Dear Jane Customer, It has been nice knowing you.

Dear Jane,

We value you as a customer, but you don’t provide enough business to justify the few bytes your information occupies on our server. We are providing this opportunity for you to keep your frequent flyer miles. Since you haven’t flown with us for a while, you have 30 days to use the travel miles you have earned.

If you don’t use the points within the deadline, you will be allowed to purchase them back at a rate that costs as much or more than a full price ticket to some destinations.

Sincerely,

Your Airline Friends

Maybe I’m wrong, but aren’t frequent flyer programs supposed to encourage customer loyalty? Airlines and other companies expect customers to be faithful and choose their services over the competition, because they provide an opportunity for free flight. Then, they change the rules at their discretion. Loyalty, between company and customer, is a two way street. It requires both parties to be committed to each other.

Airlines are altering their frequent flier programs to offset high fuel prices. It may be a good decision from a short-term, bean counter point of view, but the backdraft may torch future growth. An article in the Wall Street Journal quotes Scott Kirby, President of US Airways as saying, “I wish it wasn’t the kind of decision we felt we had to make,” but the changes and fees “are necessary realities of $125-a-barrel oil.”

His point about changing the frequent flyer program due to high fuel charges doesn’t make much sense to me. They were making changes before oil hit $100 a barrel.

Last year, I received a “Dear Jane” letter from US Airways. The wording was much nicer, but the message was the same as my sample above. It was extortion. “If you don’t use your points or add to them, we will take them away from you.”

Long before frequent flyer miles, Piedmont Airlines was my company of choice. When the airline became part of the US Airway family, I continued to use their services. My experiences were usually pleasant when I traveled with them.

When I moved to Atlanta, the convenience of flying Delta with direct flights reduced my flying time with US Airways. Upon my return to NC, I renewed our relationship. My experiences were not pleasant. Delta became my first choice with US Airways a distant second.

After receiving my Dear Jane letter, I reviewed my options. I needed to schedule a flight, so I thought that I might as well use US Airways. I didn’t have enough points for a free ticket. Purchasing the additional points cost almost as much as buying a discount coach ticket. I considered transferring them to a family member. The cost was prohibitive, so I didn’t do anything. True to the letter I received, my points went away, but their marketing didn’t stop there.

Adding insult to injury, they sent me their monthly newsletter, reminding me that I had zero miles, until I unsubscribed. It appears that while it was too expensive to keep my miles on their server, my contact information doesn’t take as much space. Since US Airways is now my last choice, I wonder how marketing to alienated customers is working for them. If someone can explain their marketing strategy, please share.

Have a great week!

Debra



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