What a horrible way to wake up to see my twitter feed ablaze with flyers’ gut wrenching reactions to the beyond shameless devaluation of the Alaska Air loyalty program (see Gary’s post from A View From The Wing if you missed it). If you trust a word Alaska tells you from this day forward you are a fool.
Loyalty programs are truly unique. They, traditionally, have driven consumer behavior to fly and buy and act in a way that is focused toward a travel goal or dream vacation. Often it takes YEARS to save up enough points to take that trip. Thus, the absolute worst thing an airline can do is devalue a program with ZERO notice – this is exactly what Alaska has done today!
Here is why this is so unforgivable and so much worse that what other airlines have done (even worse than Delta). By simply dumping the change we have no time to do what it takes to lock in what was promised before. Some may have even gone so far as to buy points or transfer points from other programs to have a balance large enough to redeem an award (and are waiting for the points to post). Now you don’t have enough as the cost may have doubled overnight.
Why is this so much worse than Delta? Delta also makes unannounced changes over and over to SkyMiles and tells no one. We have to find them. The ONLY thing that they (as of late) do that is slightly less unforgivable than what Alaska has done is they have a date when the changes begin. So, as long as you can book your trip before whatever that date is you can still get in at the lower level.
American this month also devalued their program but they have set the gold standard for these kinds of changes. They announce the changes and give you up to some date to book at the lower level for travel up to a year (or there about) forward. This builds trust that you can save your points and spend them at the current published levels.
Personally I feel what Alaska has done is un-repairable and trust has been destroyed. A move like they have done today is so much more shameful than anything the other MAJOR airlines have done or would do. Even if they promise NOT to do something like this again it would be a hollow promise that is not to be believed. If they are capable of this once, they are capable of doing it again or even worse.
Before you say anything YES airlines have the right to do anything they want with their frequent flyer programs. They can do disgusting and shocking trust destroying actions like Alaska has done today but as MJ on Travel said on twitter, “The fact that you don’t have to give notice does not mean you shouldn’t.” And folks, that is the rub of it all from a blogger who is more focused on industry than points. Airline funny money or award points only have “value” if people trust they are worth something. If they can be cut in half overnight, time to put your loyalty “money” elsewhere.
The first thing I did today is call Bank of America and cancel my Alaska Airline travel card since my points are really worth half what they were yesterday. Are you going to join me? – René