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Miles and Points Devaluations

Let’s get it straight. Brands get it wrong all the time. The travel industry is no different. Loyalty programs undergo changes. Miles and points get devalued. It’s not always due to perfidy or malice, but also the compulsions of running a business in the midst of tough competition. Loyalty programs have been changing left, right and center. Whenever a company thinks that their loyalty program is making them lose money or not making them enough money, they ring in the changes.

Reporting the Changes

Conveying bad news is always one of the toughest things to get across. You may be the most skilled spokesperson or PR person out there, but there’s always a fear of backlash. In the age of social media, that fear of backlash is only amplified further.

Word Play

a close up of a microphone

Tell us what the changes are in simple language (Image Credit: Unsplash)

Euphemisms are always used in order to communicate the bad news. When brands go even further, they try to spin a bad news as a good news. Let’s start with the basics with a look at the Oxford dictionary’s definition.

A mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.

Actual Examples

a man holding a stack of papers

The purpose here is to highlight specific words or phrases that clearly show how bad news about an upcoming devaluation is communicated with customers. The goal here is to help you identify these words the next time a program announces ‘changes’. Let’s have a look at some of the commonly used words brand that recently devalued. I’ve added reference links for each one of the programs so that you can view the actual document or press release.

United: The first sentence makes you feel good, the second one makes you sad.

We’re introducing a broader range of award prices. For flights on or after November 15, 2019, we’ll no longer publish an award chart listing the set amount of miles needed for each flight.

Hertz: They use the good ole tried and tested ‘enhancements’ word to mask a devaluation.

SPG/Bonvoy: The less said the better. Marriott touted how great things would be once you merge your SPG account with Marriott. We all know Bonvoy turned out.

Combining gives you one powerful account with the new Marriott Bonvoy – a single place for tracking your status, points and upcoming stays – plus booking, earning and redeeming at all hotels across our participating brands. And you just may achieve a new Elite status!

Lufthansa: This statement probably was the most open and direct in terms of communication style. This is the very first bullet point.

Going forward, the assignment of award miles will be based on the price of the flight

Starbucks: Ah, that word enhancement, right in the headline!

Starbucks to enhance industry-leading Starbucks Rewards loyalty program.

The Pundit’s Mantra

Do you think that brands should be more upfront in just things the way they are instead of wanting us to sift through the details each time? How about a press release with this headline the next time an airline devalues its miles: “Economy award tickets are getting cheaper, but business/first is getting expensive.”

Enhancements, improvements, ‘dynamic’ pricing, additions, more options, more choices, or just changes. Which other words come to your mind when you think about loyalty programs being sneaky about telling the truth about award chart devaluations? The next time you see one of these words, just beware that bad news may be on the way.

Let us know what you think in the comments section. Would better and upfront communication of these changes help these brands earn your trust?

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