A recent study showed the number of 2022 air passengers increased by roughly 47 per cent compared to the previous year. This is great news for airlines, whose bottom line deteriorated during global lockdowns and pandemic restrictions.
Many are now upping the ante on their loyalty programmes to attract a wider range of clientele — even those who aren’t regular travellers — and to supply winning, timely experiences that consumers and business travellers now expect.
Our latest study investigates the quality of these programmes by ranking 59 different customer loyalty schemes and the airlines that provide them from best to worst.
To accomplish this, we standardised the latest available data for each loyalty scheme in relevant categories like ‘average monthly Google searches’, ‘points expiry’, ‘lounge reviews’ and ‘minimum leg room’, resulting in an overall score out of ten.
Of the 59 loyalty schemes analysed, MileagePlus with United Airlines is in first position with an overall scheme score of 7.85/10. Despite its recent price increases on all tickets to Europe, MileagePlus still has a plethora of ways to earn and redeem miles for the best value of all the airlines studied. The scheme’s popularity is evidenced by over 100 million members and is well-known for its lucrative travel credit card offers.
MileagePlus has the highest positive score for points expiry (10), as points on the scheme have no expiry date. It also receives a near perfect score for the number of destinations (9.75) it flies to, which is an impressive 342. The scheme also has one of the highest scores for legroom, with passengers being treated to a generous 75 inches to stretch their legs during a long-haul flight (9.22).
In second position is the Aeroplan scheme from Air Canada (overall score of 6.53). It regularly offers unique ways for members to earn points, with the company’s latest partnership enabling members to earn points by linking their account with their Uber/Uber Eats account in Canada.
The Aeroplan loyalty programme also recently had the best showing in its history at the 32nd annual Freddie Awards, as it was named Airline Programme of the Year, and won Best Promotion and Best Redemption Ability.
In our study, it has one of the highest global average monthly Google search volume score of all the airlines studied (8.18), with over 368,000 monthly searches.
It also scores positively in the lounge reviews category (7) and provides the same generous leg room as MileagePlus. However, it misses out on the top spot due to a low points expiry (0.25) timeframe of only 18 months, and a lower number of destination options (222 in total, giving a score of 5.97).
Completing the top three best loyalty programmes is Miles & Smiles with Turkish Airlines (overall score of 6.23). It has the best lounge review score of the top three airlines (8.57) but loses points because of its limited points expiry of only 36 months. It also has significantly less leg room than the top two airlines with just 60 inches available (scoring 6.27).
The loyalty programme with the poorest rating is Free Spirit (overall scheme score of 0.73) with Spirit Airlines. This might not come as a surprise as a recent survey asked which major U.S.-based carriers Americans would avoid flying with; Spirit Airlines had the dubious honour of finishing first with 21 percent of the votes. Spirit was also voted lowest in passenger satisfaction in the 2023 American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Free Spirit receives low scores in all categories, with the poorest being 0 for the points expiry category, as they are only valid for 12 months. It also only receives a score of 1.2 out of 5 for its airline Trustpilot score and flies to just 83 destinations.
Volare (overall score 0.86) with ITA Airways and myFrontier (overall score 0.88) with Frontier Airlines complete the bottom three.
The wide variety of loyalty schemes available for travellers is positive to see, particularly in the wake of the pandemic as the industry starts to recover. We hope to see lots of exciting innovations and extras added to these programmes over the coming months as airlines entice travellers to continue booking trips abroad.
This will hopefully make flying even more memorable and pleasurable for travellers, regardless of whether they are on a business trip or heading off on vacation. On top of this, the team at Good Travel Management provide bespoke travel management services to take the stress out of your next business trip.
Good Travel Management used On Point Loyalty’s 2023 report to identify the top 59 most valuable airline loyalty programs globally, which we ranked across six data points:
- Average monthly Google searches globally, identified using Google Keyword Planner.
- Points expiry identified using a combination of statistics from PointHacks, Nerdwallet and desktop research – if points had no expiration, they were assigned 250 months.
- Number of destinations, identified by airline websites and Wikipedia.
- Lounge review score, taken from Airline Quality’s list of user-submitted review scores.
- Airline Trustpilot score.
- Minimum legroom for long-haul business class travel or equivalent, identified using a combination of airline websites and review sites.
Where multiple airlines operate under the same programme, we have used the statistics for the largest of these airlines to reflect the group. This is indicated by a * in the top ten table.
These datapoints were normalised to give each scheme a score between zero and ten for every metric. Each metric was weighted according to perceived importance in the index, and an overall score was calculated.