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Have Loyalty Programs Made Airlines Complacent About Customer Service?

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If you show your loyalty to an airline by continually flying that carrier (and maybe using their co-branded credit card), you might expect that this would result in better customer service. However, one top airline executive thinks the industry’s reliance on loyalty rewards programs are actually making customer service more impersonal.

JetBlue chairman Joel Peterson tells MarketWatch Sector Watch that while airline loyalty programs are a nice way to show customers the company has their back, they may have led carriers to become complacent.

“People look for fast turnaround times, getting people on and off planes, and they sometimes forget customers,” Peterson said.

With most loyalty programs, customers can earn or purchase miles to be used for toward trips, upgrades, or non-airline related products.

READ MORE: Loyalty Programs Make More Money For Airlines Than Ticket Sales

While these are nice perks for staying loyal to a carrier, they’re also a bit impersonal and have less to do with how an airline actually treats a customer and more to do with how much money is changing hands.

“In the airline industry people buy loyalty by point systems,” Peterson said. “These loyalty programs are very powerful, and I think in some ways it has made us lazy, because we don’t have to delight customers all the time.”

Peterson didn’t provide specific ideas for how the airline industry could better delight customers, but he did note that many customers are not seeking out the no-frills travel experience thanks to lower prices on these carriers. So, may be it all does come down to numbers… the number of bills left in your wallet.

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