Opening Remarks – July, 22 2011

Opening Remarks – July, 22 2011

“Return of the Jedi

With apologies to George Lucas of Star Wars fame, I’d like to announce the Return of the Jedi–in this case, it is the Return of the Freddie Awards. After a 21-year run of serving and protecting the interests of the frequent flyer, in 2009 I decided we should take time out from hosting the Freddie Awards so I could focus on serving and protecting the interests of my employees. Over the two years I’ve enjoyed two things–making progress on that pledge to my employees and observing the efforts of actual frequent travelers whose interests the Freddie Awards were designed to give voice to. The pause of the Freddie Awards gave birth to the Frequent Traveler Awards, a grassroots effort by frequent travelers themselves to ensure their voice was still heard. And it was. That effort was able to create and maintain the concept that “members know best” about the efforts of the travel loyalty industry. I have very much enjoyed that effort and its astounding success.

The Frequent Traveler Awards will join in the relaunch of the Freddie Awards in April 2012 in New York for the 22nd (annual again) Freddie Awards. There is truly a sense of joy to bring this news to you and as before, InsideFlyer will be actively involved in continuing to amplify the voice of the frequent traveler.

Now, on to even more things positive for the frequent traveler. As I have written before, I believe that the era of premium offers for credit cards is not at an end, but rather it’s only the beginning of this astounding factor of participation in travel loyalty programs.

The latest salvo isn’t about a 100,000-mile bonus, but rather the enhanced value of keeping a single card in your wallet. Some readers may have continued to chase one-off mega bonuses for cards that really don’t work for them long term while others may have patiently been waiting to see if my forecast of more things to come in plastic came true.

Well, the next round has been launched by American AAdvantage and United Mileage Plus. Both are offering new cards to members of their respective frequent flyer programs. In the case of United, they are introducing a “twin” card to the very popular Continental OnePass Plus card that is highly touted for its 10,000 bonus miles annually when members spend $25,000 with the card. The new Mileage Plus Explorer Visa card (twin to the OnePass Plus MasterCard) adds a few new benefits such as priority boarding after the elites, free checked bags and something I have always liked, two free airport lounge passes. Another benefit which you absolutely must consider for its value, is last seat availability for cardmembers for award redemption purposes (adopted for both cards). There’s plenty more which we’ll cover online so click to look at insideflyer.com.

With the new priority boarding benefit, this card joins a very impressive line of cards already in place for members of Mileage Plus. And fear not because as I understand it, the OnePass Plus card will continue to be marketed through the end of the year and still remains a MasterCard –with newer benefits “loaned” to it from the new Mileage Plus Explorer card. I chatted with David Gold, general manager, Chase Card Services (and a veteran of years in the loyalty card industry) and his comment on the new card’s focus is that it is “… for those looking to enhance their entire travel experience and it is truly unmatched in the marketplace …” For those toiling with award redemption challenges, it certainly is a plus to have last seat availability with awards. And when you consider the BIG 3 of priority boarding, free initial checked luggage and a couple lounge passes a year, I’d have to agree with David that rather than big mega bonuses, enhancing the travel experience isn’t a bad place to focus their efforts.

Shifting gears again finds me in Dallas and looking at what might be–actually is–the most significant entry into the card market today. Mileage Plus has earned a lot of kudos for any number of new cards introduced into the market over the past few years, all deserved. But I have long wondered why the kool-aid glass at AAdvantage appeared to be empty.

Well, the new Citi Executive card ends a long drought of single-card mindedness from Citi and AAdvantage, and let there be no doubt, that when 30 years of frequent flyer history drops a shoe, it is one to be heard. On some fronts there is little new ground here, other than it certainly adds extreme value to members of the AAdvantage program who might have been tempted elsewhere, from its partner British Airways’ mega bonus, to various hotel credit card offers that add layers of value but still the ability to earn AAdvantage miles via transfer.

I highly suggest you join us on milepoint.com to discuss American’s new credit card and rather than list all the benefits here, I’ll point out one: Cardholders will earn EQMs on credit card purchases. In this case, once you spend $40,000 annually, you’ll earn 10,000 EQMs which can move you from Gold to Platinum and beyond, so keep that in mind. While I would have liked unlimited EQMs upon purchase, I do like the fact that this card will not likely dilute the elite base to any great measure. So, no matter your card choice (this is a MasterCard), this one just might (and does) earn a head turn.

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