60 Seconds with FlyerTalk member, UA_Flyer

60 Seconds with FlyerTalk member, UA_Flyer

Last year, United offered an Elite Choice Team Competition to members where self-selected teams of four competed against each other to win miles, upgrades and lounge passes. The top 50 teams that increased the most in total number of miles they earned in 2008 compared to 2007 received 1,000,000 redeemable Mileage Plus miles, 50,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM), 50 Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS), eight confirmed regional upgrades and eight United Red Carpet Club one-time passes, to be split evenly among the winning team members.

FlyerTalk member UA_Flyer oversaw the 93-page United Elite Competiton thread on FlyerTalk. He summarized the comments made by the 25+ FlyerTalk members who particpated in the competition in his responses to our questions.

InsideFlyer
Why do you think this promotion was so popular with members?
UA_Flyer
It provided an extra incentive for frequent flyers to strive for. There was something more tangible for members to shoot for at the end than just extra upgrade certificates. It brought out the competitive nature in most of us, and the team concept spurred conversations between members and across teams that added more spice into the competition. And finally, the FlyerTalk thread gave members and teams a forum to socialize, theorize, share information and monitor the stats of the competing teams. People naturally enjoy things when they are more involved. The thread was so popular that a Flyertalk Elite Competition Do is currently being planned.

IF
How did teams earn so many miles?
UA_Flyer
Several teams did extra personal trips, and others increased work trips. A few of them took extra vacation trips going to places that were further than usual. Several members flew more because of the inherent peer pressure from members within the same teams.

IF
Did anyone take drastic measures, i.e. a “mileage run” or take unnecessary flights to get more miles?
UA_Flyer
Many members did “mileage runs” on weekends or during the holidays, and also came up with creative routings to generate additional miles. Quite a few members flew extra trips during the double EQM period to build EQM balances.

IF
Did team members meet up with each other during the competition?
UA_Flyer
Very few team members did meet. Most were so busy flying that they did not have time to get together. There was a lot of communication via phone, email and the PM feature on FlyerTalk.

IF
Do you know if any frequent flyers switched to United Mileage Plus from another program just to participate in this contest?
UA_Flyer
Several members, who usually split loyalty over two or more airlines in the past, decided to fly almost exclusively on UA. A few, who previously flew very little on United, switched loyalty to United just for this competition.

IF
Are there any rules you would recommend United change if they offered a similar promotion and why?
UA_Flyer
Many members felt that United, which is known for its international route network, should have opened the competition to non-U.S. based Mileage Plus members. It did not seem fair to exclude a large group of loyal customers overseas. Others questioned whether it was necessary to require a person to be a Mileage Plus member before the competition started.

IF
And if you participated in a similar promotion, is there anything you would do differently next time?
UA_Flyer
Most members felt that United should have provided status reports on the competition to make it more interactive. One of the biggest reasons that 25 teams from FlyerTalk finished in the top 50 was due to the Master Thread on FlyerTalk, which provided an interactive perspective to the competition. There were several teams, which were formed with FlyerTalk members or non-FlyerTalkers, who did not disclose their information in the Master Thread, but were closely monitoring the FlyerTalk teams’ progress each week to gauge their own progress. Someone compared the Master Thread to the “Amazing Race” and “American Idol” TV shows. Members were anxious to see the up-to-date rankings in the Master Thread each week. Although the FlyerTalk Number One team was so far ahead of everyone else, the goal of finishing in the top 50 helped to keep the enthusiasm going.

IF
How did members form teams?
UA_Flyer
Most of the teams were formed via the Master Thread on FlyerTalk. Several teams were formed with close family members, friends or associates from work.

IF
Did anyone from United ever contact you about the FlyerTalk thread?
UA_Flyer
No! This was by far the most disappointing aspect of the competition. United never put out anything publicly or even tried to cheer the teams on during the 12-month competition period. United could have generated additional goodwill and publicity by being more proactive in the whole process. Unfortunately, we have learned that the person who was responsible for coming up with the idea for this competition was let go by United while the competition was going on.

The second ranked FlyerTalk team did not receive its email notification and was anxiously waiting its fate. I personally contacted United PR, a FlyerTalk member from United, and asked for help. Kudos to United PR, who responded promptly and helped to resolve the issue and made four FlyerTalk members very happy at the end.

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