Hayden Donnell reports at NZ Herald:
Air New Zealand is being accused of driving away its most loyal customers with a recent overhaul of its air points rewards system.
In changes set to kick in on May 30, frequent flyers using their Airpoints to book flights on the national carrier will have to bid against each other to get seat upgrades.
Bids can only be placed a week or more out from a flight, with the airline telling people whether their offer has been accepted between three and seven days before departure.
Under the airline’s previous system, Airpoints users could a get an upgrade if they paid a fixed price before a flight and a seat was available.
The changes have sparked outrage among frequent flyers, with many threatening to shift their support to rival airlines.
And I am one of them. This is the last straw. I spend a huge amount flying with Air New Zealand – both domestically and internationally. Due to their loyalty programme, I always try to book Air NZ – even if not the cheapest option. Hence I have been Gold Elite or Gold for the last decade or so.
Over that time Air NZ has continually downgraded the value of their airpoints and loyalty programme. Time after time after time they have degraded it. However there was one aspect left that made it worth staying on for – long haul upgrades.
I can not afford to pay more higher than economy class to travel overseas. However I regularly use airpoints to purchase upgrades so that I can escape cattle class. Now Air NZ is destroying the benefits of having gold status with them.
I’m a member of Qantas also, but at the lowest tier level. I’m now going to make Qantas my priority airline for bookings, unless Air NZ gives frequent flyers an incentive to use them. Business class travel is quite simply unaffordable for people who pay for their own travel (unless very well off), and frequent flyer points have been the only way that it becomes affordable.
Despite that, entrepreneur Ben Kepes said Australian airline Qantas could capitalise on the discontent created by the changes to spark an exodus of Air New Zealand frequent flyers.
The self-described “Air New Zealand evangelist” said the way the OneUp system had been implemented diminished his view of the carrier.
“It’s definitely left a bad taste in my mouth.
“It’s a bad look when people are starting to say ‘what are my options with other airlines?’…I would be surprised if there wasn’t a mass exodus from Air New Zealand.”
Mr Kepes said the bidding system would add unnecessary stress to frequent flyers’ seat upgrade applications.
He claimed the changes compromised Air New Zealand’s reputation for great service to high value customers.
It is a pity. The staff are great, and are excellent ambassadors for the airline. It is the company letting them down.