flyers are also tops when it comes to program advocacy, with 47% noting that they would recommend to a friend of family member.
 
In another fascinating statistic, online reviews continue to lead the way in giving customers valuable peer insight. Passengers who select programs based on online reviews showed a satisfaction rating of 829 (on a 1,000-point scale). This number is 31 points higher than passengers who chose based on reputation, and a whopping 91 points more than customers who chose based on locational convenience.
 
In terms of highest satisfaction rates, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan takes home the gold for the third straight year, with Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards and JetBlue Airlines TrueBlue rounding out the top three.

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