Loyalty Program “Enhancements”: Devaluations in Disguise

Magician card trick
Too frequently, negative changes to loyalty programs are sold as “enhancements”. Photo: Pixabay.

When it comes to airlines, hotels and loyalty programs, few buzzwords are as prolific as the infamous word “enhancement”.

While the dictionary definition of enhancement is “an increase or improvement in quality or value”, this meaning seems to have become lost over the years. Nowadays, many businesses seem to love this word because it sounds positive, yet doesn’t really mean anything.

Time and time again, loyalty programs announce “enhancements” which actually leave members worse off than before. It happens so frequently, that calling the removal of something an “enhancement” has become a running joke and a regular part of the Australian Frequent Flyer forum lexicon.

Consumers have become particularly wary of this term because loyalty programs often describe devaluations as “enhancements”. Presumably that’s because, for legal reasons, they can’t advertise a negative change as an improvement, upgrade, or any other word which has a specific meaning beyond being a fluffy marketing buzzword.

Devaluations disguised as enhancements

Recently, Radisson Rewards announced “enhancements” to its loyalty program which actually see it being split into two separate programs based on geographic regions (one for the Americas, and another for everywhere else). That sure seems inconvenient, but Radisson is selling the new programs as delivering members “a more localized experience”.

Radisson Rewards email
Email from Radisson Rewards on 21 April 2021, advising of upcoming program changes.

This change was recently discussed on episode 331 of Dots, Lines & Destinations, an American travel podcast. When host Stephan Segraves mused that “Radisson Rewards is splitting?”, co-host Seth Miller had this to say:

Yeah… they’re “enhancing” the program. They actually used that word in the release! To which my response was, have you guys not actually paid attention to what’s happened in the last, like, 10-15 years in this industry? “Enhancing” the program? They’re actually splitting it.

Of course, they don’t think it’s bad, right? They think it’s good news because they’re making things better for us. But they used the magic word “enhance” and we know that’s not true.

There will also be changes to Radisson’s award chart which LoyaltyLobby described as a “massive devaluation”.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines used the “E” word to describe changes to its Enrich frequent flyer program earlier this year. The changes have made it harder for many Enrich members to earn status, result in most members earning fewer points for Malaysia Airlines flights, and according to some industry experts, have made the program utterly confusing.

You wouldn’t know this from the media release, which came with the self-congratulatory headline “Malaysia Airlines Achieves Another Milestone in Elevating its Loyalty Programme” and opened with this buzzword-packed paragraph:

Malaysia Airlines will be further enhancing its loyalty programme, Enrich by introducing a fare-based earning scheme and a new tier qualification structure, providing passengers with a more rewarding experience when choosing to Fly Malaysia, starting 1 April 2021. This progressive milestone elevates Enrich as one of the fore runners amongst fellow frequent flyer programmes around the world and provides a more transparent and simplified model in response to requests from its members.

There are other buzzwords, too

Of course, “enhance” isn’t the only meaningless buzzword out there. How many times have we seen announcements featuring words like “elevate” or “re-imagine”?

Not to mention, all the times we’re told negative loyalty program changes have been “requested by members”. Which members, exactly? What are their names?

Many Australian Frequent Flyer members will also remember the major Qantas Frequent Flyer changes announced in 2014. Qantas infamously said it was making its loyalty program “simpler and fairer”, when in reality the changes were neither of those things.

It would be great if loyalty programs would just call a spade a spade. Members shouldn’t be deceived into believing a program devaluation is actually a good thing for them. But until this changes, it pays to be wary of meaningless buzzwords like “enhance”. If you see words like this, it’s probably because the writer is either lazy or hiding something.

When a loyalty program announces an enhancement, you know it’s bad news…

brace yourselves enhancements are coming meme

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]

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John Bartels

I guess we can blame marketing for all of these enhancements. My only wish is that we could arrange for marketing to be enhanced. Permanently.

There’s no end of these useless phrases though. The current political favourite is that “we’re all in this together”. As soon as it’s uttered you just know that it isn’t true.

nfw

Very true, on all counts.

Frank

The commence date for the Enrich programme gives it away – 01APR2021…