“It is both painful and instructive to take a look back at the events of the past year — yet that’s what makes it worthwhile. In 2001, the world of miles and points was tested like never before. Who could have predicted that, in the midst of celebrating the 20th anniversary of frequent flyer programs, those very same programs would be called in to fight the scourge of international terrorism, leading travelers back to the skies.”
September 11 — 15 Years After the Terror Attacks in the United States
The terror attacks which involved four commercial airplanes filled with jet fuel and crashed into both towers of the World Trade Center in New York; the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.; and a rural area near Shanksville, Pennsylvania all occurred 15 years ago today — and for many people, the horrific events which occurred on that day are still painful and raw in their hearts and souls.
In addition to the paragraph at the beginning of this article, Randy Petersen — who is the founder of InsideFlyer and while the memories of the events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 were still relatively fresh — responded with the following words as a reflection on what he called “the most important year in frequent travel history” from this article back on Tuesday, August 20, 2002:
This date will be forever remembered as the most important in 2001, or any other year in recent memory. Among the victims were countless members of these programs – some flying and some in between flights. September 11th was a day that changed these programs, changed the industry and changed the world as we know it.
Allowing for a respectful period of mourning, the airlines led the charge to get frequent flyers back to the skies by promoting award travel at previously unheard of levels. Could anyone have ever imagined domestic awards at 15,000 miles? That effort was followed by a cascade of elite-level re-qualification announcements, from extending with no requirements to lowering the activity needed in order to re-qualify. And finally, when it became apparent that frequent flyers still weren’t flying, airlines introduced broad based double-mile promotions, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since 1988.
The end of 2001 is just the beginning of what we’ll see from hotel, airline and other programs as they leverage our loyalty and desire to earn miles and points to regain that moment in time before 9/11. Fighting both a vague hesitancy to travel and the effects of a lingering and growing concern for the economy, this story will be continued.
This story is indeed still continuing 15 years later. The ways in which screening was performed on passengers passing through security checkpoints at airports were forever changed — which included the removal of shoes for screening and the limiting of liquids which each passenger can carry aboard an airplane…
…and because they seem to be more effective in inciting fear around the world, suicide bombers and other nefarious perpetrators have increasingly used terror as their main weapon to send messages as to their agendas — to the point where even when no terrorists are present, people are jumpy and afraid when they hear a strange sound which is sudden; or an action by an individual which could be considered strange or suspicious.
Ironically — as the travel industry has consolidated due to mergers and acquisitions; and many airlines and lodging companies are now flush with cash and enjoying record financial quarters in terms of profits and revenue — frequent travel loyalty programs in general have changed their policies and procedures in recent years which many members have considered unfriendly to the point where it seems almost like they are trying to drive away the customer; and some of those changes would have been considered unthinkable prior to what happened 15 years ago today. Don’t expect to see “broad based double-mile promotions, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since 1988” anytime soon.
Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund
One of the few positive things which resulted from what occurred exactly 15 years ago today is that a scholarship fund in honor of Jason Dahl — who was the captain of that flight — had been established in his memory; and for years, InsideFlyer has been one of the entities which has supported the purpose and goals of that scholarship fund. Almost $200,000.00 in aviation scholarships over the years to greater than 100 individuals from 26 different four-year aviation degree school programs. $32,000.00 in scholarships were awarded in 2016 alone.
Just last night, a fundraising event occurred in Denver to celebrate the heroes of Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
Please consider joining the Just A Buck program by clicking here and clicking the donation link. Submit your dollar and activate the monthly donation box by clicking on it. For additional information on the fund — or to make a donation — please visit www.dahlfund.org.
Today, there is a new single tower which is part of the World Trade Center complex — along with two memorial fountains which occupy what was once the foundations of the twin towers with the engravings of the names of those who died. The Pentagon has been repaired; and the site in Shanksville where the Boeing 757–222 airplane which operated as United Airlines flight 93 — on its way to San Francisco from Newark International Airport — is now officially a national memorial.
As for frequent travel loyalty programs — well, it will be a long tough road ahead in the foreseeable future for members who pine for the glory days of generous promotions to return. One of the few exceptions are affiliate credit cards — some of which still offer promotions where tens of thousands of miles or points can be earned simply by having your application approved and you meeting a required minimum spend. One of many examples is the 90,000 Flying Club miles you can earn with the Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard, as reported in this article written yesterday by Mike Friedman, who warns that the offer may not be as good as you might think.
Not everything is all doom and gloom, as there are plenty of reasons to feel positive and look forward to the future — but the United States is still recovering from the scars it endured 15 years ago today. Time will tell as to when and how terrorism will be mitigated by governments of sovereign nations around the world.
In the meantime, we at InsideFlyer pause to take a moment to remember the victims and their families on that dreadful day 15 years ago — and hope for a world where we can all travel to every part of this wonderful planet of ours as freely and as safely as possible.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.