Personalization, Web3, NFTs – how airline loyalty applications are evolving


New generations of vacationers displaying totally different behaviors alongside adjustments in how airways set loyalty program standing and a common lack of innovation have created a disconnect in expectations between carriers and customers.

Whereas some preserve there’s nothing unsuitable with loyalty applications – they continue to be a major income earner for airways, and vacationers love earnings factors – many agree it is time for a shake-up as a result of applications are not fostering the loyalty they as soon as did.

Analysis from Lufthansa Innovation Hub‘s TNMT revealed a decline in participation in frequent flyer applications. It factors to a research from Airport Dimensions that confirmed 52% of vacationers taking part in plans in 2023, down from 66% in 2019. 

Extra analysis from McKinsey cited by LIH revealed 30 trillion miles have been sitting in vacationers’ accounts unspent in 2018., a PhocusWire Hot 25 Startup for 2024, added that greater than $30 billion price of loyalty factors goes unspent yearly. 

The startup’s co-founder and CEO Adam Morvitz stated the offers accomplished between journey loyalty applications and monetary establishments reminiscent of banks and bank card firms have meant extra factors “in circulation than ever earlier than, clients are extra engaged and interested by discovering new manufacturers and applications, and there is huge alternative for savvy applications to capitalize on momentum.”

He added there must be growth of applications, not retractions.

The LIH research proposed loyalty applications transfer from being transactional and capable of have interaction vacationers solely throughout a number of touchpoints to one thing much more personalised that feeds into the post-pandemic demand for flexibility in addition to the rise of cohorts much less prone to connect themselves to a model. LIH quoted an OAG survey from earlier this 12 months that exposed 47% of millennials and 37% of Gen Z shifted their airline loyalty this 12 months in contrast with solely 23% of Gen X.


Why are loyalty applications not trying to different industries for inspiration?

Mark Ross-Smith – Loyalty Standing Co

The conclusion of the report, and one shared by different specialists in airline loyalty, is that airways ought to lengthen the journey providing past tickets to offer the personalization, engagement and adaptability that customers need.  

“Why are loyalty applications not trying to different industries for inspiration?” stated Mark Ross-Smith, CEO of Loyalty Status Co (previously StatusMatch). “I imagine there may be demand for nice merchandise [that] add worth to the lives of vacationers. Airline loyalty applications must get inventive, suppose like a traveler and begin offering extra worth past the standard mannequin of tiers, miles and lounges.”

The corporate, a PhocusWire Hot Startup for 2023, simply launched an airline loyalty standing subscription with Royal Air Maroc, and Ross-Smith described the uptake as “phenomenal and past what was anticipated.”

He believes innovation in airline loyalty is extra prone to come from startups and expertise distributors devising new digital merchandise than from carriers, and he’s inspired by different newbies within the sector.

“I am a brilliant fan of something startup on this house. I see alternatives for [and others] and personally prefer it as a result of it makes issues extra clear.”

Ross-Smith is much less a fan of airways branching out into extra way of life merchandise as a result of turning into extra lifestyle-focused to enchantment to rising generations may imply alienating core members. He additionally believes airline loyalty applications are profitable as a result of they supply one thing that exterior plans can not – entry to seat stock – which makes them aspirational.
“Ever discover how airline loyalty applications use aspirational imagery of their advertising?” he stated. “Unsure what aspirational imagery a financial institution would use to advertise their loyalty program.”

Morvitz agreed on the aspirational component and stated that in 2020 most customers determined to carry onto factors to redeem them for journey later versus exchanging them for one thing else.

Web3 however lose the NFT

One space being explored by quite a few airways and different firms that might spell innovation is whether or not Web3 functions may present elevated flexibility and extra attainable rewards for customers. Etihad Airways, for instance, just lately launched its newest 3D plane mannequin for its non-fungible token (NFT) collection. The service, in partnership with Crossmint and Arcube, permits NFT holders to entry Etihad rewards.

Uptrip, a collaboration between the Lufthansa Innovation Hub and Lufthansa’s Miles & Extra program, is one other instance. Passengers of Lufthansa Group airways can scan their boarding cross within the app and achieve NFT buying and selling playing cards. Collections of playing cards are redeemable for rewards reminiscent of lounge entry, upgrades or for standing and award miles. 

Some imagine airways can go quite a bit additional. Lin Dai, founder and chief govt of Superlogic (previously OneOf), an organization specializing in Web3 software program connecting bodily and digital worlds, stated the expertise permits firms to construct a one-to-one – and even one-to-many – relationship with customers by constructing a neighborhood. He stated whereas the common United States shopper is signed as much as about 20 loyalty applications, normally points-based, they take note of solely two or three.

“Packages are designed as a one-size matches all, it must be. The fact is I’ve these advantages, however I by no means use my Bloomingdales or Saks Fifth Avenue credit score. However what I really want after I journey with my household is a couple of cross for the lounge.”

He suggests somebody who’s a fan of Saks and never touring for the summer time may digitally commerce their cross for the buying credit score in a market. 

“Mainly, it is a Web3 powered loyalty program to permit user-to-user to self modify the rewards they care about. So there’s a self-optimized method that now you will have two actually completely happy members, every with a really personalised model of the rewards program but additionally engaged members, as a result of it’s very uncommon you get to, as a neighborhood, share advantages and work with a like-minded rewards members, in order that will increase loyalty past this system.”


For the applications and carriers, there’s additionally the chance of a shifting goal when it comes to NFT pricing and fluctuations.

Adam Morvitz –

Morvitz of, which needs to turn out to be the go-to loyalty administration platform for vacationers, stated, “There are some within the house who suppose NFTs will utterly rework all present loyalty applications. We consider it extra as an extra alternative and channel to interact with new and present members. For instance, frequent flyer standing and conventional factors/miles stay, however NFTs current alternatives to extend member (and new member) engagement and current them with gamification wins like lounge entry, standing and flight upgrades, and even factors (of their present kind). 

“Within the short-term, the chance may add extra confusion to an area the place many already wrestle and definitely some data of crypto is required to totally take benefit. For the applications and carriers, there’s additionally the chance of a shifting goal when it comes to NFT pricing and fluctuations.”

Quite a few journey firms together with Air Baltic, Travala, FlyCoin and United Airways have been early movers with NFT however to date they’ve didn’t make severe headway within the trade. Use cases proposed for travel two years in the past included loyalty, neighborhood constructing and for passports.

Dai, acknowledged that the broader makes use of case of 2021 round high-priced digital artwork put many customers off and added that to onboard thousands and thousands of customers, the expertise has to vanish.

The CEO of Superlogic, which works with quite a few massive bank card firms, believes that the way forward for airline loyalty goes past the one-size-fits-all mannequin to a personalised reward program.

“It’s very exhausting for this system, on the fly, to find out easy methods to personalize for every particular person consumer,” he stated. “So having a market dynamically powered by Web3 actually permits the member to self modify and optimize the worth. I feel that’s the place all the things goes to go.”

Whether or not by providing new digital merchandise, growth into way of life areas or exploration of Web3 applied sciences, some airways see the necessity for change. co-founder Tiffany Funk factors to Air Canada‘s Aeroplan program unveiled in 2020 “as a terrific instance of a built-from-scratch resolution for the trendy financial surroundings. By taking a look at every element of the loyalty program in a hyper-critical method, they’ve been capable of reset the levers of loyalty. Aeroplan is best capable of incentivize the behaviors that drive income for Air Canada, and clients are capable of be rewarded within the ways in which resonate most with them, which in fact then furthers that model affinity and loyalty.”

She added that different carriers are starting to include components of the Aeroplan program into their very own loyalty initiatives. 

Extra just lately, IAG Loyalty, this system for carriers together with British Airways and Iberia, partnered with JR Technologies to allow multi-product buying carts mixed with fee through loyalty factors and money.

The Aerostream expertise means vacationers can earn and redeem IAG forex Avios on every product within the buying cart, together with flights, lodges and ancillary merchandise.  

The airline loyalty panorama is altering to include flexibility and enhance choices, however innovation is prone to come at a gradual tempo. Suppose evolution somewhat than revolution.

Ross-Smith stated, “If we take a look at the final 5 years and use that because the information to attempt to predict the following 5 years – I’d say we’re screwed. The place is the innovation? The innovation is coming from suppliers and distributors, and never from throughout the airways themselves. This is because of airways having a tradition of risk-aversion and lack of expertise from different industries shifting into airways. Issues will transfer, however it is going to be gradual. I do suppose we are going to see somebody – possibly a more moderen airline, like Beond, PLAY or Alaska Air – take a brand new daring method to loyalty as a result of they don’t have anything to lose, and all the things to realize.” 

He urged high-tier members of loyalty applications outdoors journey, reminiscent of bank cards and stores, may very well be given related standing on airways.

“What if you happen to couldn’t earn gold airline standing but it surely needed to be pay as you go? What if a startup airline by no means created a loyalty program and as a substitute stated to passengers, ‘Present us your gold card with any competitor, and we’ll offer you gold advantages with our airline.’ There’s large alternative to do one thing totally different and probably make some huge cash. Apple thought totally different. Look the place it’s now.”

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