Wednesday, December 23, 2009

no perk too small...,

NYTimes | United States airlines have cut back on all but the most basic services in recent years — for most passengers.

But for their very best customers, some airlines are providing extra perks and creating new tiers of status to make them feel special. Continental Airlines, for example, created a new top category this month, Presidential Platinum, for customers flying at least 125,000 miles and spending $30,000 a year on plane tickets. Delta Air Lines established the new Diamond level this summer for customers who earn a minimum of 125,000 miles each year.

Members at these levels, in addition to getting bragging rights, might be offered free access to airport clubs and automatic check-in, might get fees for extra bags waived, and might be allowed to go to the front of any line — and sit in the front of the cabin — even when other travelers paid more for their tickets.

Once inside those airline clubs, these elite fliers can get free cocktails and buffet meals, perhaps a shower, and in the case of some Delta clubs, practice time on putting greens.

Airlines are also studying how to create a greater sense of personalized service on board — perhaps allowing passengers to preorder a favorite wine for an international flight or a special treat for an anniversary, or letting them designate a favorite seat on various kinds of aircraft so they sit in the same place on every flight.

Giving special perks to the biggest spenders is an old trick used by casinos, who pamper the “whales” so they feel appreciated more than all the “minnows” that populate lower-stakes poker tables.