Over my 16 yrs as Gold Member of SAS Scandinavian Airlines Eurobonus, I have been Gold Member of Star Alliance for years, too. Eurobonus just celebrates it’s 20th Anniversary, Star Alliance has been voted to be the Airline Alliance in the World. So we’d have a good basis for some chat.
The idea of Airline Alliance, at least from the passenger’s point of view, is mostly based on smooth transfers, easy connections, good synchronized schedules and most of all, recognized membership and status among the member airlines. That’s also the marketing message alliances are using when selling their concept to us, the ones flying and supporting their business, the ones called sometimes as customers. And over the years it has been like that, in most of the cases I would say. But I have pretty recent experience that the world of airlines is getting crazy, also when it comes to those alliances. Well, it’s not a surprise, right?
Despite the Alliance, almost every Member Airline seems to value their own members higher than the members of their partners – and that’s definitely kind of normal human behaviour, we like our family members or friends more than people we don’t really know. However, inside an airline alliance that’s pretty strange strategy leaving us, the ones who pay for their fun, with rules nobody can follow.
I’ve plenty of experience of that, just using few examples; With any problems on Lufthansa flight, their own members get the real advantage compared other Star Alliance partners. What ever happens linked to United flights, they take good care of their own members and after that, eventually you might say, pay attention to other Gold Members. Exception is SAS, Scandinavian Airlines, whos’s staff give always so good service to every foreigner, especially Americans, since it’s still so strange someone really travels to Scandinavia! And it’s not only Star Alliance, the Finnish (soon Norwegian, I guess) airline Finnair is especially good to give service to English speaking foreigners who simply can’t understand any bad experience someone i.e. a Finn had.
Anyway, Dear Star Alliance Executives, this has happened so often recently that it’s not accidently - it’s a major attitude. Or lack of attitude, frankly. Some of the Star Alliance airlines are not even giving free internet access at their lounges to others than their own members! I’d call that as Maximum Level of Non-Existing Customer Recognition. Or Stupidity of an Alliance. Or just stupid.
So, what’s the point to be member of an Airline Alliance if you get better advantages as a member of each airline’s loyalty program separately? Accessing a lounge is certainly nice but there are plenty of lounges you will have access without such an airline based membership. And if you fly business or first class, you will have the access to those lounges despite your membership card. Using mileages for free rides is also nice but every time you try to use any, those limited seats available for free mileage based traveling are already full-booked. So stupid, really. And still we go and fly. Maybe we are the only stupid ones in this story?
But this is all about customer recognition. If you value your own members higher than your alliance members, you just don’t care about customer recognition. You don’t even bother to know who is supporting your business and that usually means the end of your business. Which is pretty common status among the airlines right now. And then we could just throw away the whole beautiful concept of friendly airline alliance, couldn’t we? Sorry to say, what’s the point of being an Alliance Member if that Alliance is only done for marketing purposes?
Dear Star Alliance Executives, I give you a free a tip; go back in time. Go back in time up to the point when you were wondering what will happen with your business. Back to time when most of the people were too scary to fly because of the disaster of 9/11. Go back in time when you saw some value of your customers. Go back in time when times were actually so good that you made that decisions to create a beautiful alliance in the first place and show you do recognize the value of loyalty. Because that was the time when you really recognized the people supporting your business, nowadays it is just words the flight attendants give over the in-flight PA-system. And honestly, every award the airlines are voting for themselves might be a great ego-booster internally but we, your customers, simply value the real service, not the trophys.
Without customer recognition you are selling seats of a transport vehicle valued like the low-budget airlines are doing, and I don’t think Star Alliance is designed for that. And you are still having plenty of customers willing to pay thousands of Euros for their tickets - despite all the wonderful marketing you do targeting the new, smart, beautiful, dynamic, young, cosmopolitan, international potential customers willing to travel for free, frankly. But hey, you don’t need to market yourself to us anymore, right?
But we all know it’s not the different operational model that creates new low-budget airlines; it’s the fixed models more traditional ones can’t get out! Even that you surely would like to.
Cheers for customer recognition! More to come.