After recently making a frequent flyer booking with Air New Zealand it occurred to me how much thinking the company had put into its processes to make it user friendly. I also belong to a couple of other frequent flyer programme, but rarely use these airlines now as the system they use for redeeming points is purposely murky.
So how has Air New Zealand developed innovation around a fairly standard set of automated processes?
1. You do not get points for your flights, you get Airpoints ‘dollars.’ You can easily find out how many dollars you get for each flight.
2. The balance of your frequent flyer account is in these Airpoints dollars.
3. You can redeem these dollars for seats on any flight at any time. There are no obscure rules about the number of seats allocated to frequent flyers, the classes of seats or when you can fly. It’s very simple – if there is a seat available on the flight you can book it with your Airpoints dollars.
4. When you book online you can choose to pay with ‘real’ dollars, or your Airpoints dollars.
When you think about it the innovation seems quite minor. However it makes for a great user experience, and its very easy to understand.
A friend in the airline industry tells me that airlines prefer to have frequent flyers using their points in a downturn, but when business is booming – like right now – they’d rather have fee paying customers. Because of this any system that helps people make use of their points is generally shunned by airlines, and that also means that other airlines will probably not adopt similar systems.
In the meantime however I’ll be making as many international flights as possible on Air New Zealand.