The most important message from the Freddie Awards

This past Thursday I had the chance to attend the Freddie Awards. For a little background, the Freddie Awards, named after Sir Freddie Laker, the founder of Laker Air, Britain’s first all-jet air carrier (way back in 1966). Randy Peterson (who we all know, is the Godfather of miles and points), named the awards, which award the most rewarding Frequent Traveler programs, as voted by frequent travelers, after Sir Freddie because he was a pioneer market in the travel industry.

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Sir Freddie, borrowed from

For me, attending is most important for the people you meet and have the chance to connect with. I am very thankful to have had the chance to meet a number of folks, notably Michael, Jeanne, (others), and reconnect with many friends.

But even more than that, I did something I occasionally do–I took a risk–, I asked my friend Barb, whether there was any chance I might be able to say hello to a titan in the frequent traveler industry,  Ms. Suzanne Rubin, VP for American AAdvantage-who won–rightly so–one of the most coveted Freddies–Best Airline Elite Program–, I might add.

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I wanted to say hello to her, but more importantly, I wanted to thank her because, I think she, and the AAdvantage team, is doing an amazing job. While Delta Skymiles is innovating in a bad way, and United MileagePlus is largely following Delta’s lead, Ms. Rubin and the AAdvantage team are innovating in a different way. They are sticking to mileage earning, yet rewarding premium flyers with more redeemable miles and more Elite Qualifying Points (EQPs). The two things that really matter to many frequent travelers.

Really what Ms. Rubin and American Airlines is saying, is, we really appreciate all of our flyers, and we want to show our appreciation for those that buy premium fares just a little bit more.

I personally appreciate this approach. I had been a United 1K flyer until the end of 2013, but chose to move my business to American, when United told me in no uncertain terms, that if I don’t spend $10,000 in their terms, I’m not important. In 2014, I spend more than I had planned on flying, and between my wife and I, we well exceeded what United said was meaningful. And that primarily went to American, because they demonstrated that they valued us, not just for the money we spent, but for our loyalty.

Cut to this year, where my (and my wife’s) goal is to retain Executive Platinum status via EQPs, and I’ll admit, half of my flying will have been on partners, such as Qatar Airways (but that mileage run was for the ages!), but I can tell you: with Americans latest promotions, I’m doing everything I can, to fly American metal for my next 50k EQPs, because the message they are sending is clear. Reward loyal flyers, and reward loyal premium flyers more. As Gary Leff says, I am not my fare, and I appreciate that American realizes that there is more than just a transactional relationship, and I think you should consider the value of that too. Because if enough of us stand up and support those folks–those airlines–that are doing right by us, maybe they will stick with the mileage earning approach, rather than moving to revenue-centric models. Call me idealistic, but I believe there are good people out there, and I strongly believe that good people, doing good business, will win the day.

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