This was the third of our semiannual BoardingArea (BA) conferences or BACON for bloggers and it was held in DC. I don’t recall ever visiting DC and I really did not have time to explore the city as I would have liked but I can save that for another time. This was all about the BACON!
For those who have never met Randy Petersen he is an astounding individual. He truly is “the man” when it comes to all thing in the travel space. And on top of that he really cares for his people and those who blog at BA. I always enjoy his insights each time we meet.
I will not review the entire conference as much of the weekend was bits you really would not find that interesting. But many of these were very helpful to me as a blogger, that is, parts on writing, technology, legal and so much more on the back end that makes it all work.
What I did find very interesting was day one when we got to hear from, and ask question of, Thom Kozik (Marriott, Vice President of Global Loyalty) and David Flueck (Senior Vice President of Starwood Preferred Guest). My takeaway from their session was that they are focused on making the two loyalty programs work as one and to take some of the best of SPG and improve Marriott Rewards. That sounds good but those who have been loyal to SPG have been for a reason (or many reasons).
Thom also shocked me during the part when he mentioned he (or Marriott) felt someone who stayed 100 nights a year was loyalty to Marriott. Dang! That makes Hyatt’s 60 nights for top status look like a family vacation. Maybe he is not quite carefully reading the qualifications for SPG Platinum.
I also asked a number of questions to David about SPG related items like the relationship with Delta and SPG Crossover Rewards since we know Delta does not really tend to play nice with others (just look at all the programs that have stopped offering SkyMiles over the years). Let me sum up all my Delta related questions with the answer that they talked much but did not give any firm answers. The only firm info was they would continue until contracts expired and then they would see what they would do next.
One of the big stories from the event was that Matthew Klint from UPGRD is becoming a BA blogger. If you missed it, for the most part, the rest of UPGRDs bloggers are now writing for Travel Codex here on BA (while self hosted it is a blog on BA). I like Matthew very much and he is an excellent blogger. I could not be more pleased to have him join BA. It was also always fun to hear bits from Gary, Ben, Adam and Stefan. There are so many unique voices at BA and all bring something special to the blog space!
Before I end sprinkling you with bacon bits I had to share a few other things. There were two Delta reps present the first day of the event. They were not speaking or sponsoring the event they were just there and came to the social event the first night as well. While I cannot share all the private conversations I did learn Delta views me on par with Gary and Ben in many ways (you can read between the lines if you know their views on Delta). I tried to reason with one rep that I love Delta (& Delta people) but despise what they have done to SkyMiles but that fell on deaf ears.
There still seems to be a total disconnect between the excellence of Delta operations and the horrendous SkyMiles program. The first builds brand loyalty and the next makes you question why you picked Delta in the first place. Crazy. Oh, and along those lines, the new person to Delta SkyMiles came over at one point and proclaimed that 42 people had told her Delta needs to re- publish the award charts. Uh, hello!
Lastly, and to be CLEAR this is just a personal feeling, I expect more pain when it comes to SkyMiles. The sky has not fallen with all the nasty changes that have been inflicted on us with SkyMiles and membership is up and Delta is making more money than ever. That is, there has been no push back. Now I am wise enough to understand SkyMiles is dead to me unless I get the points free. I collect OTHER points so I can book Delta travel with those. Delta does not seem to get the tipping point has been reached and so I think MORE cuts will be on the way. I hope I am wrong.
Overall it was, I have to say, the best BACON ever as far as information. I liked the first location better, that is, in Colorado Springs the home for the HOM or House of Miles and BoardingArea. I hope for the next one of these we go back there. But not having flown out of DCA before, the view sure was amazing from my 1st class Delta window seat! – René
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