Yesterday, Luc Bondar was named Vice President of Loyalty at United. He will start his new job on November 01, 2017. But who is he? Does his background reveal anything about the future of MileagePlus?
Bondar is Australian and 45 years old. His work history spans the Australia, Asia, Europe and the United States. He has a family, coaches youth soccer, and loves coffee. In his new role at United, he will manage the “strategic planning, development and execution” of the MileagePlus program.
Bodar will report to Andrew Nocella, United’s Executive Vice President. Nocella stated–
As we build momentum on our customer-focused journey, it’s more important than ever that our Loyalty Marketing team accelerates its leadership in innovation, analytics and personalized engagement. For that reason and many more, I’m excited to announce that Luc will join us as our new VP of Loyalty.
Luc is an experienced and highly regarded thought leader in the loyalty marketing space and has been a writer, public speaker, workshop facilitator and panel moderator for leading market analysis forums. His experience and demonstrated ability to build sustainable, value-adding partnerships internally and externally and to lead and mobilize teams make him a perfect fit for this role.
First, View from the Wing reminds us that Nocella played an instrumental role in making American Airlines’ loyalty program from the best to the arguably the worst in the USA among legacies.
Is MileagePlus destined for a similar disaster? Luc seems to be a people person, able to connect well with those around and him and boasting an enviable portfolio of international experience. I appreciate that Noccella stresses building a “customer-focused” journey, but “innovation” has unfortunately been a misnomer in the loyalty sphere over the last several years. Like enhancement, innovation is usually a code word for devaluation.
A 2007 Interview
I found an article from 2007 entitled One to Watch: Luc Bondar.
Bondar, 34 at the time, stated–
I think loyalty marketing is the future of marketing. The only unique thing any business has…is its customers. Understand who your customers are, what works for them and what their real needs are, and you can drive that back to the organization and inform other parts of the business. For twenty years, marketing was thought of as brand police. Now marketing is driving business decisions, on par with finance, legal, sales.
That was in 2007 and I would certainly agree that understanding customers and their needs is critical. Even so, I’m not sure I agree that the only unique thing any business has is its customers. United has a unique route network, pricing structure, and loyalty program that attracts unique customers. It is United’s innovation that will spur growth and customers seem fungible to me–you want more, not less and you want good ones, not bad ones. The remaining details are less important. Still, I get the message. I do not dispute that understanding what customers truly want is the key to an effective loyalty program.
My hope is that Bondar’s attitude will be “how can I innovate” and not “how much can I cut and still get away with it.” While his hands may be tied by his superiors, let’s watch closely and see what he will do to the many positive benefits that still mark the MileagePlus program.
image: United Airlines