It was a wet and rainy start to Frequent Traveler University yesterday and those of us staying at the Radisson were met with a gushing stream of water to negotiate to even make it to the Sheraton Gateway LAX. It turned out a water main broke and the host hotel was without water the entire day, making for very stinky bathrooms. As compensation for the inconvenience, those staying at the Sheraton received (will receive) 4,000 SPG Starpoints. And there are reports non-guests were able to get a grand or two.

But beyond the water issue, it was a day packed with informative sessions on all things miles and points. After a brief welcome by Gary Leff (View From the Wing), Daraius of Million Mile Secrets kicked off a beginner session providing a high-level overview of tools, tips and advice while Ben (One Mile at a Time) went deep into mileage running in an adjacent room.

FTU swag

Ben, @OneMileAtaTime

Daraius of Million Mile Secrets

The second set of sessions offered expert tips from Brett (Cranky Flier) including what to do in the case of irregular airline operations, or a breakdown of hotel loyalty programs from MilePoint member “Pizzaman.”

Brett, aka Cranky Flier

Frequently Flying bottled water!

After a bagged lunch where attendees shared their own tips and strategies with others at their tables, Todd Tomlin of Hyatt provided a behind the scenes overview of the Hyatt Gold Passport program. His session included a bit of trivia and gift card giveaways. Then it was on to a mind-blowing point-earning session on various credit cards and other sources (think Vanilla and BlueBird) from FrequentMiler. In the other room, Gary and Daraius went deep into credit card churning.


Gary and Daraius

The final session of the day brought a contest of sorts for several new (and old) online travel tools. Modeled after the show Shark Tank, representatives from Award Wallet, Points Hound, Milewise, 30K and Wallaby each pitched their tools to the room in five minutes. BoardingArea bloggers (Scott, Marshall and myself) then asked each rep a question about their tool. At the close of the session, the room voted on who should receive a $500 investment from MilePoint. Congrats to Milewise for a near blowout in votes! You should definitely check out all the tools, each offering great services for frequent travelers looking to maximize the value of their rewards balances.

Finally, Randy Petersen provided a look ahead at 2013 and beyond. The switch to revenue-based frequent flier programs by U.S. carriers is all but certain, with at least two carriers likely introducing programs next year. And a growing trend of airlines spinning off their FFPs into publicly traded companies may expand.

The one and only Randy Petersen

Today promises to be another informative day with sessions on off-the-record tricks and tips you won’t find on blogs or forums, as well as discussions on award bookings, more travel tools and credit card bonuses.

And a special thanks to those who said “hello!” and introduced themselves to me… it was great to meet you and I look forward to meeting more of you today!

Related posts:

Frequent Traveler University Schedule – See You There!

Posted by Darren | 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Frequent Traveler University – Day One Recap”

  1. Guest says:

    Who’s the tall guy in red sweater with the big shoes on the blue guy’s back?

  2. Darren says:

    @Guest: :-) I think he had an issue with his leg… he always had it raised. It was, actually, on a different chair, though you can’t tell by the angle of that photo.

  3. Rom says:

    Sounds like a lot of fun! Wish I could have gone.

  4. nsx at says:

    “The switch to revenue-based frequent flier programs by U.S. carriers is all but certain”

    I think revenue-based earning is coming. It makes business sense. Revenue-based redemption is a trickier question. It is possible to have revenue-based earnings and chart-based redemption. America West’s original Flight Fund used exactly that structure.

    If redemption remains chart-based, then credit card customers can continue to earn miles and use miles as they do currently. If redemption becomes revenue-based, the ratios between premium class and coach redemption will increase dramatically.

    Darren, what do you think the airlines will decide?

  5. Darren says:

    @nsx: Airlines would love to roll-out a revenue-based redemption chart. But I think it’ll be chart-based or dynamic… have you seen VX’s? It’s pretty nifty and charges a premium on peak times/routes, etc. Well, nifty if you’re the airline, not a mileage junkie like me. Randy seems to think there might be a two-pronged redemption system for the first, say, 18-months after a revenue-based accrual system rolls out. If I were a U.S. airline, I might restrict the lower buckets to 0-50% earning and keep a mileage-based redemption chart. United, for example, G=0%, K=25%, S=50%, etc.

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