Loyalty programs have received mixed reviews and appreciation by consumers in recent years as airlines, the originators of travel loyalty programs in the 1980s, began to cut back, limit, and restrict use of rewards as a way to save money. At the same time, hotels, attractions, and tour operators added their own loyalty plans; further diluting the loyalty landscape and encouraging customers to seek out the lowest price rather than remain loyal to one brand.
A recent survey by Skift[i
] examining the travel habits of Americans reinforces that many Americans are infrequent flyers and are motivated more by the lowest price rather than their relationship with an airline. Skift[ii
] further notes that budget travelers are less likely to care about rewards programs and that younger travelers have little interest in aiming for the elite status that many loyalty programs base their benefits on.
This opens the door for a company to win the hearts and wallets of the millennials just as American Airlines did with Baby Boomers when it launched the AAdvantage program in 1981. Fareportal, with its CheapOair.com and OneTravel.com sites, has its eyes set on doing just that with its multi-faceted loyalty rewards program that goes beyond the traditional single-level programs offered by most travel companies. Fareportal’s loyalty platform seeks to reward users twice and sometimes three times over by enabling customers to earn points not only through the CheapOair and OneTravel loyalty program, but also with company’s co-branded credit card and the consumer’s own airline programs as well.
Loyalty programs came about as a marketing tool to capture market share during the challenging, competitive times of the 1980s and 1990s. Today’s market may be just as competitive, but the airlines are making more money than ever and hotel occupancies are generally flush which diminishes the suppliers’ reliance on their loyalty programs.
“All travelers, whether frequent flyers or occasional vacationers, want a flexible loyalty rewards program that they can use based on their own individual travel habits,” said Sam S. Jain, founder and CEO of Fareportal. “In order to be inclusive of all of our customers, we not only allow them to get free rooms if enough points have been accumulated, but also to reduce the cost of a room with the amount of points they do have.”
A loyalty program, at best, should inspire customers to use the company’s services and products to gain rewards. Therefore, it has to be a legitimate motivational program with a value proposition that meets the needs of the consumers. And it must be easy to use, enabling clients to earn points fast, keep the points as long as they want, and use them when they want with as few restrictions and limitations as possible.
Fareportal launched its first loyalty program, which now has more than one million members, in December 2014 for its younger and smaller OneTravel brand. A month later, the company launched a similar loyalty platform with CheapOair.com and in just over two years participation has grown to nearly four million members.
To supplement the loyalty program, Fareportal launched co-branded credit cards with Synchrony Financial in October 2016. The program includes Visa®
and Visa Signature®
credit cards for both CheapOair
, as well as a private label credit card for each brand.
“With the addition of our co-branded credit cards, we expanded and enhanced our rewards program with more earning potential outside of CheapOair.com purchases,” Jain said. “We offer a multi-level program in which cardholders can gain double or triple points on the company’s loyalty platform, additional points with the credit card, and with the airline they are using. That’s three loyalty programs earning points at the same time for one booking.”
The Fareportal loyalty program is a “spend based” platform – you spend the money and you get the points as you book. Once enrolled, points are awarded automatically for every dollar spent including one point for airline tickets and three points for hotel stays and car rentals. Clients can also get points by purchasing ancillary items such as paid seats or pre-booked baggage on many airlines. Points can be used to reduce or cover the cost of a hotel booking or to purchase gift cards which can then be redeemed for flights.
Users of the website and mobile app see added value from the loyalty program when they receive members-only exclusive deals not available to the general public. Rewards members who book through the CheapOair or OneTravel app for iOS or Android earn double points. Credit card members earn double rewards points plus an additional 6 points when booking through the CheapOair app.
“Data and Analytics are disrupting personalization and loyalty programs in the travel and transportation industry. Through a strong partnership, Synchrony Financial and Fareportal are working to drive increased loyalty and bookings through a strong value proposition and loyalty program” said David Liebskind, VP and GM of the Fareportal account at Synchrony Financial.
Consumers who sign up for the co-branded credit card are automatically enrolled in the Rewards program and can earn an additional 6 points per dollar spent on purchases on CheapOair.com and OneTravel.com. They can also earn 4 points per dollar spent on dining purchases and 2 points per dollar spent on other purchases wherever Visa credit cards are accepted. There is also a six month special financing option available on purchases of $399 or more (after discounts) on CheapOair or OneTravel.
There is no annual fee for the cards and new customers are eligible to receive a $50 statement credit after making purchases of $500 or more within the first 90 days of getting the card.
CheapOair and OneTravel operate with a business model that bridges the gap between an online travel agency and a traditional travel agency by providing convenient online booking capabilities, as well as a 24/7 personalized trip booking experience.