How the mobile digital arena can help airline loyalty programmes

By 2017 more than 10% of the airline industry’s revenue will be generated via the mobile channel, this adds up to 70 billion dollars of revenue (Johnson, 2016). Airline loyalty programmes could be a big part of this if airlines choose to adapt and stay up to date with the newest technology. Rewards programmes should be made available on all mobile devices: from smartphones to smartwatches, to stay ahead of the competition.

The fact that global mobile sales are rising (in the UK the percentage of mobile sales went up by 57% in one year), means that companies are forced to offer their loyalty programmes on mobile devices. When mobile rewards programmes are offered, airline businesses will be able to acquire new customers and make sure the investments they made in their expensive loyalty databases will not go to waste. Setting up these mobile apps or websites also has the ‘stream of data’ as a benefit: airlines will be able to capture information like spending behavior, travel patterns and much more.

Airline customers will now also be able to access their membership platform wherever they are, which also makes the experience more personal. The apps will allow airlines to start targeting their customers at the right moment, when they need it. Ben Perkins, the head from consulting firm Deloitte, said that this is one of the biggest advantages, since consumers will react way better to this than coupons they receive at a random moment. The apps will also make it easier to engage with (potential) customers, since airlines will be able to offer other handy services like early check-ins and flight information. The rewards function of the app could even be presented like a secondary function of the app, to attract customers easier, according to the head of Capgemini Alex Smith-Bingham (Pritchard, 2015).

One example of an ‘early adaptor’ airline is United, who launched their MileagePlus X app two years ago. The app allowed their customers to pay directly for a range of products from a list of companies and collect bonus miles at the same time. It marked a new era for airline loyalty programmes, since before the app, these airline rewards were only offered through credit card or travel companies (Barris, 2015).

Despite this example and the promising benefits of airline loyalty programmes, the impacts are still limited right now. Airline loyalty apps have a great potential, but are not fully optimized yet and customers do not use them often enough to really make a difference. The only airline apps that are really popular are the ones that offer much needed services like mobile boarding passes and baggage options, apps that only offer promotional options will not gain that kind of popularity. Airline companies should look at implementing location and payment technologies to get to know their customers better. The head of Deloitte states that “the massive increase in mobile payments offers a real point of differentiation of mobile loyalty, you can make a promotion instant and context relevant, and not just based on previous purchasing behaviour.” (Pritchard, 2015)

Author: Eva Manrique

Barris. (December 2015). Mobile Rewards Will Buy Loyalty Airlines Discover. Retrieved on October 10, 2016 from

Johnson. (2016). Must Know Mobile Marketing Strategies For Airlines. Retrieved on October 10, 2016 from

Pritchard. (September 2015). Loyalty Must Keep Pace With Mobile. Retrieved on October 10, 2016 from


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