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Current as of 26/12/14 07:40PM NZST

Morgan Tait

Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's consumer affairs reporter.

Air NZ alters Airpoints deal

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

Air New Zealand customers paying for mid-range priced flights will earn fewer reward points under changes to the airline's loyalty scheme.

However, customers shelling out for expensive seats will earn more and low-cost flights that did not qualify before will now be included.

Described as the biggest changes to the programme in a decade, yesterday's announcement will mean Airpoints' 1.4 million members receive Airpoints Dollars and Status Points reflective of their overall spend.

Currently a number of fare classes earn the same rewards despite prices varying by sometimes hundreds of dollars.

Industry experts have described the changes as a win for consumers, despite the hit taken by mid-range spenders.

All regularly available Air New Zealand fares, excluding last-minute Grabaseat Greenlight Deals and fares purchased using loyalty rewards, will qualify - but rates will reflect fare prices, said head of customer loyalty Mark Street.

"Adjusting earn rates means higher earning rates on many fares, particularly for short-haul travellers while fewer Airpoints Dollars will be earned on certain cheaper fares."

Standard Grabaseat fares will be covered by the scheme for the first time, contributing to "several million more" rewards the airline expects will be earned, he said.

"Overall, these changes result in a much fairer reward and recognition system as they are directly linked to value of the fare paid."

When travelling on short-haul international flights, the earning rates on the less expensive Seat and Seat + Bag fares are set to fall, though travellers on most Works, Works Deluxe and Business fares will see an increase.

Gold Elite has been renamed Elite, while a new Elite Priority One membership tier will provide an exclusive group of travellers with benefits including complimentary upgrades, "dedicated personal travel support services", and other yet-to-be-announced perks.

Flight Centre New Zealand's general manager of product Simon McKearney said despite some reductions in rewards the company had "given more than they're taking" from customers.

"It's about expanding the offering so there may be one negative but on the flipside it's about expanding it across all the fare classes which probably weighs it out."

He said the perks for the most regular Elite flyers were especially welcome. "A loyalty programme is for those who are not just using something as a one-off, it's more for the regular travellers."

Consumer New Zealand editor David Naulls said the scheme served its purpose to reward its biggest spenders.

"We can see an increased spread across domestic fares ... so that's a positive step. I guess there are some swings and roundabouts, there may be some more basic fares that don't do so well now but I think the airline's made it pretty clear that they are trying to reward customers who spend more with them.

"Loyalty schemes are meant to be about rewarding loyalty and encouraging people to spend more so I guess that's the main motivation here."

New Airpoints Dollar earning rates take effect for bookings made from March 31 and Status Point earning rates will apply for any travel from March 31.

- NZ Herald

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