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Got Baggage? How Premium Airline Cards Benefit Consumers, Issuers, and Airlines

May 16, 2016

(New York, NY):  Few topics provoke as much consumer rage as the indignities of air travel.  Along with endless airport security lines and vanishing leg room, add-on fees are a major source of irritation for flyers.  Last year consumers spent a whopping $3.8 billion just on checked baggage fees, according to the Department of Transportation, and another $3 billion for the privilege of changing their flights.

Airline rewards cards, long favored by mileage hoarders, offer a way for consumers to fight back. By selecting the right credit card, savvy travelers can enjoy priority boarding, checked baggage, and make last-minute flight changes without racking up additional charges. And these premium benefits are broadening the appeal of airline rewards cards, according to recent research by Auriemma Consulting Group (ACG).

“People want to earn free trips: mileage is aspirational,” says Jaclyn Holmes, the ACG senior manager who directed the study. “But when it comes to the day-to-day flying experience, benefits like priority boarding or a free checked bag can make all the difference.”  Even consumers who would normally balk at paying an annual fee may change their minds when they consider avoided costs, she noted. “Over half of consumers who carry cards with premium benefits value these privileges more than the miles they earn for spending.”

Premium benefits are important to consumers, but they are important to airlines and issuers as well. Airline rewards cards with these benefits create an opportunity to better connect with the consumer, to provide them with a more positive experience, and to keep them brand loyal.

“Airlines and their card-issuing partners should continue to highlight the core benefits of mileage, how it is earned, and how it can be used,” says Holmes, “but it is equally important to focus on premium benefits offered, as they may be the tipping point in how consumers select their payment method and airline. Airline reward cardholders expect to be earning miles on their spending; to entice them you need to do more, you need to show them that your product will improve their travel experience.”

Survey Methodology

The study was conducted online within the United States by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma Consulting Group (ACG) in February 2016, among 800 U.S. credit card users (“cardholders”). The number of interviews completed on a monthly basis is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted.

About Auriemma Consulting Group

ACG is a boutique management consulting firm with specialized focus on the Payments and Lending space.  We deliver actionable solutions and insights that add value to our clients’ business activities across a broad set of industry topics and disciplines.  Founded in 1984, ACG has grown from a one-man shop to a nearly 50-person firm with offices in New York and London.  For more information, contact Marianne Berry at (212) 323-7000 or marianne.berry@acg.net.