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Charting a Course for Renewed Airline Consumer Loyalty

Rising above the clouds


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Deloitte’s Travel, Hospitality, and Leisure practice is pleased to announce our new report, Rising above the Clouds: Charting a course for renewed airline consumer loyalty. In this report, we explore the state of loyalty in the airline sector.

Our findings suggest that an undifferentiated one-size-fits-all approach to loyalty improvement will seldom be fully successful because no two travel cohorts—and no two individual travelers—are identical in what matters to them in the air travel experience, airline loyalty programs, and the manner in which they prefer to engage and be engaged. Yet, despite this outlook of concern—or perhaps because of it—airlines have a unique opportunity to distinguish their brands in an effort to build a truly loyal consumer base.

Charting a course for renewed airline consumer loyalty

Specifically our research uncovered a number of findings that should give airlines pause:

Airline loyalty programs fail to engage

Loyalty program members are far from loyal and airline loyalty programs fall short in achieving their objectives—particularly among high-margin business and high-frequency travelers.

  • 44 percent of business travelers and a remarkable 72 percent of high-frequency business travelers participate in two or more airline loyalty programs
  • Two thirds of overall respondents were at least open toward switching to a competing loyalty program even after achieving highest status level
Loyalty programs matter more to some travelers than to others

Overall respondents ranked loyalty programs as only the 19th most important airline experience attribute (out of 26 attributes). However, high frequency business travelers ranked loyalty programs second, even higher than safety.

Passengers plan and book in different ways

Our research reveals significant differences in travelers’ booking/planning behaviors and engagement preferences. These differences underscore the need for differentiated, targeted approaches to building loyalty and customer engagement.

Airlines need champions

Put simply, the flying passenger has the potential to serve as an airline’s most effective marketing tool. Yet, our research shows that only 38 percent of survey respondents responded positively when asked whether they would serve as a brand ambassador.

Download the report and survey charts from the top of this page to learn more.

About the research study

Our research is based on an overall survey of over 2,500 respondents who took at least one flight over a twelve month period and two focus groups with business and leisure travelers. This research has given us deep insights into air travelers' behaviors, attitudes, and engagement preferences.

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