Opening Remarks – January, 26 2004

Opening Remarks – January, 26 2004

It’s that time again. Time to stop bragging about the number of miles and points you have and cast your votes for the programs you feel have done the best job in making you loyal.

Back in 1988 a few of you joined me in starting something known as the Freddie Awards. Since then, many of you have helped us determine who has the best airline, hotel and credit card loyalty programs in the world. And the programs do not take the answers to these eternal questions lightly.

Given the challenges faced by the industry over the past three years, it’s been difficult for these programs to keep their eye on the ball — that ball is you, the members. The Freddies serve as a sort of independent report card (trust me, they all have research that shows they’ve each got the best program in the world -how can that be?), and given the sheer volume of members who cast their ballots each year, you can be sure the programs are paying attention. I was reading in a newspaper recently that just over 5,000 votes determine the winners of an Academy Award. This year we hope to receive ballots from more than a quarter of a million members of these programs.

The Freddies simply wouldn’t be the Freddies if not for the generous efforts of our sponsors. This year we boast an all-star lineup of sponsors, with Executive Travel/SkyGuide by American Express, InsideFlyer, Nextel,, and all contributing to make this the best Freddie Awards yet.

We’ve got the sponsors, now all we need is your ballot. Please take the time to visit and submit your choices — those programs that have delivered great value to you as a member in 2003. And when you’re casting your votes, please remember this is not a popularity contest; it’s a measure of the value that hundreds of programs deliver to millions of members around the globe in arguably the most popular form of loyalty in the world.

This year’s balloting is open until March 15.

US Airways
Just when it seems the economy is headed in the right direction, and both the public and the airline industry are looking to good times ahead, a wrinkle emerges.

News reports that US Airways is considering the sale of some of its assets have my attention. Now, I’ve been the only one who has maintained the faith in this airline over the past two years, and have guided you, the readers of this magazine, through some worrisome times.

But for the first time in this running saga, I have concerns about US Airways. In years past, the first telltale sign that an airline was not going to make it was when it embarked on the sale of assets. Among the majors, there has not been an airline since deregulation that has instigated an asset sale of sizeable proportions and been able to withstand eventual sale of the airline. (IF, and it remains only an if right now, US Airways does embark on selling any of its assets, consider yourself warned).

Both Pan Am and TWA come to mind, and I followed both of those airlines very closely in regards to their frequent flyer programs. They both suffered tremendous ups and downs for years before eventually being sold in pieces. Who deserves that much heartache?

Now, I should point out that in both cases, the miles associated with these two programs did continue to live on (Pan Am with Delta and TWA with American). But times were very different then. Both the acquiring airlines were healthy at that time, something not so common today. Might a low-cost carrier come in and raise the money on Wall Street to buy US Airways or its pieces? Perhaps, but let’s be realistic.

As of today, I’m advising you to continue earning and burning Dividend Miles as you normally would. However, you can be sure this advice will be updated if and when any US Airways assets are sold.

Bottom line — let me do the worrying and research, you do the earning and burning.

Note to self: It was 18 years ago this month I started this publication. Shouldn’t I be tired by now?

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