Seth Kugel, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Climate activists say it is time to rethink loyalty programs that reward consumers for taking flights.
In October, a two-line recommendation buried on Page 35 of a report commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Committee on Climate Change garnered disproportionate attention in the world of frequent fliers.
“Introduce a ban on air miles and frequent flier loyalty schemes that incentivize excessive flying,” it suggested.
Message boards and blogs that serve points-obsessed, platinum-status-seeking travelers lit up. “Air miles should be axed to deter frequent fliers, advises report,” blared a headline in The Guardian.
But then, in December, hordes of passengers did what they do every year: took cross-country or transoceanic flights for little purpose other than maintaining elite status (and thus, access to lounges and upgrades) on their chosen airline for 2020. Many proudly posted about the deals on message boards or used #mileagerun and #statusrun hashtags to show off their business-class digs on Instagram.
At a time when the airline industry is bending over backward to be — or at least seem to be — concerned about climate change, can airline companies still justify loyalty programs that would seem to encourage people to fly more?