FTU 2012: Continental flyers are ex-Cons

“Who are the ex-Cons in the room?” Several hands go up.

No, this was not a therapy or parole session, but it felt that way.

“I’ve lost trust,” one man repeated several times at the amendment to his ‘lifetime’ United Million Miler vows.

The ex-Cons seem less aggrieved than the ex-old United.

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Braving the onslaught

So went Sunday morning at Frequent Traveler University 2012, where United Airlines’ Carlos Faxas mounted the battlements for a 90-minute barrage from dozens of United’s most frequent (and vocal) flyers. The Rapid Traveler flew United once in 1999, Continental a handful of times since, so has no personal stake unless Delta guys their elite program and a 1k challenge magically appears from United. He was fascinated at how much flyer and airline resembles a marriage, furious when things go wrong but a fury born out of love and unwillingness to separate. As tommy777 said, “Who loves their cell phone carrier?” Indeed, and who loves their cell phone carrier enough to fly to New Jersey and spend their weekend complaining about it! Mr. Faxas deserves kudos for the outreach effort; he and his team seem determined to do their best for their customers in the face of huge challenges. The Rapid Traveler would not want to trade email or voicemail inboxes with Mr. Faxas.

The Rapid Traveler thinks back to when Delta denuded NWA, discarding the best website in the industry and pushing the big red Delta button to triple all award prices. During the merger year he was mollified by the frequent ‘we care’ communications and promotions, from mileage bonuses to credit cards. It was the second year that Delta went silent, promotions never appeared, and he become frustrated, though could not feasibility switch airlines at the time as he was in a fortress hub. Now he is mostly accustomed to the ‘new normal,’ seeing the strengths and weaknesses of the airline that for a year advertised itself as the world’s largest and now say size is not all it is cracked up to be.

United will get past the immediate troubles sooner or later, they may even check out social media customer service at some point. They already targeted many fliers for 5k/10k/25k miles for 1/2/4 paid roundtrips by July 15, 2012 and credit card offers have crept up to 65k, and perhaps the promotions will further sweeten.

But it will be interesting to see if they build and sustain outreach for the long-haul. After a year will they be like Delta, breathe a sigh of relief, and take a nap?

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  • Singapore Flyer

    RTC, I had a question…i noticed during the CC face off you raised your hand for the Fidelity card and some of the contrarian view. Wondering why that is…always want to hear other POVs. Sorry that we didn’t have a chance to meet at the FTU though. Great tip btw…mentioned.

  • @Singapore Flyer – hope to make up the disappointment of not meeting you by meeting you at a future event or in the skies.

    I will do a longer analysis on my credit card view sin future posts, but for the purposes here, let’s exclude sign-up bonuses, which come and go and have nothing to do with how you use a card or decide to keep the card after the bonus.

    For me, I do not care about so-called ‘aspirational travel,’ in the sense that my aspirations are about the destinations I visit, not the plane seat that gets me there or the bed I sleep in. That’s just me. So I value a first or business class award little more than an economy and have never redeemed for anything but economy.

    Cash I value. Cash in the bank I value. Cash in my brokerage account that I can invest now and potentially have a large return I value. Cash that airlines/hotels cannot willfully devalue or even cancel I value. etc. That is a rational calculation that travelers should weigh against the emotional consideration of other types or earning and rewards.

    The Schwab 2% card was my primary card, then Capital One Venture, though I am wavering because of the annual fee. With Venture you can redeem the same subway ticket over and over so it is easy to burn points. For Fidelity, I do not like the minimum 5,000 point transfer threshold to get the 2%, essentially them gaining from the float, but at least no annual fee.

    For the other cards, for instance Alaska, that companion cert has real immediate value to some people which can be worth a lot more, and a lot more less hassle (unless you enjoy it) of the Chase trifecta, categories, this, that and the other.

    And I like to encourage cards to offer meaningful renewal benefits. 😉

  • Singapore Flyer

    Any card with fees has to give you pause…just to see if it is worth holding onto it; even the more prominent cards out there.

    Cash back cards would have a much bigger following/selling point to use on a daily basis after the minimum spend to get bonus on the other cards if they:
    a) didn’t have a minimum spend themselves to get the max bonus.
    2) cap the amount of cash back allowed in any given period.
    3) high annual fee as you mentioned.

    I think if you can lay out a relatively comprehensive picture, the every day person – non elite traveler will see the value.

    The Alaska card though, has a great value if you use it. Makes complete sense if you plan on traveling to/from an Alaska hub/city.

  • @Singapore Flyer – and cash back cards will never take hold with the hardcore points and miles community because they do not have much of the thrill of arbitrage, of a snagging a better deal than anyone else. The addicts love the thrill of game, and that is more rewarding that a strict cents per mile calculation that may go for or against. I will see what I can put together on the cash cards.

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