Opening Remarks – June, 01 2004

Opening Remarks – June, 01 2004

“In the last issue of InsideFlyer, we devoted a lot of ink to the topic of the Freddies. But we ommited two special industry-related awards which were handed out that I’d like to make mention of now.

The first was an ‘Industry Impact’ Freddie Award, awarded to a program or service that we believe has enough merit to not only benefit the members it serves, but that has an impact on the industry as a whole. This special award is not given out annually, only when deserved. This year, the Air Canada Aeroplan program won an Industry Impact Freddie Award for the personalized elite-level benefits it introduced this past year. Elite-level programs have existed since 1985 and for all those years, really haven’t progressed much. Silvers have always been Silvers and Golds were Golds. Though the qualifying measures and benefits earned do get modified from time to time, they have always been cookie cut for all the members within.

The Air Canada Aeroplan Tiffany crystal award from this year has engraved: With the introduction of personalized elite-level benefits — Experience I, II and III — Air Canada Aeroplan distinguished itself as an industry leader. By offering expanded choices and flexibility to its most valuable members, Aeroplan set a new standard for recognition, one which may eventually benefit elite members of all frequent flyer programs.

For the first time, elite-level members of this program can choose which benefits within their earned elite level hold the best personal value. Perhaps it’s club passes or domestic upgrades, or even international upgrades. At least they will have a choice and, as noted, we feel strongly that this should point the way for an entire new measure of ‘one-to-one.’ Not marketing, but benefits.

The second special Freddie Award given this year was a Distinguished Achievement Award presented to Operation Hero Miles, the mileage donation effort first put forth by Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger. This effort raised more than 550 million miles this past year to help support members of the military on leave from their duties in the Middle East. It would certainly be hard not to acknowledge just what a feat that is. That award is engraved: In recognition of Operation Hero Miles for establishing a means by which frequent flyer miles could be donated to support the men and women of the U.S. forces stationed overseas. The program inspired frequent flyers to give in historically large numbers, and had a positive impact on the morale and lives of thousands of our military heros.

And now the topics that have flooded my already fully populated email: Delta Air Lines bankrutpcy and the prognosis of US Airways Dividend Miles. Let me comment on the easy one first: Delta and SkyMiles. It’s my opinion that Delta Air Lines is being forced to address one of its most nagging problems in a public forum. Just as it had to fight changes in the SkyMiles program with the public eye on, so does it now find itself addressing labor costs and past commitments to various groups of employees in the public eye. Make no mistake, this is a high stakes battle, with Delta Air Lines managing to go from poster boy of the industry right after 9/11 to the current whipping boy.

Does it affect SkyMiles and your plans to earn and burn what you already have? Likely not. I’ve been on this watch for the past 33 months and have seen this all before. I’m in no way concerned about my SkyMiles and suggest you don’t worry either.

Speaking of bankruptcy, US Airways’ name seems to be popping up again. Many readers thought I had finally gone off my rocker when I supported US Airways during its initial foray into bankruptcy and advocated earning and burning Dividend Miles without fear. I’ve come this far with them, and am fully aware they face an even more difficult battle ahead and very well may end up with strike two in bankruptcy court. This is difficult advice, but I’ll continue to rate Dividend Miles as an earn and burn program. That is, I advise you to stay with this program and let me worry about the danger of losing your miles.

Finally, like several other publishers, we converted months ago to CTP (computer-to-plate) technology and along with that came digital ads. No more film, but as we have learned, just as many mistakes. While there seems to have been some miscommunication between the printer and the ad agency, this magazine has our name on it and I’ll step up to the plate and apologize for the InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club ad on the rear cover of our April issue, which was not to the standards of this magazine nor to that program. Bottom line: the ad didn’t print well. We’ll be re-running the ad at their request and frankly, we’re glad to do so. I have more than 500,000 points with that program and hope to one day make the million-point mark. With the ad from them this month touting double points or double miles — I guess I had better pay close attention, because that’s a great offer.

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