Advertising gimmick: Tigerair’s Infrequent Flyer Club

tigerair adYOU are familiar with a frequent flyer program, but what about an infrequent flyer scheme that supposedly rewards everyone even if he or she doesn’t fly frequently enough?

That’s the new club that budget carrier Tigerair has introduced in Australia targeting the everyday man. This is not to be confused with Stripes, a membership program that is managed by Singapore’s Tigerair Group. The Stripes club comes with an annual fee (S$29.94 or the equivalent of US$23.94) whereas the Infrequent Flyer Club membership is offered free. However, compared to Stripes, the Jetstar Club also charges a fee (A$39 or US$36 per year), which includes access to members-only events, promotional fares, and discounts and special offers from partners.

So what is the big deal about Tigerair’s new “free” scheme?

Tigerair Australia’s Head of Communciaitons Vanessa Regan said: “The Infrequent Flyer Club is a fun promotional campaign to engage with our Australian consumers and allow them to receive exclusive surprises, offers and special deals direct from Tigerair Australia.”

With some sense of humour, you might say this is a spoof on the frequent flyer program adopted by many airlines as a carrot for loyalty. For many people who fly infrequently, the benefits are unrealizable as some of them carry an expiry date. But really is it one big gimmick or novelty by way of an advertising brainchild. The scheme will run on a customer relationship management platform, created in partnership with McCann Australia. So, said McCann Executive Creative Director John Mescall: “Any airline can have a frequent flyer program, but it takes a special kind of airline to think about the people who may not be able to fly regularly.”

A bit of the underdog appeal there, indeed. It may work, capitalizing on the ordinary man’s need to belong and to feel special. Members do not earn points by flying, so they do not fear losing them if they do not make a next trip to top up, or feel the compulsion to fly to reach a next level for better perks. And members get to choose their membership levels designated by such hip names of colours as Bin Green, Hipster Chino, Aerobics Leotard Blue, ‘70s brown and triple emerald sapphire ivory. People love choices. To encourage sign-up, the first 5000 members will get a $100 voucher, and be the first to know about special offers or new Tigerair’s destinations. There is no better way for Tigerair to beef up its database of potential clients.

Is this a formula for definite success? Apart from gaining some PR traction in ribbing the recent overhaul of its frequent flyer program by Qantas (including Jetstar) as the rivals compete for the somewhat dormant Australian market, it depends on what Tigerair does next to shore up the excitement. Membership alone is not a criterion of success. The hard truth about cold business is that customers have expectations, they want to be rewarded for their loyalty, and at some point the good feel has to be translated into tangibles. However, the nature of the budget business is such that perks matter less than cost. In a survey conducted by a major airline of its customers’ preferences – and this, it is to be noted, is not even a budget carrier – travellers prefer a 10-oer-cent discount upfront on the fare rather than points for flight redemption. Better a bird in hand.

Nonetheless, cheers to Tigerair’s Infrequent Flyer Club if only for the fun of it. As the industry moves into a transitional phase, it’s the season to be different. But note that affter the fizz without the champagne, customers will sober, I mean, wise up.

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About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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