On Tuesday I wrote about the launch of Kaligo, the new British Airways Executive Club partner. Kaligo is a hotel booking website which rewards you with 5 – 20 Avios points for every £1 you spend on the site.
Kaligo is also offering a large carrot to persuade you to give them a try – see here. You will earn 3,000 bonus Avios points on your first booking. If you spend over £1,000 on your first booking, you will earn a 10,000 Avios bonus!
Head for Points readers were keen to register but there were some teething problems reported. I had already agreed to do a Q&A with Kaligo’s CEO Kyle Armstrong, so I took the opportunity to find out a bit more about the business.
Raffles: Why did you decide to launch Kaligo?
Kyle: Our [Kyle and co-founder Sebastian] corporate careers had us on the road a lot of the time. Business travellers work hard and usually collect some rewards from their flights. But compared to the money they spend on lodging, the hotel rewards are still relatively small. We wanted to flip that around.
Raffles: What is your background and how did you meet?
Kyle: We met at American Express in Singapore, where I was GM Consumer Travel and Sebastian headed up Airline Loyalty Partnerships. It was one of those rare moments where all the puzzle pieces fall into place. I’ve led large travel agency teams and Seb has been a life-long airline loyalty enthusiast – he holds 14 active rewards credit cards issued in three different countries! We are an Aussie and a German, both a long way from home [Kaligo is based in Singapore] but hopefully with the perfect ingredients for a travel rewards business.
Raffles: When did you launch?
Kyle: We launched last month and the response has been phenomenal, with thousands signing up to take advantage of the launch offers. We have big plans for the next 12 months as well.
Raffles: How big is the range of hotels offered?
Kyle: We offer well over 300,000 hotels including all major chains, comparable to the selection at other major sites. For many properties, we have best-in-market prices, which we benchmark in real-time using meta-search technology.
Raffles: What other airlines miles do you offer apart from Avios?
Kyle: We offer Asia Miles via Cathay Pacific, JetPrivilege miles [Jet Airways], AAdvantage miles [American Airlines], US Dividend Miles [US Airways], and AirAsia BIG points. We are in negotiations with other airlines in both hemispheres, covering all three major alliances.
Raffles: When you book via Kaligo, do you earn hotel points on top of the miles rewards from you?
Kyle: As with all pre-paid online travel agencies, our rates often do not earn proprietary hotel rewards or status benefits, especially with the major chains. We know this is a consideration for many customers, and it’s a strong motivation for us to make our reward offering ever more compelling. In many cases, it’s already an easy decision: get 5,000 airline miles per night on Kaligo or 500 hotel points per stay directly with the property.
Raffles: How does your offering compare with Pointshound / Rocketmiles?
Kyle: Our core model is similar, but there are many differences: Kaligo combines a large hotel selection with uncapped earn rates, so the more you spend the more you earn. A stay at an expensive luxury property could earn you 10,000 miles per night. Another unique element is our meta-search technology. This allows us to compare rates in real-time against other sites and to guide price-sensitive customers towards the best deals.
Raffles: What introductory bonus are you offering?
Kyle: BA Executive Club members earn 3,000 bonus Avios on their first booking, and if they spend £1,000 or more they earn 10,000 bonus Avios! Customers who book multiple rooms, extended stays or a luxury hotel are rewarded even more.
Raffles: Our readers seemed keen to try the site on Tuesday, but it sounds like there were a few teething problems. Can you shed some light on this?
Kyle: The response has been fantastic from the article with dozens of readers having already booked and many more registering for the bonus offer. The comments on the HFP post have been very helpful in pinpointing some teething problems, mostly specific to UK-based users. Growing rapidly and having a lean team means we’ve still got some work ahead of us, but the priority is clear: great customer experience comes first. We really value the feedback and are actioning it quickly.
Raffles: Can you talk about the key issues reported by readers and how you are addressing them?
Kyle: In terms of payment acceptance, we know many readers are keen to use their Amex cards, and we were initially only accepting Amex in some selected currencies. I’m happy to report that we will be accepting American Express for £ transactions from Thursday.
Readers reported that prices were showing as tax-exclusive on the site, which is not customary for the UK market. Thanks to this feedback, we have already switched over to displaying tax-inclusive prices.
There are also some issues with finding selected UK destinations (Heathrow, Leeds, Cambridge), which are not correctly mapped in our system. This will be resolved in the coming days.
Finally, the site is not yet optimized for mobile devices. We’re very much looking forward to launching our phone- and tablet-friendly version in early December.
Thanks to Kyle for his time. You can learn more about Kaligo in my article from Tuesday.