Opening Remarks – November, 01 2004

Opening Remarks – November, 01 2004

So many things to comment on, so little time.
So let me get started: November 1991. Anyone remember that month? Well, I do. It was the month that over 700,000 members of the Midway Airlines FlyersFirst frequent flyer program lost all their miles and awards as the airline folded its wings after negotiations with Northwest Airlines fell apart. Here it is November again, and while I don’t see any loss of awards because of airline liquidation this month, it’s a pretty scary situation given the price of oil. The interesting thing for me is despite the call by the many blowhards out there that many of the Big 6 would be gone by now, it seems the action may be in the low-cost airline arena. Frankly, I would not be surprised if America West and ATA have polite talks that may lead to an “alliance” or merger, and I would suggest that Frontier and Spirit Airlines do the same. But then again, I’m a miles-and-points guy.

In this month’s US Airways Dividend Miles watch, there’s been a lot of news lately that US Airways has gotten the wiggle room they need to last into mid-January. Gee, didn’t I say that a few months ago? I’m still giving them a 70-percent chance to pull it out, and importantly, to save the miles and awards of all the Dividend Miles members. What amazes me is the lack of positive media coverage of labor and management in their talks. Recently, there was a warning about Northwest, and within days, positive news came from both camps about the potential of $950 million in savings there. Here’s what I’d do – US Airways gave untold millions to Steven Wolf and Co. to straighten up US Airways. The piggy bank method did not work. If I were them, I’d go back and prepare a blockbuster piggy-bank contract for Gordon Bethune (who is leaving Continental at years end) to take over US Airways starting in January. He’s been to the edge before, he has pretty remarkable credentials, and while it would take a ton of money to keep him from Boeing, it would be worth it. Why? The experience, the charm, the smarts and the discipline to get the job done. As important is the fact that in the past, he did express a desire to merge Continental with United Airlines. That’s not going to happen, given the SkyTeam and other considerations, but is there any airline closer to a merger with United right now than US Airways? One more thing: I have to set the end of November as the date of which I need to see serious cooperation in their labor negotiations and business plan to make a call on what members should do with their miles. I’m currently the only (fool?) one still suggesting earning and using them with normal practices-with small concerns (save a few less, burn a few more). But time is running out; I need room to offer up the advice necessary to save what you have, and these two groups are making it very difficult on members of this program and themselves as well. Hey guys this isn’t tea time; let’s get done whatever needs to get done to save this airline.

Congratulations to David Kong at Best Western. He was recently named President and CEO of that hospitality company. What’s cool is that David has long been responsible for the Gold Crown Club at Best Western and I think done a marvelous job in his marketing and operations execution. I’m proud to say, “I knew him when.” Also, let me correct something from our last issue. We erred in identifying John Reistrup as the manager of the US Airways Dividend Miles program. He’s actually the Director of that program, and frankly, I knew that but screwed up anyhow. John has grown up with that program and may just be one of the main reasons that it has held its own despite the challenges the airline has faced these past few years. Of course, John carries a huge load of responsibility right now, and he’s one of the reasons I’ve remained in their corner through all this. He’s not making any mistakes and when you’re in charge of the program, promotions, and member communications, a lot can go wrong.

Not sure if you noticed, but it’s November and we’ve heard very little from frequent flyer programs for changes in 2005. Normally, anything would be announced by now. We note the United Mileage Plus changes in this issue as well as some changes over at American AAdvantage, and the drop of any blackout dates in 2005 from OnePass. This is very good news, as we really don’t need any more change – except for the positive. I think Delta has a few things coming, but those are going to be on the plus side. Any program that announces serious negative changes this late in the year for 2005 should be banned; members make serious efforts to re-qualify for elite status this time of year and it would surely be a shame for them to have done so only to be faced with a devalued program.

There are two more issues I’d like to comment on but I have saved them for our online edition. I’ve long kept personal notes on things going on in the industry – sort of my thoughts outside of InsideFlyer’s pages. With the popularity of blogs, I’ve been urged to make public those thoughts, and if you’ll get in the habit, you can now go online to read my blog titled “View From the Wing.” It will be featured both on and in the newer blogs@flyertalk section on The comments you can now read are about the new United Mileage Plus promotion that charges members to earn double EQM’s toward their 2005 elite level, and my thoughts on the new award option that Choice Privileges has – redeeming points for awards at Preferred Hotels.

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