What Makes the Best Airline Loyalty Programme

This article examines how airlines can harness the power of loyalty programmes to boost customer retention.

5 What Makes the Best Airline Loyalty Programme

Modern airline companies depend on customer retention to guarantee long-term ticket sales and growth. Yet the rise of price comparison sites and low-cost carriers (LCCs) has meant that modern consumers are more fickle than ever, and are only too happy to switch to another airline in pursuit of a better deal.

Worryingly for airlines themselves, this concern over loyalty appears to be even more pressing in terms of age demographics. According to a recent study conducted by OAG, Millennials are most likely to jump ship, with 47% of them reporting changing their airline loyalty in the past year compared to 37% of Gen Z and 23% of Gen X. On the other hand, Baby Boomers are the most brand-loyal travellers, with only 15% having swapped their preferred airline over the same period.

One proven method of boosting customer retention is through loyalty programmes. This strategy has already proven effective for several major brands. This article will analyse some of these use cases and show how other airlines can follow suit. Read on to learn more.

Key Ingredients of Successful Loyalty Platforms

Before we carry on, it’s probably pertinent for us to recap exactly what a loyalty programme actually is.

Loyalty programmes are often just one facet of a loyalty campaign. These campaigns aim to consolidate long-term customers by appealing to their heartfelt values, provoking a positive emotional response to their brand, going above and beyond with their customer service and value proposition, and (most importantly for our purposes) conditioning them with strategic bonuses.

We’ve already covered this subject in greater detail in a previous article, but, in short, a loyalty programme is a way of incentivising existing customers to stick with your brand by offering appealing rewards and other concrete benefits to them over time.

This can take many forms, such as tier-based rankings or points systems. The rewards can vary too, from special offers and discounts, to other perks, freebies, and exclusive content or experiences. In today’s hyper-online market, the delivery of these rewards often depends on leveraging digital products and platforms.

So, with all this in mind, let’s take a look at two successful examples of airline loyalty programmes, and see what we can glean from their efforts.

United Mileageplus

United MileagePlus is United Airlines' official frequent flyer loyalty programme, and with over 100 million members, it is one of the largest loyalty programmes on the planet. The scheme works by awarding points to members based on the number of miles in the air they accrue over many journeys, as well as through methods such as credit card spending, shopping, and dining. These points can then be redeemed for free travel on other United Airlines flights or flights offered by their partners.

Mileageplus also offers members the chance to move up the ranks in their tier-based loyalty rankings: progressing from Premier Silver, to Gold, Platinum, and finally, the coveted Premier 1K —all by meeting specific point thresholds. Attaining this elite status unlocks even more benefits, such as upgrades, preferred and Economy Plus seating, priority boarding, and free checked bags.

Emirates Skywards

The official loyalty programme of Emirates is definitely an attractive proposition for all those frequent travellers who appreciate luxury — which the airline certainly has a reputation for! Emirates rewards its members by offering them co-branded credit cards to help them earn points through spending.

Similarly to United, the Emirates Skywards also offers travellers the option to accrue points through air miles, which can then be redeemed at a later date to acquire free flights down the line. However, unlike US Airlines, these points are calculated not through the price spent on the ticket itself, but based on the actual distance flown and the fare class — meaning that first-class passengers will be earning themselves more points than economy fliers.

In addition to all this, Emirates also offers members a tier-based rewards system; going from ‘blue’ (general members) all the way up to ‘platinum’ for the cream of the crop. These elite members receive bonuses like complimentary lounge access, priority check-in, guaranteed seats on full flights, priority baggage delivery, and first-class lounge access, depending on their ranking. Each tier also comes with a mileage bonus, meaning that members earn even more bonus points per mile based on their ranking.


Singapore Airlines’ loyalty programme, known as ‘KrisFlyer,’ also allows its members to earn points and access rewards by spending money on co-branded credit cards and attaining air miles, as well as by spending money through its partners.

This means that members will be able to attain more points as they spend by hiring cars from certain companies, staying in particular hotel chains, and even eating out in partnered restaurants. This, in turn, will allow them to access even more rewards from the airline in due course.

Singapore Airlines has made it even easier for members to access these rewards by creating its own app, Kris+. This wallet is designed to streamline purchasing products on flights and at airports, giving members even more visibility over the points they have attained over time.

Future Platforms: Helping You Craft the Best Airline Loyalty Programmes

Are you an airline looking to create or revamp your own loyalty programme? If so, we could be the perfect partner to deliver a programme that competes with the very best. Future Platforms boasts an experienced team of developers, who all understand the key elements that your membership programmes need to ensure it helps build customer loyalty among the frequent flyers you want to keep close.

So, if you’d like to know more about how we can help, contact our team today.