Are airline loyalty programs so complicated that they tend to be off-putting? At least this AP article indicates they are.
What complicates all this is that airline travel in general is not much fun anymore with all those fees, tight seating and service cuts.
I beg to differ (of course). I have no problems getting the free flight that I want. If someone only fly a few times a year, they can supplement their points (miles) by using a airline affiliated credit card. Difficulty keeping track of your miles??? Account balances are sent out monthly... Finally, why would airline loyalty programs be any different than hotel loyalty programs??? How much have we heard on this site recently about Marriotts bogus "no blackout policy"??? IMO all these loyalty programs are good for the frequent users and are not at all negative to the infrequent user.
It's always been simple for me -- I always fly Delta and Skyteam, so tracking miles is easy. But unlike so many people I hear about I have never had trouble booking a free flight, maybe because my schedule tends to be flexible. I had four free flights to Europe last year, 3 of them in business class.
I think at least some of the differences come from status level. I suspect people who haven't made the equivalent of at least gold are not very happy, whereas as a platinum I get priority lanes, priority boarding, economy comfort seats if I fly coach, free checked luggage (when I dare), and lounge access.
However, I agree that flying is no longer fun, but for me that's mostly due to the TSA, since I have figured out new and successful ways to avoid New York airports.
Being a heavy duty frequent flier has its bennies of course, but the overall standard set by the nation's airlines is so low that we have to make excuses and jokes about the experience. No longer fun and for those of us who fly less frequently, no fun at all.
What other business cannot give you a price when booking for all seats at all times, or one that sticks? Only the airlines. As leaders in loyalty programs they have failed me (and I suspect others) miserably.