Randy Petersen's Opening Remarks – November, 18 2010

Randy Petersen's Opening Remarks – November, 18 2010

The Year in Travel …

As we count down the end of yet another year of traveling for our readers, let me add to the many well-wishes you are sure to receive during this season. For some of you, you’ll receive gifts designed for the most elite of travelers, others will be happy with electronic holiday cards from loyalty programs that have become so popular. And some of you won’t be content until you count that last mile or point on December 31st.

It’s been a good year for me, passing the remaining million-point goal I was aiming for in another hotel loyalty program, mentally counting the millions of miles in the single account that will result with the merger of the CO/UA programs later in 2011 and the fact that I got upgraded to a Cadillac on 90 percent of my car rentals this past year. I was also happy that I was able to earn two international tickets from UA from their “Fly Free …” promotion without any deduction from my mileage balance. Beyond these somewhat material gains in 2010, it is something else that I’ll cherish when reflecting back on yet another travel year–I rarely fly alone. It was a rare trip in 2010 when I did not run into a fellow reader of InsideFlyer, a fellow member of FlyerTalk or a fellow traveler who just happened to recognize me from somewhere. It’s those types of memories that I’ll look back at most fondly–that chance to chat with and listen to my fellow travelers. If I were to rank the questions I heard the most from these travelers in 2010, it would look like this:

– What’s going to happen to my lifetime elite miles with the CO/UA merger?

– What do you think will happen to E+ seating with the CO/UA merger?

– What’s your take on the British Airways credit card offer?

– When is Delta going to get their act together on awards?

– Do you know anything about a rumor of a Hyatt credit card?

– Will UA end their Star-Net blocking once they merge with CO?

– How come you haven’t beat up on Hilton more for the way they changed their award chart?

– Do you know when Southwest will announce their new frequent flyer program?

– Know any good mileage run deals?

– Do you have any extra FlyerTalk tags?

All good questions, many of which have been answered in the pages of InsideFlyer; and as for the extra FlyerTalk tags, I never fly without them to give away.

Once the holidays are behind us, I’m the most excited I’ve been in years with the projects that we’ll be announcing in the months ahead. Look for a very WOW! change to MileageManager which will feature real-time award availability searches, a revamped WebFlyer and possibly another new idea that we’ve been playing around with for some time that involves helping you choose the right credit card for your miles and points.

I also was intrigued, surprised but not surprised, when researching the most popular topics among travelers for this column. On FlyerTalk, the single most popular general topic of the year was the Presidential Dollar Coins promotion where loyalty program members could buy these coins with a mileage earning credit card and essentially earn the bonus miles while getting back the exact money they spent earning the miles. A frequent flyer mileage merry-go-round if there ever was one. This topic garnered well over one million views. Coming in second was the amazing 100,000-mile bonus offer to acquire a British Airways credit card with some half-million views on that topic, followed by nearly 400,000 views of the 75,000-mile bonus offer for an American AAdvantage credit card. By comparison, United’s 50,000-mile credit card bonus was viewed only 118,000 times, US Airways credit card offers were viewed 49,000 times and Delta’s only 29,000 times. It appears to be all about the money and the miles. The British Airways offer stands alone in the history of these programs as being both over-rewarding and the most popular of all time. Who says that the credit card melt-down in the industry has had a lasting effect? Miles are back and so is the interest in taking advantage of these offers (though I have to say, I’m not sure that 100,000 bonus miles will stimulate long-lasting loyalty to the British Airways card; but I certainly wish them well). This sort of bonus frenzy feeding reminds me of the days when “spinning” the mileage bonuses among all the major long-distance telephone companies occupied the pages of InsideFlyer.

Whatever your interest, we’ll join with you next year to assist in making the most of all your travel loyalty programs. Cheers.