Air Canada’s Aeroplan adventures show that loyalty is still appreciated; new programme now has benefit of being designed to better support the airline’s Covid transformation
The story of Air Canada and its Aeroplan loyalty programme is a long one that dates back to 1984 when it first launched the loyalty business as an incentive for its frequent flyers. Now, more than 35 years later it is again ‘launching’ the transformed programme and highlighting that loyalty still has an important part to play in the airline sector.
Marketers love terms like ‘reimagined’, ‘inspiring’, ‘pioneering’ and ‘gamechanging’, but for Air Canada it is not a simple update to the programme, rather a complete relaunch. This is due to the fact that after Aeroplan was spun off as a wholly owned subsidiary of Air Canada back in 2002, it was actually sold to Aimia some years later.
It was in May-2017 that Air Canada said it would launch its own, new loyalty programme and almost exactly two years ago since it revealed intention to buy its old programme back in a deal worth USD450 million, almost double the original sale price of USD250 million some ten years earlier. This was agreed in Nov-2018 and concluded in Jan-2019 with the promise of an “industry-leading loyalty programme” that aims to provide “unmatched flexibility, choice and convenience” for customers.
The traveller landscape may have changed and corporate traveller preferences are also expected to be different in the ‘new normal’. But what will that mean for brand loyalty? There had been growing voices suggesting that the days of customer loyalty are long behind us as experiences have overtaken it in the minds of a new generation of traveller. It appears though that they may simply have transitioned and just as consumers are changing, so are loyalty programmes as they evolve to a customer demographic and market environment.
There may have been a clear seismic shift in interest in loyalty programmes over the past decade, but suggestions of their death have been rather premature. Demise, perhaps? But even then, they still play a vital role for retailers. From their humble beginnings as tactical marketing programmes, in the airline sector these loyalty programmes have evolved into business and economic powerhouses of industry.
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