Otago Daily Times

More for Air NZ top­end trav­ellers

- GRANT BRADLEY

AUCK­LAND: Air New Zealand is mov­ing to­wards mak­ing life sweeter for its top­end pas­sen­gers.

The air­line is sur­vey­ing some of its Air­points mem­bers, ask­ing what they would like to see in a new loy­alty scheme.

In a sep­a­rate sur­vey, it is try­ing to find out what pas­sen­gers want at the front end of its new busi­ness class cabin, which could in­clude a row of ul­tra­luxe seats.

The work is go­ing on in prepa­ra­tion for an­tic­i­pated in­tense com­pe­ti­tion when borders re­open and fly­ing on in­ter­na­tional routes be­gins to re­turn to nor­mal.

Busi­ness travel will be fun­da­men­tally trans­formed as a re­sult of the pan­demic, with fewer work trips.

Mi­crosoft co­founder Bill Gates this week pre­dicted that half of all busi­ness travel — the most lu­cra­tive end of the mar­ket for air­lines — will dis­ap­pear in the post­coro­n­avirus world.

Air New Zealand is not as ex­posed to this as some other car­ri­ers, hav­ing more of a fo­cus on high­end leisure trav­ellers for its Busi­ness Premier cabin.

Build­ing up the loy­alty pro­gramme will be a key plank in the air­line’s re­cov­ery from the im­pact of Covid­19 and is seen by an­a­lysts as one of the strong­est parts of its busi­ness now.

The air­line has de­clared that en­hanc­ing the ben­e­fits and ex­pe­ri­ences it of­fers ‘‘will help at­tract, re­tain and re­ward our most loyal and high value cus­tomers’’.

It is say­ing lit­tle about what the Air­points scheme, which has more than 3 mil­lion mem­bers, might look like. But its gen­eral manager of loy­alty, Kate O’Brien, says the re­search will help de­cide that.

She said ‘‘some of the questions we cov­ered off in our sur­vey were around the pos­si­bil­ity of a new tier above Elite, pre­ferred travel times dur­ing the week and week­end, how cus­tomers view ben­e­fits such as valet park­ing, up­grades and lounge ac­cess, how Air­points are be­ing used and the over­all views of the pro­gramme’’.

While Air NZ did not share a copy of the sur­vey, Aus­trali­abased Ex­ec­u­tive Trav­eller was for­warded a copy by a mem­ber.

Be­sides the Elite Plus tier, the sur­vey sug­gests there could be life­time sta­tus at lower tiers.

The sur­vey in­di­cated that a tar­get range be­tween 2800 and 3200 sta­tus points a year would be re­quired to pocket an Air­points Elite Plus mem­ber­ship, com­pared to 1500 points to reach the Air­points Elite tier now, and 900 for Air­points Gold.

Ex­ec­u­tive Trav­eller said ben­e­fits of Elite Plus sta­tus gleaned from the sur­vey in­cluded the pos­si­bil­ity of free same­day flight changes for do­mes­tic, transtas­man and Pa­cific flights, free park­ing at the mem­ber’s ‘‘home air­port’’ and com­pli­men­tary Elite sta­tus for the nom­i­nated part­ner of an Elite Plus mem­ber.

David Flynn, edi­tor of Ex­ec­u­tiveTrav­eller.com, said the Elite Plus tier would be de­signed for peo­ple who are su­per­fre­quent fly­ers, who spend more time in an air­port lounge than in their own lounge at home.

‘‘In­tro­duc­ing Elite Plus should have no di­rect im­pact on the lower Air­points tiers. In fact, Air New Zealand would prob­a­bly have thou­sands of Air­points Elite mem­bers who’d qual­ify for Elite Plus sta­tus right out of the gate,’’ he said.

Mr Flynn said the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits flagged for Elite Plus were very ap­peal­ing and very prac­ti­cal, and in line with the perks of ‘‘plus’’ level tiers at other air­lines, such as Qan­tas Plat­inum One.

Work on the cabin up­grade has been go­ing on for more than two years in an Auck­land build­ing near Air NZ’s down­town head­quar­ters, ‘‘Hangar 22’’. The her­ring­bone con­fig­u­ra­tion of the Busi­ness Premier cabin is 15 years old and seats do not of­fer much pri­vacy. — The New Zealand Her­ald

 ?? PHOTO: SUP­PLIED ?? Qan­tas has Van­tageXL seats in its Dream­lin­ers and Air­bus A330s.
PHOTO: SUP­PLIED Qan­tas has Van­tageXL seats in its Dream­lin­ers and Air­bus A330s.

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