Until now, airlines were reluctant with generous mileage offers. They seemed to rely on state aids rather than on customers. Exceptions were Southwest Airlines and Finnair with general promotions for double points on their flights in their respective programs Rapid Rewards and Finnair Plus. Air France KLM, however, is now putting massive pressure on other carriers as it has just started a promotion for double miles and status points in its Flying Blue – for all flights until December 31. Small print and restrictions of the offer: None! A registration for this promotion is not required.
Brazil is not a place for earthquakes, but last month’s announcement of the close cooperation between LATAM and Azul, including a Frequent Flyer partnership in their programs LATAM Pass and Tudo Azul, had the magnitude of a very big one. The cooperation between the number 1 and 3 airlines in Brazil is justified by the crisis of the sector resulting from Covid, but will make life especially hard for Gol and its Smiles program. As Azul’s other partnerships are with Star carriers (including the just launched partnership with Air Canada) while LATAM Pass has kept most of its former oneworld partners in spite of adding Delta, things can still become very interesting in a sense that Brazilian customers may choose either program going forward in function of which international airline partners they prefer. And the international partner network obviously also remains the strong point of Smiles.
All airlines try to find ways to ensure that they will still be around by this time next year. In spite of their extraordinairy efforts, many nevertheless won’t succeed. But Alitalia has found the simplest way: Without anybody really noticing it, they shut down the old Alitalia, incorporated as Alitalia-sai, on June 29 and created a new one, Alitalia-tai. This is in a nutshell a debt-free company with a starting capital of 3 billion EUR of state aid, but assuming the debts related to its Frequent Flyer Program MilleMiglia, which is not directly affected by that transaction. However, the European Union made its approval of the state aid subject to Alitalia’s “making a clean break with its past”. Looking at its fleet, network, management/workforce and Frequent Flyer Program, there are certainly more reasons for doubt than anything else regarding that condition. But if it doesn’t work with Alitalia-tai, why not trying with -uai, -vai, -wai etc.? At least until also the last MilleMiglia member has managed to use all outstanding miles?
At least for some time, the life of an elite member may not be anymore what it used to be – and will question very much the value of membership and the efforts you should put into it to become or remain such a member. With traffic restarting, it now becomes clearer how airlines imagine the future. For most tier members, complimentary upgrades (particulary popular in North American programs) and lounge access are the two most valuable status benefits. Officially, nobody is cutting back on them as such, but US airlines have already warned that they may not upgrade anybody eligible even if there are seats available in order not to overload premium cabins if the rear of the plane is empty. Likewise, the lounge experience won’t be the same anymore. Capacity restrictions will be imposed, forget about open buffets and bars. Lounges remain obviously still a quiet place to work – but with frequent flyers returning to the skies first, you risk finding many airports where the public area might actually be quieter. And then you always have those special cases: While it is certainy a good idea to limit alcoholic consumption while travelling, some lounges misuse the current situation to impose limits on such consumptions. How this is really related to the pandemic remains a mystery…
Only the elder persons among us might vaguely recall that there was some talk about easyJet launching an FFP, long time ago. While easyJet now certainly regrets not having such a tool at its disposal in order to help it to fill its planes again in the current situation, it will face another issue if ever it decides nevertheless to launch a program: The logical name for its potential program, Orange Miles, has now been picked up by Afghan carrier Kam Air for its newly launched program. But the good news is that easyJet may even get inspired by that rather refreshing program, having no points expiry, a flexible family account and a bonus for online bookings.