Quick background here: I wrote the below post back when Flying Blue announced the details of their new program, but then I deleted it, because I thought it was a little over-the-top, even for me. Flying Blue is back in the news lately now that they’ve released new information about the changes they’re making on the redemption side. As expected, they’re getting rid of award charts, which pretty much means that all bets are off in terms of how much awards are going to cost tomorrow, let alone a year from now. Anyway, reading about the changes reminded me how annoyed I am at them not only for their changes, but also for the disingenuous way they’re pitching those changes to their customers. It seemed like a good time to revisit my post from last fall, so with a few edits to rein it in a little, here you go…
This is a rant. If you want to read the specifics of how Lying Blue just sodomized the idea of a loyalty program with an iron rod, there are other sites that cover this in greater detail. I’m going to use this space to vent about how pissed off I am about their “enhancements.” Oh and to try to coin “Lying Blue.”
Maybe I shouldn’t be so upset. I mean, Lying Blue has never been a great program to begin with; between their fuel surcharges, phantom availability, buggy website, and overzealous fraud department, it was always kind of a pain in the ass to book tickets with them. And even in cases where everything went right (you were able to transfer in miles without your account getting shut down, the availability you found was real, etc.), there was still a 50% chance that the site would error out when you tried to confirm your purchase, requiring you to start over.
Here’s what bugs me so much, though – there’s clearly a marketing executive at Air France (unfairly or not, I associate all of these negative changes with Air France and not with my beloved KLM who would never do something like this to me) who read the word “millennial” in an industry whitepaper and decided that everything the airline did from this point on had to appeal to millennials in the most ham-handed way possible. First it was JOON, the astonishingly misguided airline for millennials… because nothing gives a millennial a fifteen foot boner like flight attendants wearing Keds. (In case you weren’t aware, I’m not being sarcastic. One of the things Joon touted when it launched was that flight attendants would wear Keds.) Seriously, dangle some Keds in front a millennial, and they will buy whatever you tell them to. Smear some avocado on there and you could convince them to go fight ISIS.
Cut to this week, when the revamped frequent flyer program they just unveiled just smacks of “well we have to figure out a way to appeal to millennials” — I mean, look at the stupid website they launched to try to convince you that the new program will be better, not worse:
Look at her – she’s using a tablet to book her flights. A tablet! She’s not going to tolerate some shitty loyalty program that requires her to use a… ugh… a computer. She may not even know what a computer is for chrissakes. Isn’t that what grandpa uses to do his crossword puzzles?
And that same annoying marketing executive went to some dumb industry conference where a bunch of MBAs talked about how millennials don’t want to be told what to do — they may want to use their miles for flights, but they may also want to use their miles for “experiencing experiential experiences” and if you don’t offer that to them, they’ll go find other miles that will. So instead of offering frequent flyer miles that you can only use for fuddy-duddy grandpa things like taking plane trips, now you can use them to go to your Skrillex concerts or whatever else you kids are into these days.
Just like JOON, the predominant idea here is that if you smear enough millennial-baiting jism over your fundamentally bankrupt ideas, your customers won’t notice, because they’ll be so excited about a company that finally gets them.
Hence, the big unveiling of the reinvented Flying Blue program – “more simple, more clear, more flexible.” (As an aside, I think the phrase “more clear” tells you all you need to know. “Clearer” would be too clear, of course.)
I feel like there’s invariably going to be some pedantic shithead in the comments who accuses me of being entitled… AKA “You want business class seats, then pay for them – the airline isn’t obligated to make business class awards available to you just because you want them.” And while that’s true, I’m really just trying to call out the absurd logical contortions programs like this (and Delta, of course – let’s not forget Ed “Millennials want to redeem miles for a haircut” Bastian in all this) go through to convince you that they aren’t shitting right into your mouth.
Most articles about marketing to millennials conclude with some variation of the idea that millennials value authenticity… yet somehow we end up with shit like this, where the marketing is an almost-comical bucket of lies. Nothing says “authenticity” like lying through your teeth, right?
So, if I understand it correctly, miles will be harder to earn, worth less, and you’ll never know how many miles you need for a flight, since it will depend on the price of a ticket. But you’ll be able to use them on any flight, so it’s okay! Except you already CAN use miles on any flight, which is what a Flex award is. It’s not like saver/standard awards are some convoluted scheme unique to Flying Blue, yet they act like the current program is a byzantine maze that stymies any attempts to get value out of it.
The slow decline of aspirational redemptions just sped up a little bit, I guess. For now, there are plenty of great programs still available, but this kind of shit does not bode well for future developments, such as Air Canada’s forthcoming in-house program, or whatever bullshit Aeroplan is going to turn into after they lose their partnership with AC. (And let’s be real, Air Canada is the one demanding absolutely bonkers fuel surcharges on award tickets booked through Aeroplan, so I’m not really holding my breath that their new program is going to be especially generous.)
In other words, this was probably inevitable, but I’m still mad that Lying Blue is kicking me in the nuts and telling me why I should enjoy getting kicked in the nuts while they do it. At least smear some avocado on your shoes before you do it, you dicks.
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