Regarding customer loyalty programs, many airlines have changed their business models away from delivering points based on miles and instead are issuing points based on cash spent on tickets.

The airline industry boasts nearly 370 million loyalty program members worldwide, according to COLLOQUY, and competition to acquire and retain rewards members is incredibly intense.

Preparing for takeoff

From listening to its customers, United Airlines will change its frequent-flier loyalty program and award miles to its 95 million members based on ticket price rather than distance flown. The major shift in the loyalty program will take effect March 1, 2015.

"More carriers are competing for customers based on product and service offerings, as passengers continue to search for and book flights based on best price, reliability, convenience and amenities."

When the changes become effective, United customers who have no status in the plan will receive five miles for each dollar spent on tickets, excluding government taxes and fees. The number of miles awarded will increase based on the passenger’s elite status.

Staying connected

More carriers are competing for customers based on product and service offerings, as passengers continue to search for and book flights based on best price, reliability, convenience and amenities. As a result, airlines are increasing investments in customer experience improvements such as in-flight Wi-Fi, premium seating options and operational reliability infrastructure.

Having Wi-Fi onboard planes isn’t necessarily new, but the comprehensive offering of Wi-Fi on planes is new. Many airlines offer the service on select routes, and some like Virgin America offer Wi-Fi on every plane.

Wi-Fi is also being rolled out to all planes. Power outlets, once available only in premium cabins, can now be found in the economy cabin; some planes even offer USB ports for recharging portable devices. In-flight Wi-Fi is also being used to stream entertainment to passengers’ smartphones, tablets and computers. Airlines such as JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and Virgin America, which operate a single type of aircraft, are able to roll out tech upgrades faster than legacy carriers that have fleets of varied aircrafts.