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What a Freedom of Information request revealed about East Coast Rewards

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As part of the campaign to save train loyalty scheme East Coast Rewards (a campaign which was partially successful, to the extent that Virgin East Coast ended up making a generous conversion deal), a Freedom of Information Act requested was submitted to obtain more information about the programme.

This is fantastic stuff which reveals the nitty-gritty information you would never normally discover.

Here are the highlights of the document.  I have seen the original letter from Matt Short at East Coast Main Line Company Ltd.

When National Express defaulted on the East Coast franchise, East Coast Trains inherited a loyalty programme with 3,000 members

Within six months of the launch of East Coast Rewards (January 2012), membership numbers had increased to 207,000

By 31st January 2015, membership had increased to 671,000

23% of sales made on the East Coast Trains website from April to January 2015 were for tickets on other train operators.  (Many of these sales will have been made to generate East Coast Rewards points – I certainly purchased tickets on the East Coast website purely for this reason.)

East Coast received a 5% commission on these tickets.  This generated £2.8m between April 2014 and January 2015.

During the same 9 month period, East Coast Rewards spent just £571,000 on fulfilling redemptions provided by outside providers (ie the cost of redemptions for shopping vouchers, alcoholic drinks etc).

These latter two points are very interesting.  Assuming that the cost of a redemption ticket to East Coast is nil (which is only true if people redeem for trips they would otherwise have not undertaken) and assuming that the bulk of third party tickets bought on the East Coast site were bought to generate points, the scheme was very profitable.

Of possibly even more value is that East Coast had detailed travel information on 671,000 people via the membership database.  Virgin has effectively given this up by moving to awarding a paltry number of Nectar points – a move which is unlikely to generate any marginal increase in business.

Comments (45)

  • barnaby100 says:

    We still have about 8k East Coast points left having booked rewards as far as the system would go. I can see no need for nectar points. I did register the virgin atlantic account and as usual we spent about £500 last week. With the rate of earning the same for 1st and 2nd I think we will get about 50,000 virgin points a year- less than come from much less money spent with hilton. We redeem about 400,000 virgin points a year I think. There is no attraction at all for me in this scheme- and thats as a regular virgin atlantic flyer and east coast regular traveller.

    We have been in the various east coast schemes since about 2000- maybe earlier (before selby crash and foot and mouth)- pretty much at the highest earning levels in the older schemes.

    • callum says:

      If 50,000 virgin miles mean almost nothing to you, I assume you’ll be happy to enter my number on your bookings?

      • barnaby100 says:

        The cost of buying 50,000 virgin miles is negligible compared to the value of the redemptions that we have typically had via east coast

        To buy 50,000 virgin miles is £765 and much less during bonus periods- I would value them at £500. The value of east coast redemptions was many times that- plus we typically got 2 annual lounge passes and sometimes more. It will be the 1st time that I haven’t had east coast lounge access as far as I can recall.

        LBA needs to reduce their parking costs and BA could really mop up disgruntled east coast travellers.

        • callum says:

          So you’d be happy to credit those “negligible” miles to my account? If not, then they aren’t negligible at all!

          Worse than what you had before certainly, but not negligible.

  • vontrapp23 says:

    I’ve just used 4 free first class singles from my account and it’s notable that Virgin has completely restricted their use across peak hours trains (even looking 2+ months in advance). I can see why they’ve done that but it does not feel right to me that they say they are honouring the old scheme until September – and then they greatly reduce supply… such that it’s not truly “honoured” at all. Also interesting that, at least when I checked last week, lots of their other offers (including House of Fraser gift cards) are ‘Out of Stock’. Interesting that they can somehow run out of infinite e-codes!

    Lastly, it seems that cheap peak-time tickets are also less available. What a surprise! Still aren’t super off-peak advance tickets something like 10% less now? Ah, OK, I guess we must be better off then!

    😉

    Thanks Richard and friends!

    • Hi there – it’d be good to discuss your points with you. If you email your contact details to [email protected], we can give you a call at your convenience. Many thanks.

      • barnaby100 says:

        I have sent you some feedback- not sure it was an open offer or just to vontrapp23

      • vontrapp23 says:

        @VTEC – thanks for the reply and happy to discuss but, in the spirit of this excellent forum, I think you should respond to these points beforehand. Either I’m wrong / my points are invalid, or I’m right and you should inform as to what’s going on here. Personally, I’m OK with being corrected in public…. but feels to me like VTEC is not so comfortable with publishing a collective response.

    • barnaby100 says:

      Thats interesting. I redeem for pretty much the same 2 trains (from Kings X on Friday pm) and back on Sunday pm and so should be able to see how this stacks up. I am booked to end of May at the moment but will be looking for early June onwards shortly.

  • barnaby100 says:

    I would advise not to tweet east coast from the train. They send the guard down to sort you out. Fine line between good customer service and big brother.