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Air Malta relaunching Flypass – initial indications

It has now been confirmed that Air Malta will be relaunching Flypass. From this website’s perspective, this is extremely welcome news.

Air Malta’s press release on the subject was somewhat vague, and interestingly not even picked up on by the Times of Malta (yet). That suggests to me that while Air Malta wanted to get this news out there, they did not wish to do so with much of a fanfare (probably because details of it, and the likely timescales, still remain extremely uncertain).

Rest assured that when the scheme comes into place, there will be much more publicity. Publicity that will be fully reported and analysed by maltapoints.com.

For now, I set out below the initial indications, and my initial thoughts, coming from the announcement.

Timing

The new loyalty scheme is “earmarked to be launched” in summer 2013. Given Air Malta’s current million-and-one priorities, I imagine this is very much a pencilled-in target date. I would regard it as a result if the new Flypass launches before the end of 2013.

A new name?

Air Malta’s press release headline is “Air Malta to Launch New Customer Loyalty Programme During 2013”. It is interesting to see that it then talks about a “complete overhaul of the Flypass frequent flyer programme”.  In light of this, my reading is that the Flypass name may well disappear. In particular, if Air Malta officially joins another “frequent flyer alliance”, such as Miles & More, the name will of course have to change.

Joining Lufthansa’s Miles & More?

Air Malta is already very well connected to, if not an official member of, Miles & More, the excellent Lufthansa frequent flyer scheme. This has previously been commented on. As such, it would not surprise me in the least if Air Malta integrated their frequent flyer scheme into the Miles & More network (currently featuring Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines,  Swiss International, Adria Airways, Croatia Airlines, Luxair, Brussels Airlines and Germanwings).

The benefits of this would be substantial: Air Malta frequent fliers would have a substantial range of airlines to spend their points on, while they would also have access to Miles & More’s first rate frequent flyer scheme, featuring top grade technology, special offers, regular news and all the other features of a high quality frequent flyer scheme.

Joining Star Alliance?

I suppose it is a case of “one step at a time”, but a possible addition to the Miles & More membership (or a result of a more sophisticated, revamped Flypass) may well be entry into Star Alliance, and access to the global network that this would bring to Air Malta frequent fliers.

Easier booking of rewards

Whether Flypass integrates into Miles & More or not, you can rest assured that a key feature of the new scheme will be easier booking of rewards. In particular, it would be an enormous disappointment if a revised scheme did not have an online booking feature, so that Air Malta frequent fliers were easily able to review options, and book flights and upgrades using their miles.

A refreshed, dedicated frequent flyer website

Tying in to the above, it is certain that Air Malta will offer better all-round web presence for its frequent flyer scheme. In addition to better functionality for booking reward (as noted above), basic requirements here include clearer explanations of the benefits and points earning opportunities, up-to-date news, and a far more sophisticated log-in and statement process. There are a number of areas here where Flypass can improve, and in light of the clear improvements to the Air Malta website generally, this is likely to be a major focus.

New, improved benefits and special offers

Again, even outside of Miles & More, a new Air Malta frequent flyer scheme should feature a clearer and wider range of benefits (in addition to flights and upgrades), and more places to earn points (a wider range of restaurants and hotels, perhaps).

In addition, the lack of any real special offers from Flypass appears to be largely a result of Air Malta’s slight embarrassment at the scheme (the last time I remember entering a Flypass promotion, it was to earn 100 free points when I bought some Cisk lager!). When Air Malta has a scheme it’s proud of (and I have faith in Peter Davies to deliver on this), it is likely to be much more actively involved in promoting the scheme via bonus point offers.

Decent offers on purchasing KMiles

Purchasing KMiles at the moment is little short of a joke. In addition to their prohibitive cost, the only way you can actually buy them is to send a cheque in the post. I do not imagine the trade in KMiles-by-mail is a roaring one.

Once it has a “valuable” frequent flyer currency, you would hope that Air Malta promotes this by setting a competitive rate for standard purchases, and offering periodic bonuses on mile purchases (most other frequent flyer schemes do).

Better customer service

To be completely fair to them, I have not had too many issues with Flypass customer services, but a lot of people have. Hopefully an automation of the rewards booking process will reduce the administrative workload of this undoubtedly understaffed department, allowing them to better assist frequent fliers on matters where such assistance should really be required.

I will continue to monitor progress here, and report back as speculation becomes fact.

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