Airline loyalty and diplomacy


Can an airline loyalty program impact global diplomacy? Maybe, maybe not. But Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles program is trying, and it just got the opportunity to try a little harder.

During the 2016 Passenger Loyalty China Summit held in Shanghai earlier this month Salih Sarıçam, Manager of the Miles & Smiles program spoke about the global makeup of his program’s customer base and some of the local challenges it faces in meeting the needs of that diverse group. One particularly interesting specific example he gave came out of the downing of a Russian fighter jet over Turkish airspace in late 2015. That incident led to trade sanctions being imposed by Russia on Turkey and, unsurprisingly, a dramatic drop in passenger volumes between the two countries.

Of course responding with lower fares is one way Turkish could try to woo more passengers. Turkish took a different tack, however, conceding that the travel would take more time to return to normal levels. To that end, the Miles and Smiles program made a targeted offer to the Russian members of its program. It extended their elite program status for 6 months to help get past the political “kerfuffle” and push through to try to keep the business relationship intact.

Relations between the two countries appear to be on the mend, though the assassination of Russia’s Ambassador in Ankara on Monday is unlikely to help that effort. Hopefully Miles & Smiles doesn’t have to pull together another effort towards diplomacy (and keeping customers happy) for this one, too.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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