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30th Birthday For Frequent Flier Programs

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On Friday, March 29th, for the first time ever, the leaders of the 3 biggest airline frequent flier programs, American Airlines, United and Delta, along with those from Hyatt and American Express, a gathered during the Airline Information Conference in New York for a frank discussion about the past, current and future of frequent flyer programs led by industry guru, Randy Petersen of milepoint/Fly­erTalk. Panelists included:

  • Maya Leibman, President, AAdvantage American Airlines
  • Jeff Robertson, Vice President Loyalty, Delta Air Lines
  • Jeff Foland, EVP, United Airlines; President, Mileage Plus Holdings
  • Jeff Zidell, Vice President, Hyatt Gold Passport
  • Josh Berkowitz, Vice President, Membership Rewards Partnerships, American Express

After an in-depth look at the milestones of the past 30 years in frequent flyer programs, the executives took to the stage to answer questions and discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for both companies and the consumers.

Though many factors contribute to the success of any frequent flyer program, all agreed that the evolution and implementation of technology, both back-end and consumer-facing, as well as the savvy use of Social Media will be the determining factors for success in the future.

„Loyalty will depend on technology,“ said Maya Leibman, President of AAdvantage American Airlines, summarizing the necessity for providing both a system that makes it simple for consumers to utilize and a social media strategy that builds stronger relationships with these consumers.

Josh Berkowitz TITLE, of American Express cited „portability and immediacy“ as the elements that customers will most demand of their frequent flyer programs in the future to allow them „real time access“ to their miles wherever they go.

„A 3–5 year investment in Social Media,“ will be the priority for building Hyatt's loyalty program said Jeff Zidell, Vice President, Hyatt Gold Passport.

Jeff Robertston, VP of Loyalty at Delta cited technologies the „merge growth and approval.“ Jeff Foland, EVP of United Airlines and President, Mileage Plus Holdings agreed that the future will rely on „Social Media as well as the technologies that enhance real time payment vehicles.“

This event marked the first of an annual series to be held during the Airline Information Conference that aims to inform both industry executives and the public about the inner-workings of the many complex issues facing the travel industry.


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