Opening Remarks – December, 29 2005

Opening Remarks – December, 29 2005

And What Did You Get For The Holidays?
In a conversation the other day with several readers of this magazine, I was highly amused by their stress about what their favorite frequent flyer program might give them during the past holiday season. If you are among the selected elite members of almost any program in the world you’re likely to have gotten a holiday card, a tin of cookies, a stollen, a bonus mile voucher or even an award redemption discount: all nice tributes to a programs best customers. So, I went on to poll about 50 readers that I have met over the years and who live in cities around the globe, and have come to the conclusion that despite how the industry has changed, a gift of a confirmed upgrade still ranks as the best gift ever. In years gone by, this type of special holiday surprise was the standard, and nearly all programs participated in handing out something that even Santa would have traded an elf for. This year, among those polled-all whom have already received their holiday gifts-not a single upgrade was among the smaller boxes and envelopes opened. While we might say that grinches have stolen Christmas, it also seems that grinches have stole the upgrade.

In years gone by, this column would have been devoted to urging you to vote in this year’s Freddie Awards. This year is no different, but there’s a new twist to this. In an effort to simplify the Freddies, this year we are going to host voting only during the month of February. That’s right, February is Freddies month. When the Freddies originally started, the voting period was nearly three months long, then we shortened it to two months, and now we’re down to a month. Our thinking on this is that it will allow programs to “promote the vote” without interfering with their long range promotions and program news. Twenty-eight days is long enough for most of you to come off a long road trip and jot down the names of those programs that served you best this past year, and then we’ll send you back out on the road. So until February 1st, please feel free to get your votes in line. Something new this year will be the Freddies in multiple language ballots. For a few years we have toyed with the idea, since in certain parts of Europe and Asia, a majority of the member communication is in other languages. We’ll announce all the details in our February issue (and on http://www.freddieawards.com ). And by the way, this will be the 18th Annual Freddie Awards.

InsideFlyer was quite instrumental in the start of FlyerTalk.com, and I can’t help but feel a sense of pride in acknowledging its recent milestone of surpassing 5,000,000 posts in what has become one of the most popular travel bulletin boards on the Internet. While started as the home of frequent flyer opinion on the Internet, the Web site has blossomed into a huge universe of all travel-related information, exchanged from the experiences of other frequent flyers. While miles and points remain the focus of the Web site, forums as widespread as All Japan and women’s travel have become home to many sharing similar interests. At its current velocity, it looks like it will add nearly two million new posts in 2006, and InsideFlyer will continue its support to see that it happens — congratulations all “FlyerTalkers.”

And I’d like to do something that I’ve never done before-name a “Frequent Flyer of the Year.” His name is Marc Tacchi, and an interview with him is located within the InsideEdition news of this issue. First of all, I’ve never met Marc, but have marveled at his recent accomplishment — flying nearly 350,000 BIS (butt in seat) miles in 61 days for The Great Canadian Mileage Run 2005. All to earn just over one million miles for future award redemptions. Mileage runs are pretty much everyday news these days, but the extent of this single effort is enough to leave even the most flyer-hardy scratching his/her head. A couple reasons for this distinction: 1) it was his first mileage run; 2) he is actually a commercial pilot by trade; 3) it reflects the growing interest in mileage runs as a hobby and 4) he never hesitated in answering that he would do it all over again. So Marc, thanks for reminding us that these programs can be fun.

Among the best memories I have in 2005 is the tremendous way in which they leveraged their assets of free flights, free lodging and generous financial donations toward a difficult year in many parts of the world. For the thousands of readers of InsideFlyer who stepped forward to donate, and to the hundreds of thousands of other members of these programs, we acknowledge your efforts to help. It’s simply amazing how our miles and points can make a difference. Thank you.

I trust that your holidays were merry and full of memories that will last you a lifetime. For us at InsideFlyer, we never seem to have a slow period, and look forward to trying some new things in the magazine in the New Year. For some of you, this will have been the 20th time that we have celebrated a holiday together. Yes, some time in 2006, InsideFlyer will complete its 20th year of publishing information about frequent flyer programs, and while it never seems we can catch up, we’ll also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the start of mileage-based frequent flyer programs. I know that there will be many reasons to celebrate that date. We’ll see you all into the New Year, and I look forward to making InsideFlyer more relevant to your needs in today’s loyalty program environment.

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