Air Miles (often stylized as AIR MILES) is the name of separately operated loyalty programs in Canada, the Netherlands and the Middle East. Points are earned on purchases at participating merchants and can be redeemed against flights with specific airlines. The scheme was also operated in the United Kingdom and Spain until it was combined and rebranded as Avios in November 2011.
The Air Miles concept was created by Sir Keith Mills, and began operating in the UK in November 1988. British company Loyalty Management Group (LMG) operated the program and licensed the rights to it in other countries to other operators.
LMG was later acquired by Canadian firm Groupe Aeroplan, now Aimia, which retains the intellectual property associated with the Air Miles name and logo internationally, and is the majority partner in the Air Miles program in the Middle East. In all other countries in which Air Miles programs operate, Aimia is the licensor and is not involved in program operation. In Canada, Air Miles competes directly with Aimia's Aeroplan program. Similarly the former Air Miles program in the UK had no affiliation with the Nectar program operated by Aimia.
Air Miles Canada
Currently owned and operated by LoyaltyOne, whose parent company is Alliance Data, the Air Miles reward program was launched in Canada in 1992, and is Canada’s largest coalition loyalty program. In 1998, Air Miles Canada was acquired by Alliance Data Systems. In 2008, Alliance Data Loyalty Services became known as LoyaltyOne.
Air Miles Canada has more than 100 partners, including Bank of Montreal, American Express, Rona, Inc., Toys R Us, Shell Canada, Safeway, Metro, Sobeys and Sobeys Liqour, Lawtons, Rexall/PharmaPlus pharmacies, and Eastlink. Consumers collect Air Miles reward miles from sponsors, which can be redeemed for 1,200 reward choices, such as travel, entertainment, home electronics and giftcards. Consumers get the best value for their Air Miles when they use them for travel.
There are more than ten million active collector accounts across Canada: approximately two-thirds of Canadian households participate in Air Miles.
In April 2009, Air Miles Canada launched My Planet, an initiative to help people trade in their Air Miles for environmentally conscious products and services. Initially, My Planet offered collectors over 140 "green" redemption items, including public transit passes, organic cotton linens, and electric scooters. In September 2009, the program was extended to stores and point of purchase.
Air Miles Middle East
In the Middle East region Air Miles is operated by Rewards Management Middle East. It is co-owned by Aimia (formerly Groupe Aeroplan) and HSBC. It operates a single program across the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain. Members who are HSBC credit cardholders are credited Air Miles for credit card transactions.
Air Miles the Netherlands
Similar to other Air Miles programs, Air Miles in the Netherlands originally had flights as its only reward but later expanded to include other rewards. Flight rewards are no longer available as no airline participates any longer. The program commenced in the mid-1990s, but its popularity later waned. In 2004, ABN AMRO ceased its participation. Albert Heijn did the same in some branches to allow greater product discounting. At Shell gas stations, customers can choose between Air Miles or stamps.
Air Miles United Kingdom
Air Miles in the UK was created in the mid-1980s by Alan Deller, Commercial Director of British Caledonian Airways and the partners of advertising agency Mills, Smith & Partners – initially Keith Mills, Brian Smith, William Kershaw, Nick Tomlin, Peter Badham and Geoffrey Bean and later Liam Cowdrey. Together they formed the Air Miles Travel Promotions Limited in 1986 and sold 51% of the UK operation to British Airways soon after. They produced the consumer launch campaign ‘Stop dreaming. Start Collecting’, gaining a database of three million Air Miles collectors in the first three months. Keith Mills later founded the Nectar loyalty card. Operations in the UK commenced in November 1988.
In 2007, the United Kingdom Air Miles business had eight million customers. Airmiles could be collected through Lloyds TSB Airmiles Duo credit card accounts, Shell petrol stations, Tesco supermarkets (50 airmiles for every £2.50 in Tesco ClubCard vouchers), Southern Electric, travel products, package holidays purchased from Air Miles and over 100 online retailers.
The British program had an online shopping portal including retailers such as eBay and Currys. Airmiles could be redeemed for flights with British Airways and other airlines, Eurostar and ferry crossings, cruises, hotel accommodation, car hire, travel insurance, package holidays, spa and golf breaks and leisure activities. It was based in Crawley.
Air Miles was a subsidiary of British Airways, but the airline also operated a different scheme for its frequent flyers called BA Miles.
In September 2011 Air Miles announced that it would be rebranding to Avios and that taxes and charges would then be chargeable, quoting £497 for a return flight to Sydney; many previous users expressed regret and anger over this. The Airmiles scheme was combined with BA Miles and ended at midnight 14 November.
Air Miles United States
An Air Miles program was launched in the United States in 1992 by Loyalty Management Group. Participating companies included Lenscrafters, General Cinema, AT&T Corporation, and Citibank. Unlike its Canadian counterpart, the U.S. program was unsuccessful and suspended operations in May 1993.
- "Getting the most out of your travel reward points". Toronto Star. 2009-10-02. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
- "Company overview". LoyaltyOne. Archived from the original on 19 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
- "Travel; Rewards in Canada". Toronto Star. 2007-10-04. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
- "OC Transpo and AIR MILES partner to promote public transit on Car Free Day". Ottawa Start. 2009-09-22. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
- "Use your Airmiles to get Gift Certificates". Best Airmile Deals. 2007-04-11. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
- "Air Miles could be your ticket for city transit ride". Edmonton Sun. 2009-06-12. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
- "Air Miles takes My Planet in-store". Marketing. 2009-09-22. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
- "Awards and Recognition". Loyalty One. Archived from the original on 19 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
- "Air Miles reward program receives the silver contact centre employer of choice certification award!". Contact Centre Employer of Choice. 2008-08-11. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
- "Best Triggered Personalized Email" (PDF). Marketing Sherpa. Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
- "Winners in 2007". Canadian Marketing Association. 2007. Retrieved 2009-09-29.
- "Air Miles UK are to award miles for eBay purchases". The Wise Marketer. 2007-05-23. Retrieved 2008-08-03.
- "Airmiles members will have to pay tax on free flights". London: The Daily Telegraph, 15 November 2011. 2011-11-15.
- Collinson, Patrick (2011-09-09). "Angry flyers says adios to Airmiles". London: The Guardian, 9 September 2011.
- "The end of Airmiles". London: The Independent, Saturday 12 November 2011. 2011-11-12.
- Molotsky, Irvin (1993-05-30). "TRAVEL ADVISORY; Air Miles Suspended". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-23.