50 min

XL28: MARK ROSS-SMITH - Loyalty: How Airlines and Banks Win and Lose Their Most Valuable Customers XL Podcast

    • Business

You might remember the 2004 Movie “The Terminal” starring Tom Hanks. It’s about a traveler trapped in an airport and unbelievably based on the true story of Mehran Nasseri who was stuck at Paris Charles De Gaule airport for 18 years (yes, not a typo).

Living at airports gives you an interesting perspective on life, and the humans of travel. My next guest on The XL Podcast spent 73 days living at an airport hotel (out of choice) to observer how we travel and how we interact with airlines.

Mark Ross-Smith is the founder of Status Match, a service that helps premium travelers transfer their hard earned points and benefits across from one airline loyalty program to another. For most travelers, this is a new world: airlines don’t openly promote transfers and many don’t have systems in place to efficiently deal with them.

Strange that, because as Mark reveals in this conversation, the economics of loyalty are stacked against inactivity. 20% of customers account for 80% of airline profitability. And it affects the bottom line too. American Airlines is valued at $21 billion. Their loyalty program is worth, according to some experts, $37 billion. Many airlines survived the covid crisis by raising capital on the forward cashflows of these programs alone.

Loyalty, whether it’s travel or financial services, has both an art and a science. The science being the data and the workflows needed to ensure a seamless ride. The art is where customer empathy and those airport insights pay off. When was the last time an airline employee handed you a box of chocolates and thanked you for being a loyal customer? Not often, not ever I bet. But, in this conversation we’ll look inside a world that touches us all, but few of us really understand what’s at stack - the world of loyalty and the battle for our wallet.

You might remember the 2004 Movie “The Terminal” starring Tom Hanks. It’s about a traveler trapped in an airport and unbelievably based on the true story of Mehran Nasseri who was stuck at Paris Charles De Gaule airport for 18 years (yes, not a typo).

Living at airports gives you an interesting perspective on life, and the humans of travel. My next guest on The XL Podcast spent 73 days living at an airport hotel (out of choice) to observer how we travel and how we interact with airlines.

Mark Ross-Smith is the founder of Status Match, a service that helps premium travelers transfer their hard earned points and benefits across from one airline loyalty program to another. For most travelers, this is a new world: airlines don’t openly promote transfers and many don’t have systems in place to efficiently deal with them.

Strange that, because as Mark reveals in this conversation, the economics of loyalty are stacked against inactivity. 20% of customers account for 80% of airline profitability. And it affects the bottom line too. American Airlines is valued at $21 billion. Their loyalty program is worth, according to some experts, $37 billion. Many airlines survived the covid crisis by raising capital on the forward cashflows of these programs alone.

Loyalty, whether it’s travel or financial services, has both an art and a science. The science being the data and the workflows needed to ensure a seamless ride. The art is where customer empathy and those airport insights pay off. When was the last time an airline employee handed you a box of chocolates and thanked you for being a loyal customer? Not often, not ever I bet. But, in this conversation we’ll look inside a world that touches us all, but few of us really understand what’s at stack - the world of loyalty and the battle for our wallet.

50 min

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