Listening to a recent BBC Radio show – Inside the World of the Frequent Flyer – provided a fascinating insight into the kind of hardcore loyalty programmes that airlines now run for high mileage customers.

I’m not in the same league when it comes to frequent flyer status, but a BA flight cancellation last week made me seriously question my accumulated brand loyalty. Having booked a snowboarding trip with friends, the extreme weather in the UK meant that my flight was cancelled. The BA app advised me to call the contact centre which is where the pain began!

I realized that I would need to fly from a different airport so proceeded to contact BA to change my Heathrow flight to Gatwick. Whilst the journey between the airports would be hugely frustrating, the actual customer journey that resulted was much worse!

I like the BA app when things are going well, but as soon as things got complicated, the experience quickly fell apart. Despite being a frequent flyer with a reasonable status (and therefore spending many thousands of pounds with BA every year) I was subjected to a customer experience from the 1980’s. I had to navigate my way through a confusing list of options before being routed through to completely the wrong department. After explaining my problem, I had to be transferred to a different department where I eventually managed to change my flight.

There are so many straight forward things that could have made this a great experience. Simply recognising my number and routing me through to the correct team would have saved me nearly half an hour, no doubt saved BA a lot of money and improved sentiment significantly!

Contrast this with my friend’s comparable EasyJet experience, where the same flight change notification and transfer was all handled digitally within the app, with alternative flights offered as well as accommodation options. I’m certain he was also paying much less for a far higher service!

From my experience it’s clear that BA simply hasn’t been prepared to invest in the CX infrastructure it needs to deliver brilliant customer experiences. However, at the same time I’m also heavily invested in the BA loyalty programme so – despite this incident – I’ll keep on flying with the airline for now. Which raises the critical question: how bad does an experience actually have to be before customers are prepared to break those loyalty bonds? Perhaps as the BBC documentary suggests – we are being played by the system and airline loyalty programs really are the greatest marketing invention of our time!