Sainsbury Delays Tesco’s Take-Off on Air Miles Promo

19 February 2002

British Airways-owned third party loyalty scheme Air Miles is the meaty bone of contention over which Britain's two largest supermarket chains are squabbling.

J Sainsbury – the nation’s second largest supermarket chain and current exclusive beneficiary of the Air Miles programme in the grocery sector – is highly peeved at losing that right to arch rival Tesco, which displaced it at the head of the UK supermarket league six years ago.

Tesco’s formal tenure on Air Miles takes-off March 15 when it will offer the popular free flights incentive programme to its Clubcard loyalty scheme members.

But Sainsbury, miffed at its loss, obtained an interim injunction in the High Court on Monday restraining British Airways from publicising its relationship with Tesco before the formal take-off date. “We believe that the situation needed clarifying,” said a Sainsbury spokesperson.

But the aerial dogfight was not an unqualified victory for Sainsbury, the High Court clearing Tesco to taxi toward the main Air Miles runway with a mailshot telling its several million Clubcard holders that they will be able to collect up to eighty miles for every £2.50 spent instore. Crowed a Tesco executive: “Sainsbury’s tried to stop us from talking about it, but they failed.”

Meantime, the court is still mulling whether Tesco can issue Air Miles on Clubcard points earned prior to take-off date. This ambivalence is not to Tesco’s liking. “Our customers are not going to look kindly on anyone who tries to make taking part in the scheme more difficult,” it said darkly.

Data sourced from: The Times (London); additional content by WARC staff