Airline Loyalty Becomes a Multi-Billion Dollar Club

Apr 16, 2024

CarTrawler sponsored research explores the jumbo economics of loyalty programmes across nine airline companies; Air Canada, Alaska, American, Delta, IAG, JetBlue, Qantas, Southwest, and United.

Dublin, Ireland & Shorewood, Wisconsin, 16 April 2024: Co-branded credit cards deliver wheelbarrows of money for some airlines. The latest IdeaWorksCompany report explores how this has transformed frequent flyer programmes (FFPs) and contemplates the effect upon customer loyalty. Many airlines have shifted from sole reliance on behavioural loyalty, which relies upon a customer’s expectations for service and quality. Carriers now embrace transactional loyalty which emphasises exchange relationships where something is given and something is received. The report advises caution about over-reliance on the co-branding bounty and suggests focusing more on the overall customer experience. 

Airline Loyalty Becomes a Billion Dollar Club was issued today as a 16-page report. It describes how airline FFPs generate revenue in the billions and provides abundant analysis and research on the business of co-branded credit cards: 

  • Delta Air Lines, with 7.5 million SkyMiles credit cards, saw payments from American Express jump by 24% to $6.8 billion for 2023. 
  • IAG (British Airways and Iberia), navigated Europe’s prevalent merchant fee restrictions and achieved outstanding Avios partner revenue of £1 billion. 
  • Southwest generated more than 22% of its 2023 total revenue from its Rapid Rewards programme and Chase-issued credit card. 
  • Qantas achieved a revenue result of $96 per Frequent Flyer Programme member with help from nearly 40 credit card options available to consumers in Australia. 

In today’s aviation landscape, airlines are vying for price-conscious customers by providing greater rewards for their loyalty. The rise of ‘transactional loyalty’ – where passengers seek more incentives in exchange for their regular custom – has seen huge growth of frequent flyer programmes and co-branded credit cards, which have generated an incredible $30 billion in revenue for a selection of early adopting airlines.   

We understand that customers are seeking additional ways to spend their miles to gain value. This is why CarTrawler works with the world’s leading airlines to enhance their loyalty programmes by offering bespoke car rental earn & redeem functionality down to tier membership status and even fare class.

Aileen McCormack, Chief Commercial Officer at CarTrawler

Download the full report