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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!