In the world of travel rewards programs, partners come and partners go.
As a top-of-the-news example, Continentalwas buddy-buddy with Delta until late last year, offering reciprocal requent flyer benefits and co-participating in the SkyTeam global irline alliance.
Today, Continental is a member of a competing alliance, the Star Alliance, and is in the process of merging with United.
While that represents a shift of monumental proportions, it’s not a urprising development, given the history and business trajectories of he airlines involved.
For a surprising change, consider the following email message sent on April 30 to members of American’s AAdvantage program:
We would like to provide you with an important update to the merican Airlines AAdvantage program. Effective July 1, 2010, the arriott Rewards program will no longer offer AAdvantage miles for tays at Marriott hotels.
All qualifying stays at participating properties completed by une 30, 2010, will be eligible to earn AAdvantage miles. It is also mportant to note the final date to convert your Marriott Rewards oints to AAdvantage miles will be June 30, 2010.
The loyalty programs of American and Marriott are two of the industry’s oldest and most popular. They’ve been linked since the earliest days of travel rewards programs.
And that relationship is part of what makes both programs valuable for their members.
It follows that severing that tie will have an adverse effect on the alue of many program members’ miles and points. At a minimum, they are wed an explanation, not just an apology.
With that in mind, I sent the following query to both American and Marriott:
Would it be possible to get the real story behind the upcoming American-Marriott loyalty program break-up?
This is a serious blow to many of your customers, and they eserve better than the generic responses they’ve been getting through ormal customer service channels of communication.
Predictably, the real story was not forthcoming. American responded as follows:
It was a decision Marriott made not to renew its partnership. As ou know, some partners join the AAdvantage program and some decide hat it is time to part ways.
My best guess is that Marriott is unwilling to pay what American elt was a fair price for its AAdvantage miles. But had American upped ts prices? Was Marriott simply unwilling to extend the agreement at he old prices? Does this portend other airline-hotel break-ups? All we an do is speculate.
Whatever the back story, this is a lose-lose-lose situation. Two ood programs will be worse for the change. And their customers’ best nterests have been kicked to the curb.
You’ve heard of marriage refs? What’s needed here is a loyalty rogram ref, to keep both sides at the negotiating table until their ifferences are resolved.
In the meantime, the two companies could work together to provide heir loyal customers with a real explanation of their current ifficulties. Who knows, it might be the beginning of a great elationship.