Study: Airline Loyalty Program Fliers Not So Loyal

NEW YORK (AP) -

It turns out that members of airline loyalty programs might not be so loyal after all.

Since American Airlines launched AAdvantage in the early 1980s, it’s been assumed that such frequent-flier programs keep customers coming back to the same airline, trip after trip.

But a new study from Deloitte & Touche LLP found that about three-fourths of high-frequency business travelers — the most lucrative kind to airlines — belong to more than one program. And only 40 percent of business travelers log at least three-quarters of their miles on their preferred airline. Many will book another airline even if it means abandoning a program in which they’ve earned elite status.

“Our findings strongly suggest that the state of airline loyalty is less than what carriers would like it to be,” said Adam Weissenberg, vice chairman of Deloitte’s travel-business consulting office. He said airlines need to do a better job of tailoring programs to the needs of individual passengers.

Deloitte said it based its findings on a survey of 4,000 travelers and focus groups with business and leisure travelers.