DALLAS / FT. WORTH — As American Airlines Managing Director of Customer Insights and Loyalty, Bridget oversees the customer relationship management and analytics, digital marketing and contract negotiations of American Airlines’ (AA) AAdvantage Frequent Flyer Program.

Before moving into this role in February 2012, Bridget was Managing Director, Distribution and Merchandising Strategies based at American Airlines Headquarters in Dallas / Ft. Worth, where she led a team responsible for commercial and technology relationships with travel agencies and other indirect distributors of American Airlines’ fare products.

In the light of the recent announcements regarding the AAdvantage Frequent Flyer Program, announced earlier this month, Bridget shares with Airways the rationale behind these controversial changes made to the program.

Airways: Different from before, AA chose to incorporate mileage and revenue spend with a base-spend amount for each reward level, how did the brand come to this decision?

Bridget Blaise-Shamai: We’ve had more than a year to monitor the competitive landscape, and we’ve seen some areas we know work well to reward customers. In the past, the airlines in general modeled their loyalty programs around the length of a flight. As business models have changed, it no longer makes sense to focus solely on length of haul.  In order to better reward customers who spend more on their tickets and to maintain exclusivity of the benefits we offer to our best customers, it made sense to add a spend-based component to our elite status qualification levels.

What improvements will current AAdvantage members see with the changes?

For Executive Platinum members, we are increasing the elite bonus they receive on eligible flights to 120% (up from 100%) and are adding a new benefit that allows them to use their complimentary 500-mile upgrade benefits on award tickets. Platinum members now have a new tier to strive for, Platinum Pro, that offers complimentary domestic upgrades, and for Gold members, we are increasing the elite bonus they receive on eligible flights to 40% (up from 25%).

Is AA concerned about the growing backlash and response from loyal customers and that other airlines are now preparing match programs?

While we recognize not everyone will view these changes in a positive light, the updates to our loyalty program allow us to give greater recognition and rewards to those customers who spend more on their tickets and ensure that we offer a competitive value proposition for our customers.

Does AA expect to link EQD to branded credit cards?

We are discussing options with our partners but have nothing to share at this time.

Can you provide insight on ConciergeKey and how it will evolve with these changes?

ConciergeKey will continue to be an invitation-only membership with no published qualification requirements. Since ConciergeKey members also hold Executive Platinum status, they too will benefit from the higher elite bonus at 120% and the ability to upgrade on award tickets.

Will AA offer a cash co-copay for re-qualification for status as it has done in the past?

We plan to continue to offer the option to select members to renew their current elite status level or to buy up to a higher elite level for a fee.

Are other oneworld fellow members going to follow this revenue based loyalty program model?

Our team has no insight into what changes other oneworld carriers may be considering as the landscape of loyalty evolves.