The official word from LNER at the moment if anyone asks about a loyalty scheme is that they have Nectar.
We currently have a rewards scheme in place Matt with @Nectar. ^KM
— London North Eastern Railway (@LNER) July 17, 2018
For many people this would be a disappointment as it actually means loyalty wise we're currently worse off than with Virgin as there's no longer the option to collect Virgin Atlantic miles instead and passengers could also often get discounts through the Virgin Red app.
I've said already that I think the priority needs to be improving maintenance (particularly with the accessible toilets and air conditioning) and addressing areas where there's a shortage of frontline staff but ultimately we would like to see a decent loyalty scheme implemented too.
There's been a few hints that LNER might be looking at a new loyalty scheme.
- A short while before Virgin Trains East Coast became LNER some people received a survey from 'Virgin Trains' asking about loyalty schemes, some of the proposed benefits sounded similar to East Coast Rewards. We can't tell if this survey was primarily for west coast, east coast or they had a joint loyalty scheme planned. It would be frustrating if Virgin Trains (west coast) ended up with a proper loyalty scheme and LNER was stuck with Nectar!
- The FAQ on the removal of Flying Club has a question "What alternatives to Flying Club miles will be available?" you'd expect it to at least mention Nectar but it instead it says they're "looking for opportunities"
- There's mention of 'LNER Rewards' on the first class lounge page of the website.
It could be good news or it could just be coincidence. The mention of 'LNER Rewards' might have just been a find and replace job on the old content and I could just be reading too much into the surveys people were sent. The loyalty scheme survey may be forming part of the bid for the West Coast Partnership franchise.
If LNER are looking into a loyalty scheme I hope they will try and get us involved in some way. It would be highly frustrating if they release a loyalty scheme and then we come up with a list of ways it could have been improved or implemented in a better way that we could have identified if we had been involved in the early stages.
Personally I could bring my knowledge of the previous loyalty schemes going back to GNER days as well as my knowledge of airline frequent flyer schemes in order to come up with a scheme that's attractive to as many people as possible. We've also got others who've helped with this campaign that have their own experiences too and I'm sure most would be willing to offer their own opinions as to what a loyalty scheme should provide.
A lot of the frustration with the new website was caused by the feeling we weren't listened to. I hope the same doesn't happen with any new loyalty scheme. Although it would be hard to be worse that what we have currently it would still be frustrating if any new loyalty scheme did not live up to its full potential.
I'd be happy to sign any non-disclosure agreement if it made it possible to have an active part in any new loyalty scheme, although if that did happen it would mean I'd have to be quiet on the subject until the news was made public but I think it's much more productive to work together and try to create a scheme that benefits both LNER and its passengers rather than to wait for something to launch and then find out there's some obvious flaws that could have been identified earlier.
Something else we could do if they found it useful would be to help find some volunteers for a focus group that had a strong interest in the rewards scheme (there's many among our Twitter followers), they could then add some people who are more recent customers and have no previous knowledge of East Coast Rewards to get a balanced view - would the benefits of a scheme like East Coast Rewards appeal to someone who's not familiar with loyalty schemes?
So what now?
Hopefully once LNER is ready to improve loyalty and recognition they'll be in touch. A good loyalty scheme will benefit both the company and its passengers. There's always going to be some disagreement as to what benefits can be offered but being more involved would also make it easier to understand why certain decisions are being made.
It wouldn't make sense if LNER decided to ignore a free source of feedback (although I wouldn't say no to working full time on the project - even though that would mean I'd have to get someone else to run Save East Coast Rewards due to a conflict of interest). If 'LNER Rewards' does happen it'll be great to know that the scheme is the best it could possibly be.
Views in the blog section reflect the view of the contributor only.