Randy Petersen's Opening Remarks – November, 17 2011

Randy Petersen's Opening Remarks – November, 17 2011

Year End Clearance of Topics

It has been interesting to see the types of comments I received for last month’s Opening Remarks, which was devoted to thanking Steve Jobs for the tools, and at times inspiration, to originally start InsideFlyer and later guide me in decisions to push very hard to build FlyerTalk. All positive comments and very rewarding because I seemed to strike a chord that miles and points are pretty good–along with mankind–and there are some who make great differences.

And now, I realize that a whole year has almost gone by and 2011 is soon to be a page turned over. As we look back to 2011 in years to come, it will likely be clear it wasn’t “just any year” with major changes coming from two of the largest frequent flyer programs: Southwest set a new direction with a revenue-based program and the acquisition of AirTran–a merger in the works of a frequent flyer program that I’m glad to have been able to champion and feature over the years, A+ Rewards.

And then the yearlong, if not longer, merger of OnePass and Mileage Plus. While members of each program will lament the loss of something in each program, the story is that they can also applaud something in the new MileagePlus program. The single thing I liked the most was the very subtle nod to the MileagePlus members in retaining the use of “1K” to describe their top published elite level. If you look closely at the progression chart of elite, 1K does seem out-of-place. Putting “Premier” aside, we see Silver, Gold, Platinum and … 1K. In all other major programs there’s a natural progression of elements or real-world metals; and in this instance, one would expect either palladium or titanium to top off the ladder of rare earth materials. As we venture across the currency systems of elite status we see that programs such as Delta SkyMiles and Hyatt Gold Passport vary their elite ascension with gemstones, adding in Diamond as the top tier. Good choice, because diamonds certainly have high perceived value. But minerals and metals such as rhodium, iridium, bixbite, and even the ruby, have more value per pound than diamonds and platinum. But I’m not holding out for the day when the highest elite card in my wallet identifies me as a Bixbite member.

Which brings me back to 1K. Formerly called Premier Executive 100K by Mileage Plus, the 1K moniker was adopted by members of the program to describe the level many years ago. And it stuck. It does not reflect the fact that it takes 100,000 qualifying miles to earn–we all know 1K stands for 1,000–but the fact that the new MileagePlus paid that much attention to the origination of 1K to actually adopt not just the term into their new program, but the flawed description it stands for, shows that they are paying attention. The single instance that I can think of a company adopting a slang term from their customer base is when McDonald’s uses the term “Mickey D’s”. Oh the heartburn of a quarter pounder with triple cheese that must have caused when put forth by their advertising agency.

But somehow I don’t think that United was persuaded to use the term by a branding agency. Naw, I think that the folks in Chicago likely spent far more time in the trenches looking at member details and feedback. So, in my own world of paying attention to details and customers, this small little detail of “1K” stands out as my salute to a program in 2011.

And now an update. In 2005 I got together with Tim Winship, a fellow frequent flyer purveyor of advice and information at frequentflier.com and together we wrote a 200-page book titled “Mileage Pro, the Insider’s Guide to Frequent Flyer Programs”. Published by OAG, to this day it still receives quite positive reviews as the best help guide ever produced on the topic, a sort of Dummies Guide to Frequent Flyer Programs if you will. As you might imagine, some of the information is out-of-date and new strategies have come along. In late October, I was fortunate enough and proud to attend a series of educational seminars in Chicago, called the Chicago Seminars (!) that were partially sponsored by milepoint.com. At those seminars I ran into a long-time reader of this magazine from Montreal and in the wonderfully long conversation, he asked if I was ever going to publish a new version of the Mileage Pro book. Given this is almost seven years later, I was totally impressed that the book was still top-of-mind for this reader. So immediately afterwards, I put a shout out to Tim and off I went to Los Angeles for a lunch and conversation about a second edition. It didn’t take much persuasion as we both see the value in having such a reference. Granted, we live in a day of blogs and online forums, and both serve well the pulses of information that can help someone keep up on these programs. But keeping up is a challenge if you don’t understand the basics and the strategies to begin with. So, over the next few months, Tim and I will be devoting some of our time to writing, researching and publishing the second edition of this book, both in an eBook and traditional paperback format. And, if you have some ideas of what you would like included in the book to make it the perfect reference book about frequent flyer programs for you, please let me know.

As this year winds its way to the last page of the calendar, here’s my own best wishes to you for any of the holidays until the next issue of InsideFlyer. Cheers.

And by the way, bixbite is a red emerald.

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