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So other than the 9:30AM bar (who knew?) and the elaborate brunch (I’m used to Apple Jacks), there is a bunch of good discussion going on today at the Randy Peterson Travel Executive Summit.
Up first was a panel that includes big wigs from PointsPay, Swift Exchange, Points.com, and the head of American Express co-branded cards. The discussion of the morning was on the value of points and the idea of “points as currency”. There is some movement by some to in the industry to want points to all be somewhat of a common currency that can be used to pay for various things. For the record, I hate that idea. There is also discussion about flexibility and options when it comes to redeeming points. For the record, I do like that idea, as long as the traditional redemptions remain an option.
What fun is it if all points were worth some fixed amount that you just then use to go buy eggs or t-shirts (or as a The Frugal Travel Guy put it, $10 at McDonalds)? Even if the points were valued at a good rate, I still think it isn’t as fun if they are all worth the same. I like being able to use knowledge and research to leverage my points to be worth more than they otherwise would be.
Suzanne Rubin, Head of AAdvantage, commented that while American AAdvantage is very interested in continuing to build redemption options outside of award flights, those redemptions continue to be a very small percentage of redemptions for their program, so much of their focus is on increasing the value and availability of redemptions from American Airlines. I would tend to agree with this approach as I don’t earn airline miles to go buy a DVD player, I earn them so that I can fly for free, preferably on a flight that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
There are some in the room who have expressed concern about protecting rewards and loyalty (and the ability to leverage miles and points earned into a trip that otherwise would cost $20,000+ to book), while others in the room seem to believe that it is best for everyone for points to just be a currency that you can use to pay for anything, anywhere, anytime. Very interesting discussion, and the reality is that both types of redemptions are already happening. Only time will tell whether or not both options continue to exist, or whether one will become the way of the future.
I’d love to hear what you think about the debate of having points being interchangeable between programs and worth a fixed value that can be redeemed for almost anything vs. having miles being tied to a specific program and being leveraged within that program for awards from that program.
Up next is some more about the charities or the day and a panel with important folks from hotel programs. So far, a very interesting day.