Otago Daily Times
More for Air NZ topend travellers
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