Driving to the airport recently, I heard an interesting spot on the radio. David Collins, the creator of the hit TV series “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” talked about the fact that, to pitch the original concept of the show, he relied on cashing in some of his American Express Membership Rewards points for free airline tickets, as he had no budget and even less money.
Later that same day, after a long day of travel (four flights and all were RJs), I found myself in my hotel room surfing through the TV listings looking for a basketball game. No games were on but I noticed an episode of “Queer Eye…” was about to start and having remembered it from the radio commercial, I dialed myself in for an hour of riotous TV.
I found it entertaining, full of great advice and, I have to admit, the boys have some talent. “Queer Eye…” expands on the notion (mainstreamed by “Will & Grace” and the sub textually queer “Frasier”) that gay men have ‘magical’ qualities. So it got me to thinking; what if the boys were to stop by the world of frequent flyer programs right now and perform a quick makeover on them — sort of a Queer Eye for the Frequent Flyer Guy…
(Begin dream sequence)
…They are the Fab Five, an elite team dedicated to extolling the simple virtues of miles and points. The team is made up of upgrade doctor Thom, quippy elite-member savant Carson, ruler of rewards Ted, member rules guru Kyan, and someone they like to call the “concierge of cool” — bonus boy, Jai. All five are talented, gay, and determined to clue up the cluttered and clumsy frequent flyer programs of the world.
The Fab Five treat each member as a nose-to-tail project. Soon, the frequent flyer guy is learning everything he would ever need to know about elite benefits, upgrades, award redemption and choosing the right program.
I can hear their advice now:
Carson: “You’re going to be calling me Patty Duke because I’m like the Miracle Worker. If this is the real reason why you have spent one third of your life earning miles, then there is such a thing as too many miles.”
Ted: “He’s neurotic, he’s needy… he’s like every frequent flyer guy I’ve ever dated!”
Kyan: “The most important thing to remember when choosing a program is; learn to love elite re-qualification rules. They’re all the same yet they’re all different.”
It’s a full make-over, where frequent flyer guys turn in their coach seats for upgrades, learn about wait lists that don’t exceed 100 hours, and come to understand why JetBlue’s TrueBlue program is to Delta SkyMiles what acid wash jeans are to khaki slacks — both have their place, but they don’t fit everyone.
When the journey is done, a freshly scrubbed, newly enlightened, ultra hip frequent flyer guy emerges.
And frequent flyers aren’t the only ones who benefit from the Fab Five’s advice, the programs get their share as well:
Jai: “Wow, these bonus promotions are really amazing — who knew you could satisfy your members with a such a small offering.”
Kyan: “Your rules are so utilitarian. Your members must love to read the fine print. I’ll bet we know who wrote them — weren’t there some recent seasonal layoffs over at the IRS?”
Carson: “Yipes. This upgrade policy needs to be condemned. You actually have members flying to earn these benefits?”
Thom: “There’s no excuse for blackout dates. Ever!”
Earning snaps for its bitchy humor, this “Queer Eye” winds down every episode with a juicy segment where the Fab Five leave their freshly made-better frequent flyer guy alone with his upgrades and elite benefits and instructions on how to choose a better program. They then adjourn to their queer lair to sip cocktails and watch the action on a hidden camera. And they do what we all do when we watch reality TV — they make fun of everybody — something I hope the real frequent flyer programs don’t do.
(End dream sequence)
As soon as we close this issue we go right to work on tabulating the results of the public’s vote for this years Freddie Awards. I haven’t a clue as to who this years’ winners will be, but I do know that during the two-month balloting period, we had 361,181 visitors to the Freddie Awards Web site.
It’s likely that not all these visitors actually cast a ballot and many who did cast ballots have still yet to confirm their votes, but the sheer number of visitors is a testimony to the public’s interest in their frequent traveler programs. We look forward to announcing the results at the 16th Annual Freddie Awards ceremony to be held on April 29th at the Embassy Suites Hotel New York City.
You can look forward to reading all about the results in our May issue, or go online to http://www.freddieawards.com to witness the results in real time.
And another thank you to this years sponsors: Nextel, SmarterLiving.com, Executive Travel/SkyGuide, Points.com and USATODAY.com.