Executive Traveller exclusive
Air New Zealand is edging closer to adding a new ‘Elite Plus’ tier, along with lifetime status at lower tiers, in a raft of changes to its Airpoints loyalty program expected to roll out from mid-2023.
The Kiwi carrier is also coming in for a landing on its own-branded credit card, CEO Greg Foran has confirmed to Executive Traveller, describing it as “even richer for people who earn points” compared to the two current Kiwibank Airpoints cards..
“We’re very excited about the progress we are making, and there’s a lot of work that has continued right through Covid,” Foran said.
“We’re putting in place a brand new piece of backend system that’s going to allow us to do some of the things you've mentioned, such as have a look at our tiers.”
This follows a survey sent by the airline to selected Airpoints Elite-grade members in November 2020 which polled recipients on a range of boosters such as an Elite Plus tier to sit above the current top rung of Elite; the possibility of lifetime status for Silver, Gold and Elite; and other high flyer benefits such as discounted upgrade offers and immediate confirmation of upgrade requests.
When asked if any of those were likely to eventuate, Foran conceded “that certainly is one of the reasons that we are rebuilding the technology stack, so that allows us to put those capabilities in.”
“So all of this activity is happening… give us another 12 months and you'll see the start to play out in a more meaningful way.”
As to the Air New Zealand branded credit card, Foran said “we continue to work on developing our own credit card option and we continue to have a look at our partners on the ground and what we can develop there for how people might earn points and burn points.”
Air New Zealand would join the growing list of other airlines which have moved to issuing their own credit cards, backed by a chosen financial partner, to gain a larger share of the rich revenue stream, more insight and control when it comes to driving customer behaviour, and turbocharging the loyalty program as an additional growth engine for the business.
The moves come as Air New Zealand soars out of the pandemic with a flagship non-stop route to New York from September, the restart of direct flights to Houston and Chicago and expectations of an all-new business class seat including a row of ‘mini-first class’ Business Premier Luxe suites.
With reward seats with Air New Zealand opening 350 days in advance, now could be the perfect time to secure your next trip.
Diving into the Air New Zealand Airpoints member survey
Several readers of Executive Traveller were part of Air New Zealand’s Airpoints survey group and shared both the survey and their thoughts with Executive Traveller.
While concepts polled by airlines in surveys and focus groups don't always see light of day, they strongly reflect the airline's thinking simply by the fact that they have advanced to the ‘customer outreach’ stage and in many cases later come to fruition.
One Executive Traveller reader who received the Airpoints survey reported the big ticket item was the creation of an Elite Plus tier along the same lines as Qantas' Platinum One.
(This would however still rank below the invitation-only Elite Priority One tier, which is an equivalent to the Qantas Chairman's Lounge.)
The survey indicated a target range between 2800 and 3200 Status Points per year would be required to pocket an Airpoints Elite Plus membership, compared to 1500 Status Points to reach today's Airpoints Elite tier and 900 for Airpoints Gold.
But that hard-earned Elite Plus status would bring a range of practical benefits, with survey respondents asked to rate the appeal of “some benefits that Air New Zealand is considering offering as part of the Elite Plus tier.”
Some of the suggested benefits included:
- free same-day flight changes for domestic, trans-Tasman and Pacific flights, regardless of the purchased fare
- immediate confirmation of all upgrade requests based on seat availability
- free exit rows and preferred seating
- 50% Airpoints bonus on flights
- free parking at the member’s ‘home airport’
- complimentary Elite status for the nominated partner of an Elite Plus member
- nominating a “friend or family member to accompany you whenever you fly with Air NZ, free of charge"
The survey also proposed lifetime status for lower Airpoints tiers, plus a series of fresh perks for Elite members such as
- immediate confirmation of upgrade requests for trans-Tasman and Pacific flights, based on seat availability
- 30% Airpoints bonus on flights
- discounted upgrade offers send out closer to the day of travel
- exclusive seating for Gold and Elite members
- separate lounges for Elite members
One Executive Traveller reader, who lives in Auckland and regularly flies to Australia, said that if Air New Zealand carried through on all the proposed changes “it would be a very positive step.”
“I’d send more of my spend to Air New Zealand rather than splitting between Air New Zealand and Qantas to get top status on both (and aim for Qantas Lifetime Gold).”