I don’t want to be a pessimist, but it seems to me that with a lot of the news going around over the past month or so, Travel is Changing and it is not for the better. I think most of this centers around the changing Passenger Experience (PaxEx).
Travel is Changing by the Government’s Hand
The Airlines Aren’t Helping Matters
I’m heading up to the Freddie Awards later today, with a slight deviation to last year, a couple of early Freddie Awards winners were announced ahead of the actual event.
Some facts about the Freddie Awards
The Freddie, as I noted in my post urging folks to vote, is the opportunity for frequent travelers to vote for their favorite loyalty programs–both airline and hotel. This year there were 4,203,657 visits, which accounted for 25,064,593 total ballots. To put a finer point on that, over 4.2 million frequent travelers voted for their favorite loyalty programs. Interestingly enough, only 43.2% of the voters were from the US, which I think makes the non-Americas awards even more interesting.
Early Freddie Awards Winners
This year, the 210 Awards were announced early. Here’s a brief description of what the 210 Awards are:
The 210 Awards are awards given to the highest-rated program/best average ranking among programs ranked by fewer than 10% of the voters—sort of an “up and coming” award. These winners are programs to watch as they gain more awareness from members—voters who know about them give them extremely high marks. These awards are determined by an equation whereas other Freddie Awards are all decided upon a ‘value vote’. None of the awards are decided by popularity which makes the Freddie Awards unique in that the winners are all well deserved—not always the largest or most popular.
The winners announced were:
Airline: Avianca LifeMiles
Hotel: Le Club Accorhotels
Airline: TAP Victoria
Hotel: Choice Privileges
Airline: ANA Mileage Club
Hotel: Trident Hotels Trident Privilege
I’m not terribly surprised to see Avianca LifeMiles – they continue to be an emerging powerhouse for Star Alliance awards. I remember the first time I saw an Avianca aircraft, I commented to my wife “Wow, they really are an airline!” having previously had the feeling that they were primarily a loyalty program. Interestingly enough, Avianca had won the 210 award last year.
I’m more surprised by the rest of the winners. Le Club Accorhotels at first surprised me, but I’m wondering in hindsight (because I just couldn’t remember) if Fairmont fell under Accorhotels given they acquired Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissohotels at the end of 2015.
I really don’t have much to make of TAP, Choice, ANA or Trident Hotels. I’ll definitely be digging into those programs more in the future!
What do you think? Are any of these up and coming programs known to you?
I think we’ve all enjoyed the purely parody account of @FakeUnitedJeff … Yes, he’s the parody of the “has been” United CEO, who was unceremoniously outed after a rather awkward outing of the Chairman of the Port Authority of NY-NJ’s flight to Columbia, South Carolina.
It was an unfortunate event for Jeff Smisek, but 20 April 2017 marks the day that Twitter suspended the parody account of @FakeUnitedJeff. The writer behind @FakeUnitedJeff even wrote a medium post, entitled: Once upon a Parody, to outline his case to Twitter.
As of this writing, Twitter has not been responsive. Candidly, Twitter needs to be responsive. Perhaps you can help. I dare say, we should start a movement. We should start a movement, #SaveFakeUnitedJeff — because, clearly we can’t save the real United Jeff Smisek. After #BumpGate, I’m not even sure we can save the real or fake Oscar Munoz! Even when competing airlines made their digs at United, rather than supporting a comrade in need.
In truth, I fully expected Fake Oscar Munoz to be the one to be removed. He supremely capitalized on #BumpGate, in magnificent fashion. But alas, he’s survived, and the former @FakeUnitedJeff is the one to take the heat. Was this related to #BumpGate? I just don’t know. In fact, I don’t really care. Rather, I focus on the humor and entertainment that the man–or woman–behind Fake United Jeff offered. So many times @FakeUnitedJeff stepped in to offer a humorous comment, or made light of an awkward situation.
Now, when we look for that silver lining, we will unfortunately be faced with this:
So I share with you my friends. This is a travesty. This is a pain that will no doubt be bourne by so many of the frequent traveler community.
I finish with this:
Twitter – Please, give the parody account @FakeUnitedJeff life again. It only hurts to continue without his lighthearted nature, and unrelenting zeal for increasing profit, while cutting back on passenger comfort. Besides, maybe he’ll bring back the Tulip!
Yesterday, I asked whether the blogosphere had “over covered” #bumpgate, where we witnessed video of United’s dragging a passenger off a plane.
Well, today, I thought I’d attempt a bit of lighthearted-ness with coverage of what some airlines have responded to the event with.
Take for example, this advertisement which may or may not be real from Southwest:
Or, perhaps Air Jordanian’s response:
— Royal Jordanian (@RoyalJordanian) April 10, 2017
Emirates got in on the fun as well with a video specifically addressing United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz:
Folks had some fun too on Twitter
Here we see the next evolution of Basic Economy, in light of United’s #bumpgate
United Airlines is pleased to announce new seating on all domestic flights- in addition to United First and Economy Plus we introduce…. pic.twitter.com/KQjPClU2d2
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) April 10, 2017
And, of course the parody accounts had to jump in as well.
Aren’t we glad we live in the US? Here we can attack airline customers, in France they attack airline executives! pic.twitter.com/9swVSr4wTk
— Oscar Munoz (@fakeunitedoscar) April 11, 2017
and perhaps a response to Southwest’s advertisement:
— Fake UnitedCEO Oscar (@FakeOscarMunoz) April 11, 2017
and of course there was also United’s poor timing:
Love the new app. pic.twitter.com/azpVZfTDq5
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) April 11, 2017
Final Thoughts (for now) about Responses to United’s #BumpGate
I think I said my peace about the horrific incident that happened on Sunday night. While this is something that should never have happened, and both sides could truly have prevented it from happening the way that it did, it did. I’ll leave the more meaningful reports to View from the Wing, as he’s covered the event pretty consistently over the last couple-few days.
That said, if there’s one thing that I always try to do, is to highlight the humor in things. Its a character flaw–or feature–and so hopefully this short post on airline responses and some social media responses to the incident will give you some laughter. After all, while this is a horrible thing, laughter can sometimes be a healing and uniting emotion.
What was your favorite response to United’s #BumpGate?
Everyone is talking about #BumpGate, where United Airlines involuntarily denied boarding to a medical professional after he had already boarded, resulting in the Chicago Aviation Police physically removing him.
You can see the offending activity right here:
That video that I shared above, in 14 hours had 65,000 views.
Was #BumpGate Over Covered in the Blogosphere?
From a quick look at the BoardingArea landing page, there are a total of 45 links to posts. Of those 45, there are 17 posts on the topic. That’s to say that roughly 38% of posts cover United’s #BumpGate. Is that a lot? I’m not sure, it seems like a lot.
I realize that I’m definitely missing some, probably more than a handful. For example, View from the Wing has 5 posts, One Mile at a Time has 4 posts on the topic. As a percentage of posts written today, that’s a pretty high percentage for both, but, perhaps not as crazy as back when it was breaking news that the Chase Ink Plus sign up bonus was bumped from 50k to 60k Ultimate Rewards Points. That one had 7 posts by a single blogger, So maybe 5 posts in a single day is pretty high.
This is a huge issue for United. The second of which in 2 weeks. I shared my thoughts of #LeggingGate as part of a weekly, because I didn’t think it was that big a deal. It was bigger only because of social media and someone that had only parts of the story. I would offer that #BumpGate is a lot more serious for a number of reasons:
- Violence should always be a last resort
- While United was technically in the right based on their Contracts of Carriage, there is such a thing as going too far
- At some point, the passenger could’ve seen the writing on the wall. Its not his fault, but he could have also said “ok, I’ve tried to stay, if I’m going to go, I can do it on my own two feet.” Of course, to that point, it wouldn’t surprise me if everyone onboard, including the passenger, didn’t think it would actually happen. I know I wouldn’t have believed it, if I hadn’t seen it in the video
- So far as I understand it, the gate staff knew that they were overbooked, yet the still boarded the plane. It all could have ended before it started, had the gate agent merely not let those individuals that would have been involuntarily denied boarding onboard.
Ultimately, it is a shame for us to see something like that video above, happening anywhere, let alone in the US. I mean, it was only a couple of years ago that United had a “self upgrader” removed from a plane in Shanghai. It is just unfortunate to see anywhere.
While Social Media and the blogosphere have the duty to report on these things, there’s a certain point, where it seems to get out of hand. Many on twitter have commented how everyone is an expert on the Contract of Carriage today. Everyone is an armchair quarterback, myself included. Could things have been done better? Yes. Should United change is policy? Maybe, or maybe they should just figure out a better way to enforce it–like not boarding before choosing.
Either way, the situation was regrettable, unacceptable, and does not help in the way that the world sees United.
What do you think?
I find the commercials of the Super Bowl to be interesting. I wrote last year of my favorite commercials. This year, I found some of the trends to be interesting, perhaps, even timely. I’ll warn you at the outright. This may very well verge on the political, but, that is not my intent. If patriotism offends you, perhaps its best to move on.
Fox’s Ragged Old Flag Pre-game Super Bowl Feature
I happened to be watching the pre-game show, and not paying the most attention. This one caught my attention. I couldn’t find the feature itself, however Fox did share the Behind the Scenes, and its worth a watch:
Post Super Bowl LI Kickoff
Then we moved on to Coca Cola, always a classic.
And, lest we not be only US centric, there was of course, the Avocado patriotism entry:
Finally, perhaps the coup de gras; Anheuser Busch with the journey to become a patriot — or, as they now are, the Belgium King of Beer
So, what did you think of the Super Bowl Commercials?
No man (or woman) is an island; we must embrace the community to fully realize our potential.
So what am I getting at with the idea that No Man (or woman) is an Island?
For starters, the mile and point community is an amazing group of people, and everyone helps each other out. In fact, I was truly proud to partner with the Rich Kerr and his Travel Hacking 101 Group to collect ~50 toys for Toys for Tots. And we will go even bigger next year!
The fact is, that people want to help each other, I believe this is in our very nature. Our DNA. All too often I hear of folks that are doing amazing things, but may not realize that there are others doing similar feats. The goal of this post is to try to connect the dots. More to that point, there are very few self made women or men.
Frequent Travelers and Travel Hackers
There are a ton of communities that you can join!
- Flyertalk is perhaps the one that has been around the longest
- InsideFlyer – founded by many of the folks involved with FlyerTalk
- Saverocity Forums – This is probably more focused on travel hackers, and Weekend Entrepreneurs. Matt, the founder–and also the host of this blog–consistently surprises me, looking at things from a different viewpoint. I’d argue that this is the community that will challenge your assumptions.
- Travel Hacking 101 – Founded by Rich Kerr. I’ve been lucky to be a part of this community, and have been very impressed with it. Its not just about travel hacking, but its also about coming together and doing good. Rich also has a Travel Hacking Advanced, but I think it currently has a waiting list.
- There are also meet-ups like Dia’s Family Travel for Real Life (FT4RL) series, where you can meet folks in person.
- Jeanne and Ed also host less formal Geeky Pizza happy hours frequently in the DC area; there are similar meet-ups across the country coordinated by others.
Reselling for Miles, Points, and Profits
I think the phrase “manufactured spending” first came up and you will likely find some of those topics in the above grouping. But for me, I found that reselling was the logical path for generating miles, points, and profits.
- I would be remiss, if I did not highlight Phil Hall and my Mile High Reselling Club (subscription based). We provide insight for new, intermediate, and long term sellers. We have also introduced a Deal of the Day, a pre-negotiated CPA, and various aids and guides (like for reseller certificates which get you tax exemptions).
- Shawn of Miles to Memories recently started a Reselling Facebook group as well, which has had explosive growth.
- Similar to how Dia holds her FT4RL, I have hosted a number of ResellingDO events, and plan to continue to do so.
Conclusion – Embrace the Community!
I have been blessed to have had the chance to meet and keep in contact with folks like Matt, Ed, Gary, Rich, Jeanne, Gideon, and many others. I won’t call them the titans of the community, but they are certainly some of the folks that have contributed a great deal, in many cases, with little personal gain.
We all have great potential. Individually, I am convinced that we can all do great things. But with the inspiration and advice from others, I think we can do even more. Helping each other, we can realize great things. I often tell folks that “a rising tide floats all boats.” This is a perfect case for that. Lets remember that not a single one of us started in a vacuum. Further, lets remember to help the next generation of travel hackers and resellers; to do that, we must embrace the community regularly.
Are there any communities that I’ve missed? If so, please share in the comments.
Over the past few years I’ve seen an increasing trend among our peers. That is, this idea of side gigs or side hustles. I would offer that folks that this is the development of the Weekend Entrepreneur. I’ve even written about this concept in the past, when I asserted that you can only save so much, but you can earn even more.
Similar yet Different
When I was growing up, in Long Island, New York, I knew of many people who augmented their day job salaries with side jobs. In fact, when I was running passenger ferries to Fire Island, we had a good handful of people who had day jobs in New York City, and would come and work the weekends at the ferry company. We called them Weekend Warriors.
The concept of a Weekend Entrepreneur is very similar. A Weekend Entrepreneur still has a day job, they are likely also looking to augment their income, yet the activity is not something they want to pursue full time.
Examples of a Weekend Entrepreneur
The most relevant example of a Weekend Entrepreneur for this blog, is an Amazon Reseller. As a reseller, you will probably put some time in during the week, in addition to the weekend. You have control over your business and can really decide how much you want to do, not someone else.
Another example, though, at least from personal experience, not as lucrative (but infinitely more rewarding from a connecting with fellow enthusiasts perspective) is blogging. Most bloggers spend some time each day, so it may not technically be a weekend endeavor, unless you write on the weekend and schedule the posts throughout the week.
A third example of a Weekend Entrepreneur is a group of Travel Hackers who recently launched The Points Consultants. Richard, Jeff and, Spencer, launched The Points Consultants to provide points strategy evaluations and really, overall points portfolio management. Think of them as like an investment advisory but for your miles and points.
Weekend Entrepreneur Gurus
I’m sure your next logical question is “how can I learn more.” Well, I will be writing more in the coming months, but there are three authors that I have followed and learned a lot from.
When I was in college, I began reading Ramit Sethi–who I think was also in college–who writes I Will Teach You To Be Rich. He is one of the driving factors for where I am today. I haven’t signed up for all of his courses, but I have read a lot of his work and have been able to leverage some of the systems he writes about. His latest Weekend Entrepreneur focused effort is Growth Lab.
Perhaps the most well known Weekend Entrepreneur guru is Tim Feriss. He’s a serial entrepreneur who does so through experimentation and diligent note taking. If you don’t believe me, read his 4 Hour Body book. That said, I picked up the 4 Hour Work Week many years ago, and as a result, tested out my first venture in Weekend Entrepreneurship. Right now, I’m reading his latest book, Tools of Titans.
While Ramit and Tim both travel hack, Chris Guillebeau is perhaps more well know in the Mile and Point / Travel Hacking community. Chris started the Travel Hacking Cartel, a subscription based group, some time ago. He’s written two books on entrepreneurship, with a focus on side hustles. Chris’ latest effort is the Side Hustle School. I was even highlighted in Episode 19.
While I’m not as well written as Chris or Ramit or Tim, I’d like to think that I’m a pretty good resource as well. Long time readers are well aware of some of the resources on the blog, such as my Beginner’s Guide to Fulfillment by Amazon. In addition, I’ve partnered with Phil Hall to launch and operate the Mile High Reselling Club, and I continue to hold ResellingDO meet-ups. You can also always Ask Tagging Miles, if you have particular questions you’d like answered or covered on the blog.
I think it’s fair to say that everyone would like to earn more money, or somehow increase their buying power. I would argue that Travel Hacking augments one’s buying power, but it could also lead you to an Weekend Entrepreneur-like opportunity. I think there is definitely value in embracing this growing trend.
Are you a Weekend Entrepreneur? What is your side hustle? Please share in the comments.
The first frequent flyer program, American Airlines AAdvantage program was launched in May of 1981. The first hotel loyalty program was Holiday Inn, in February 1983, Marriott established their program in November of 1983. At that time, I would imagine that both Airlines and Hotels believed that Loyalty is a two-way street. While I’m a huge fan of Keynsian Economics, I tend to think that airlines are taking it a bit to extremes in our current situation. I truly feel, that Loyalty is a two-way street.
Loyalty Programs Buoyed Airlines after 9/11
I still hate talking about 9/11. But the fact remains, 9/11 was a horrible time for airlines–it was a horrible time for the US. But the fact remains, the airlines were hit hard. People were afraid to fly. It was frequent flyers that jumped back into the mix. Randy Peterson, widely viewed as the Godfather of Frequent Flyers, did a two week, 44-city mileage run, the intent? To shore up confidence in the travel industry. I myself took back to the skies, in fact, before Randy started his mileage run, though I didn’t have nearly the press, I was just flying from DC to Long Island, Islip (ISP) to visit my folks. But the fact is, that after one of the most horrific times of our time, frequent flyers were the ones that returned to the skies, and buoyed airlines, as airlines were hemorrhaging.
Recent Frequent Flyer Program Actions
Now that the economy has been doing well for the past couple-few years, we’re seeing something different. Airlines have apparently forgotten how frequent flyers helped them in past years, and are making significant changes. Delta, for example has devalued their SkyMiles program countless times, here is the latest. American has devalued the redemption side of AAdvantage, as well as the elite status side, not once, but twice. I won’t even talk about United.
The fact remains, elite status is becoming unobtainium for frequent leisure travelers, despite the fact that many argue that “I am not my fare” as Gary Leff highlights best.
What will happen when the next downturn happens?
I joked on Twitter about waiting for the next downturn, and found that others are thinking the same thing:
The challenge is, that many of us are in fact waiting for the next downturn. Loyalty programs have forced us to feel this way.
Travel hackers have long been fans of loyalty programs. I personally have gone out of my way to maintain status. I have done mileage runs to Egypt and to Brazil, Frequently, we have been the ones maximizing loyalty programs, however, as I mentioned with Randy Peterson’s 44 city mileage run, we are also the ones that help when the economy goes south. Loyalty programs should realize that frequent travelers are a benefit, not a pariah. Airlines and Hotels should realize that frequent travelers, when treated well, are people that will spend money, in good times, and in bad. When the economy turns, and business travel takes a hit, we frequent travelers generally find a way to continue to travel. And for those airlines that alienate frequent travelers, I personally hope, that we–frequent travelers–will continue to give our business to those that appreciate us, in good times, and in bad. Because, after all, loyalty is a two-way street. At the moment, I’m feeling like my past actions of going out of my way to requalify–to give American and United additional business-is not something I will do in the future, why? Because they clearly don’t value my business, it is now a “what have you done for me lately” approach, which has nothing to do with loyalty.
How will you interact with companies in the next downturn? Please leave your thoughts in the comments