American Spokesperson Blasts BoardingArea Blogger, Throws Partner Airline Under Bus

Etihad’s big announcement about the most luxurious travel product in commercial aviation has been all the rage. I’d love to fly it, but the truth is I’m not going to. It’s way too pricey for me and at this point there’s no reasonable way to access it with miles.

I’m not going to tell you ‘get this and that credit card and you’ll be 3% of the way there.’

No, it’s just out of reach of most of us. Sure you could manufacture $1 million of spend on a 2% cash back card.. but even then there are things most of us would do with that $20,000 other than fly a single 7 hour flight from London to Abu Dhabi.

But Lucky who writes the One Mile at a Time blog wants to make a play for it.

He posted a Kickstarter project to fund him to travel on the new Etihad 3-room First Class Residence onboard their A380.

Lucky flies all over the world, sampling airline products, and writing about them. His blog is successful enough that it – combined with booking awards (he’s my competition) – has become his career. Nonetheless, he doesn’t have a corporate parent to fund his trips and he’s not going to shell out the $20,000 one-way to try out the Residence.

So he asked his readers, if they’d like him to fly and review a product that they wouldn’t otherwise get to see up front, could they chip in to cover the cost?

Frankly it’s worth $5 or even $25 to me to read his take on the product, so I should probably be willing to support the effort. He won’t do it unless the people who value it will help cover the cost, and I respect that. The way kickstarter works, supporters are only charged for their pledge if the goal for funding is reached. If it’s not, there’s no payment due.

Not everyone thinks so, however. An American spokesperson, Leslie Scott, kind of lost it over Ben’s effort.

Edited to add these additional tweets criticizing everyone who contributed:

Bear in mind that buying tickets on Etihad is something that American is supposed to be promoting since American and Etihad are partners, after all.

So…

  • Is it now American Airlines’ policy to publicly condemn their Executive Platinum flyers on social media?
  • Is it now American Airlines’ policy to denigrate the importance of purchasing tickets on their partner airlines?

Of course up until about a month ago this American spokesperson had been with Delta for 6 years. So that’s probably just how they do it over there.

Perhaps more importantly: what do you think of this effort? Is it spectacularly awesome, or spectacularly wasteful? (Or both?)

(HT: @jeanne23)

Update: it appears that Ms. Scott has apologized, and her boss tweeted “Tweets from our personal accounts are our own. #heartintherightplace”


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Who’s the idiot? Any effective PR flak should realize that she’s not doing her job properly when she becomes the story. PR 101. It’s irrelevant that she used her “personal” Twitter account, particularly since she’s branded it with the AA name.

    As for Lucky, I am amazed by the ire this post has provoked. Lucky’s Kickstarter project is much more reasonable that a lot of other Kickstarter nonsense, and it’s not like he’s doing it to be greedy. He’s a travel blogger and travel geek extraordinaire who now lives full-time in hotels. For anyone who has followed his blog (many commenters appear not to have done so), you’ll realize that he wants to try out the Etihad residence out of curiosity — because it’s there. More power to him.

  2. @Jim, He’s at 36% of his fundraising goal with the entire month of May to get there.

    Care to make a side bet on whether he makes it?

  3. I read Lucky for entertainment, and he entertains me a great deal. Now that I know about his project, sure, I’ll throw a few bucks at it. This American Airline spokesperson is entitled to her opinion, but it’s an ignorant opinion. All of our money should NOT go to charity. Some of our money should go to supporting the creators who provide entertaining writing, good music, and so on. Creators are just as deserving of our cash as anyone else,and I would argue that they are more deserving than many so-called charities just standing around with a handout saying “gimme.” C’mon, who doesn’t want to see how much champagne and what brand he gets served on this flight? This “spokesperson” is irrationally angry that Lucky has a nice following of people who enjoy his exploits. What’s her problem? One might almost suspect that she’s envious. I don’t think anybody should be fired for being an a**hat on their own time, but I think she clearly is one. Why not find something real to be angry and bitter about?

  4. Very unprofessional profanity from a rep and on a matter that should not be of consequence to her. Was this communication in her official capacity?

  5. @peachfront- I posted this on Lucky’s blog but it bear repeating.

    To those of you out there who say that contributing $5, $10, $20 is the least you can do for Lucky after all he has provided you, you fail to consider that you already provide Lucky with payment for the info on this blog. Sure you don’t pay out of pocket with money, but everytime you access this blog you are generating traffic to this website. Without the number of daily visitors to this website Lucky would not have the ad revenue that he does, he would not have the affiliate links he posts, he would not be a member of the BoardingArea network, and he would not appear in search engine results near the top. We don’t pay Lucky in money but we do pay in driving traffic to this website.

    You owe Lucky absolutely nothing. Without the readership, this blog would not be a viable business venture. Think about it. Lucky is able to live a very comfortable lifestyle flying around the world in first class and staying in 5 star hotels and all he does is write a few blog posts per day. I’m not saying that running a blog is not time consuming, but its not exact rocket science. We all enjoy reading this blog, but Lucky is compensated more than generously by all of his readers because if he did not have any readers he would not be able to write this blog or live the lifestyle he does.

  6. The lady is way off base and needs to get off her high horse. Who is she to care how I spend my disposable income? I don’t view this as a plea for charity from Lucky. This is more like a call for investors. The chance to read about the experience is worth a couple bucks to me.

  7. Whether I agree with the Kickstarter campaign or the content of the tweets from Leslie Scott, good for her boss for saying that tweets from personal accounts are their own. Probably a very grey line (esp if you have the company you work for on your twitter profile), but like the right of folks to be able to speak their mind none the less.

  8. @Taha- This is nothing like an investment. Investors get an ownership interest in the business they invest in. They get a cut of the business’s profits. People who contribute to Lucky get absolutely nothing. The money they contribute will be used to write a trip report that is a few pages long that can be accessed by anyone. Pure and simple, those who are giving money to Lucky are simply funding a 24 year old kid’s hobby. There is absolutely no profit motive in making this trip. A blog post about the trip once it is taken will generate little to no extra revenue to the blog.

  9. Lucky should be able to do whatever he wants. If you don’t like it, don’t read his blog and don’t contribute to the kickstarter. No one has a gun to their head.

    If the roles were reversed, many of you would attempt to get a free $20k ticket as well.

    As for the AA spokesperson, she should indeed be terminated. What a fool.

  10. The page-view counters for BoardingArea blogs must be overloaded! Brilliant PR stunt! Methinks someone at the House of Miles must be ROTFLMAO…

  11. Wow. A lot of noise and a lot of nonsense as usual.

    I read Ben’s post this afternoon and I can’t see a big problem in it. It’s not like he asks the readers to pay for his car or whatever, this is a 8h flight on a nonsense route. It’s purely for the product. I don’t think it is worth it though. The ultra high price is designed to keep away the ‘riff raff’ like SQ tried it. However SQ wasn’t really successful with it (probably still too cheap) and at one point the Suites were nothing special anymore and now you can book those with miles as well.

    Regarding the woman and her Tweet, if you identify yourself as the spokesperson for company x on your personal Twitter profile and then lash out in a field related to your work and even insult a current customer of your company… then your are just dumb. No matter which company, I would remove this person from her post or at least take severe internal action. As a spokesperson you are ALWAYS on the record so watch your mouth.

    The charity aspect is the most laughable argument in this whole discussion. First of all, nobody is required to donate money to anyone and free to do with personal finances whatever comes to mind. This morning I bought a car magazine because I wanted to read the article/review about a specific new model. I read it and then left the magazine on the train. It cost 10$ btw. Do I have to feel bad now because I could have donated the money to the Good People of the World Foundation? Get real folks! Otherwise draw placards and picket in front of Louis Vuitton and Tiffany because there will most likely be people who could donate three grand but they decided to buy a handbag or a ring with the money they earned.

  12. Everybody loses with the Twitter feed, the blog reaction, and so-o-o-o many of the responses. Not our best moment, and we can all learn from this moment.

  13. So is a blogger saying something bad about a credit card of a bank (or the bank) he has affiliate links with throwing a partner under the bus? Bloggers say the bank affiliation don’t affect what they say, but now what she says should be controlled by her position?

    I would never give to this endeavor, and see them offering the product at all as a bit distastful. But Lucky has the right to be on Kickstarter, people have the right to donate, and everybody else should have the right to say what they think of it without retaliation.

    People may know her position (a great minority of the people), or be able to research (check FB etc.) and find it, but that doesn’t take away her right to speak her mind.

  14. If Lucky wants to put this out there, and people fund it then good for him! I will be giving my $5 cause I feel that a review of the product would be worth that in entertainment for me and I think he went about it in a perfect way. Does that mean I will not give to charity this month? No, of course not. I will make my regular contributions and put the $5 in the “entertainment” section of my budget. People should really be less uptight.

  15. methinks @Leslie_PScott should be let go from her position. At a minimum, she should be removed from a customer-facing role. There is no such thing as a private social media account in her job. Apologies after the fact are pointless, especially since it wasn’t just one tweet it was multiple tweets.

  16. I’m just finishing up a conference where, in order to receive the obligatory conference T-shirt, one had to carry two 40-pound water bottles 50 feet, to highlight the many parts of the world that don’t have easy access to potable water. For each person that made the walk, the conference organizer donated $5 to chaitywater.com.

    The organizer probably would have donated the money anyway, but that they chose to highlight this effort really puts Lucky’s proposal in proper perspective.

  17. It strikes me that this is the best possible publicity Ben could have gotten. The sanctimony has shifted me from “probably won’t kick in” to “considering kicking in”.

    BTW, Kickstarter isn’t about charity. I kicked in to Gabriel Leigh’s Frequent Flyer documentary project simply because I enjoy his work. I might kick into Ben’s project for the same reason.

  18. This comment from Lucky’s blog is the most logical and level-headed argument as to why you shouldn’t contribute to Lucky unless you realize that all you are doing is helping to support a well-off 24 year old travel luxuriously.

    “346.May 8th, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Rachel said,

    People are free to do as they wish with their money, but IMO, this just doesn’t smell right.

    The fact is you are now running a business. You do trip reports, you try different products, you go on every A380, not simply to entertain us, but because ultimately it brings you revenue, and allows you to live your lifestyle as you do.

    Therefore, paying for this trip should be another business decision. If it will drive more traffic to the site, and greater revenue to you, then it is worth it. If you’ve made the business decision that it is not worth paying for, it just seems unsavory to ask your readers to pay for it.

    My $.02; obviously others are free to feel differently.”

    Go ahead and support Lucky if you like. But I prefer to give money to people who actually need it.

  19. Out of curiosity, did she delete any tweets? Seems like the one that was criticizing the customers is gone.

    P.S. I don’t wish her ill (certainly, not losing a job) but she should be reminded to be more careful on social media.

  20. There are millions of charities out there that are more important to me than putting a blogger on a luxurious flight. If a person has money to donate, please send to helping a person in need, to preserve the environment, to help fund research to beat a deadly disease. I’m with Leslie as a matter of principle, though she could have done it better. I think both sides are wrong – Ben for showing no class, Leslie for not separating her personal and work identities.

  21. Do Leslie Scott’s views represent those of American Airlines? Seems odd to use such foul language about an issue that doesn’t even affect her directly.

  22. Lucky is not doing anything unethnical or illegal. Personally I won’t give any money to support it, but I don’t have problems with others who do ‘make a donation’ to this project. There are a lot of crowd-funding projects out there people just donate to for no reason (e.g. Please donate to help me get an IVF so we can have our baby) and no one seem to blast them or the people who asked for the money. How is that different?

  23. I wish I could just “like” or respond to some of the posts above.

    I don’t follow the guy’s blog for other reasons, but it seems to me that if people really want to give him money to do something like this, that’s up to them. You don’t like it, don’t contribute. Lucky can ask whatever the hell he wants; no one is obligated to give a damn.

    As for the AA spokesperson, seriously, once you associate yourself publicly with your employer, you don’t get to say “these are just my personal views.” It was a really poor move on her part. Seconding, thirding or fifthing whoever said Public Relations 101.

  24. Amusing that she assumes that anyone donating to the Kickstarter campaign does NOT contribute to charity as well.

    Also, Lucky was clear that the campaign was not his idea but came from readers eager to see what the Residence is like. If it had been his idea and if he were pushing hard for it (possibly using a method collecting funds regardless if he hit enough to actually fly it). And no matter what kind of business person Lucky is he’s certainly not dumb enough to do something that will, in the long term, damage his business.

  25. “Of course up until about a month ago this American spokesperson had been with Delta for 6 years. So that’s probably just how they do it over there.”

    Oh for crying out loud. Never miss a chance to bash Delta. Even when it has absolutely nothing to do with the topic and completely unsubstantiated.

  26. First, the level of ego of this Ben guy to think he is worthy of his readers to ask for $25,000 from them to read an article about how luxurious a flight of his was…I’m blown away.

    As for this article, it is amazing how you have this little camp here to gang up on and BULLY Leslie because she shared a valid opinion. Responding to her tweets and opening up discussion and debate is fine, but to twist it into it being an attack on an individual person because he HAPPENS to be a frequent flyer, is a desperate stretch and distraction. This guy having status on AA (who may hold status on more than one airline) does not mean that she’s attacking a passenger, or her company’s partner airline, etc.

    It’s a cowardly attack by someone who still can’t handle their own misguided ego.

    I would be amazed if any of these cowards would be so brazen by speaking to or addressing Leslie like this in person. For those who know her, she is a doll and is nowhere near deserved of an ARTICLE on this place to call her out for Ben and his waste of fundraising. Must be easy to hide behind your computers, huh?

    Using the internet like this for public shaming and bullying is a disease, and I’m embarrassed to see it in the aviation media world.

    If Ben wanted to do the RIGHT thing, he would have said “You’re right, this money can go to something much better,” and put it into a charity or given the ticket to an underprivileged person who maybe has never even flown on a plane before.

    (On a smaller level, it’s also misuse of Kickstarter, which is intended for entrepreneurs to start new companies or projects, not to fund a guy’s plane ticket for something that will certainly not bring 3% of that in ad revenue traffic for it.)

  27. I don’t really care about the review but if people want to spend their money in this way, it’s a free country. I think paying athletes insane amounts of money is stupid. Everyone should donate the money they spend on game tickets to a worthy cause instead and whatever it is Leslie chooses to spend her money on should be donated as well. Geesh!

  28. Agree with Arcanum on all counts, especially the uber-entitled nature of this Kickstarter campaign and you’re attacking this woman reflecting very poorly on you rather than her, Gary.

    “Arcanum said,

    1. This Kickstarter campaign is absurd. It’s bad enough that he spends his time flying around the world for kicks and taking up award seats that other people may need, but now he wants us to pay for it? No thanks.

    2. Leslie’s entitled to her opinion, especially if it comes from her personal account. Frankly, there wasn’t anything in her tweets that’s offensive or that the majority of people would even disagree with.

    3. The fact that he’s an Executive Platinum is irrelevant. Does one’s status with an airline (or in life generally) change whether their actions are fundamentally right or wrong? Besides, he’s only Executive Platinum because of mileage runs and cheap mistake fares. That’s not the kind of customer airlines should really value.

    4. Denigrating the importance of purchasing partner tickets? That’s a bit of a stretch here.

    5. I agree with Cam. I expected more from you. I read your blog because you generally offer insightful commentary on aviation rather than just flogging credit cards constantly like the other guys.”

  29. @June (comment 87): That’s a very libertarian point of view. It’s also the correct one. 🙂

    The problem is that for many people the desire to control the actions of others is simply overwhelming. For them, it is intolerable when another person uses their liberty and property in a way that’s not “right.” Cue Ms. Scott’s outrage that other people are “giving him [Ben] money!!!”

  30. @Steve: “It’s bad enough that he spends his time flying around the world for kicks and taking up award seats that other people may need”

    So, who’s entitled here, Steve? Ben accumulates the miles and spends them at his own discretion. Why does this upset you? Why is that “bad enough?” Indeed, why is that “bad” at all? Because it limits awards for people who really “need” them? Who decides who really “needs” the awards? People like you, Steve?

  31. I’d like Leslie to explain how Ben’s quest is any different than Kickstarting a Veronica Mars movie.

  32. if we are going to judge how people spend their money based on the most loftiest of alternatives, then we are setting the bar so high no one can meet it.

    how much money does she spends getting her nails done? I think kids dying of aids in Africa could use that money better than her. How much does she spend on her car? she can always ride the bus and use the money to help out the malaria effort in Brazil.

  33. I also have to wonder if any of the folks who are incensed over Ben’s project have ever bought a ticket to a professional sports event. How can you justify funding the lavish lifestyles of athletes and owners when there are so many worthy charities?

  34. @Seth: “People who contribute to Lucky get absolutely nothing. The money they contribute will be used to write a trip report that is a few pages long that can be accessed by anyone.”

    Good job summing up the Tragedy of the Commons.

  35. @Seth (Comment 27): “It is clear that [Ben] is personally benefitting under the guise of running a business.”

    Quelle horreur! Thank heavens no one else does that kind of thing! I for one hope never to personally benefit from my business!

  36. @andyandy- Way to miss the point. Of course the point of a business is personal profit. The difference between business and what Lucky is doing is that he is asking others to simply hand him money for his personal benefit rather than building a business that generates revenue that he can pay himself with. As stated above, Lucky has already determined that spending money on this ticket is a ridiculous business expense and has decided it is not worth him spending his own money on. At the same time he feels it is ok to ask you to bankroll him for nothing in return. That is the definition of personal benefit with absolutely no business connection.

  37. Why sensationalize this even more? “Blasts”? “Kind of lost it?” Really?!? She called him an idiot, not a BFD in twitter-land, and which he kind of is in light of this whole ridiculously selfish kickstarter movement. There’s no doubt in my mind that Lucky can afford this trip based on the large revenue you so-called “professional” bloggers makes from CC referrals. Begging for money as a publicity stunt is just ridiculous. Why you chose to get involved and side with the “idoit” vs. the person who actually works for a living (and possibly risk someone’s job), is not only disappointing, but frankly makes you look even more out of touch with reality than before. Really disappointed by this, Gary 🙁

  38. @Seth: No, I don’t miss your point. I just think it’s wrong.

    1. “The difference between business and what Lucky is doing…” There are many different business models. One of which is fee for service. Ben has made a very simple proposition: Fund the flight and I will review it. Ergo, if the review has value to you, fund it. If not, don’t.

    2. “Lucky is … asking others to simply hand him money for his personal benefit rather than building a business that generates revenue that he can pay himself with.” I’m not sure these words mean what you think they mean. Under the fee for service model, Ben’s business is generating the revenue with which he will pay the proposed business expense.

    3. “[H]e feels it is ok to ask you to bankroll him for nothing in return.” See point #1. If you value the review, you do not get “nothing.” You get the review. The fact that others will also be able to see it is irrelevant to the question of whether you have received value.

    In short, you appear to be operating under the premise that Ben is restricted to a business model in which his reviews are solely funded by ancillary income derived from the blog on which he posts them. If that is your “point”, it is a wrong one.

  39. I wasn’t going to contribute to Lucky’s kickstarter (I don’t have anything feeling for or against the idea, I’m just lazy to find my kickstarter login), but after this outburst I just gave him some money to he can fly it, as my personal F- you to all the haters

  40. Little Ben screwed up and Dad (you) had to write a teachers note.

    Some of us are fully aware of just how profitable the credit card blog business . You do have corporate parents. They are : Chase, BofA, Citibank and Barclays.

  41. Ben has always been creative and innovative. If it works for him, good for him. If not he could always marry into a big oil family so he could just buy Ethiad first-class tickets and not worry about the cost.

  42. Maybe I missed this… Ben buys the ticket and gets a tax deduction. Based on what I wrote earlier, if he gets a 2-% deduction on a $25,000 ticket, he’s pocketing a cool $5 grand, not to mention that he’s 25,000 points richer.

  43. I used to object when established brands/businesses used Kickstarter to fund projects, but as time passes it seems to be the norm. As long as there isn’t any pressure from the party I don’t see a huge issue in it.

    People have given money to much crazier things… If someone wants to pay $50 for a trip report and a postcard from Ben so be it. It also speaks volumes that currently 9 people are paying to $500 to have dinner with him. Had the pleasure of sitting next to him a couple weeks ago for dinner, but I’m not too sure about forking over that kind of cash (sorry Ben).

    As for Leslie, she probably should have stayed away from the name calling but I wouldn’t crucify her for a couple tweets on a personal account… and hey, it led to a $500 donation to a charity.

    Hope he gets funded and I can read an interesting trip report. If not, the publicity still can’t be beat. Good luck to him.

    -opinions are my own 😉

  44. I agree with Leslie, and I’m part of that AA customer base. She’s not alienating me one bit.

  45. I donated 20 bucks to an Olympic athlete so she could go to Sochi. I forget the website, similar to Kickstarter though. I helped her “live her dream”.

    So, Lucky wants some $$ to help him book the Residence. Go Lucky! If you don’t want to support him, don’t. If you do, then go for it. I can’t for the life of me see the “moral” outrage of supporting someone in this fashion. The Internet makes this kind of thing possible, and I say go for it.

    I’m heading over to Lucky’s site and donating $5. 🙂

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