EasyJet looks for loyalty boost with launch of ‘frequent flyer’ scheme

EasyJet is hoping to drive up passenger loyalty with the trial of a frequent flyer scheme that will reward its most regular passengers.

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The test, which is running in the UK, France and Switzerland, involves more than 15,000 passengers. The airline claims early response to the programme is positive, with 91% of the trial group saying it is “appealing”.

Unlike traditional airline loyalty schemes, which typically use miles travelled to offer customers points, easyJet’s programme offers participants benefits including increased flexibility on bookings, a price guarantee and a dedicated phone number.

“This is a loyalty programme that is about making travel easier and benefitting people that are already using us. It is not about free flights and it’s not administratively complicated, it’s very easy to run,” said easyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall, speaking on a call this morning (18 November) following the airline’s full-year results announcement.

The move comes after easyJet reported an increase in the proportion of bookings made by existing customers to 57%, up from 50% in 2010. That equates to 37 million passengers rebooking with the airline every year, up from 25 million four years.

For business passengers that number is even higher – at 62%. McCall credits initiatives such as allocated seating, its “Plus” scheme that offers customers benefits such as unlimited allocated seat choice and speedy boarding and its participation in loyalty schemes from RBS, Emirates and Nectar for the boost to repeat custom.

She added: “More customers are trying us, liking us and coming back to us. We are absolutely focused on driving loyalty so they choose us flight after flight.”

Digital innovations

EasyJet says it is looking to build on the growing popularity of its mobile app, which has now been downloaded 10 million times and which accounts for 35% of digital traffic. It claims to be the first airline to feature a real-time map of where its planes are in Europe and is trialling iBeacon technology to understand “how best it can be used for the good of passengers”.

On its website, the airline is planning a raft of improvements including a low fare finder and versions of its website in Hebrew and Chinese. Low cost competitor Ryanair recently announced plans for its own flight comparison feature.

“We want to make travel easy and affordable,” said McCall.

Opening up “clear blue sky” with competitors

EasyJet’s profits rose sharply in the full year to the end of September, up 21.5% to £581m, a record profit for the fourth year in a row. Passenger numbers were up 7% to 64.8 million while load factor, a measure of how full its planes are, increased to 91%, up by 1.3%.

McCall says EasyJet has opened up “clear blue sky” between itself and its competitors – both legacy and low cost – citing its route network, great value fares and friendly service. EasyJet also has a strong and well known brand with an improving reputation, with the number of people that would consider flying with the airline increasing in key markets including London, Milan and Rome, she adds.

However, it is facing increased competition from both traditional rivals moving into the low-cost sector and Ryanair, which is focused on improving its customer service. It has recently introduced allocated seating and a business option and plans to launch its own loyalty programme.

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