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. @dhammer53: That was something I was wondering about as well. Lucky’s a professional travel blogger. When he pays for hotels or flights (or buys points/miles that he uses for hotels or flights), are these considered tax deductible business expenses? If so, then in a sense the American taxpayer is subsidizing his lifestyle.

    Perhaps Gary can tell us how this works.

  2. Also I disagree with this post, you’re needlessly putting someone’s job in jeopardy, which is probably as absurd as starting a kickstarter for a 7-hour $25k flight.

  3. dhammer53, if this runs as business expense and related tax deduction I’m sure the money he get’s through this fundraising would have to be booked as income in the accounts. At least in the all of the places I have done business at so far. It can’t be counted as investment since no shares are issued and the purpose of the fundraising is to immediately use it in order to settle project related expenses. But overall I would just do a healthy guess on two things: 1. IF the funding event stalls at like 19k I’m close to certain that Ben would inject 6k on his own just to make it happen. – 2. There are additional expenses involved including positioning and the events he pledged for the big contributors.

    I find it quiet funny that some folks here seem to know the income and finances of the bloggers so well. Are you assuming they make millions with this? Pffff

  4. @ dhammer53, Arcanum, & others — FYI, any funds raised on Kickstarter are fully taxable (something that many project creators seem not to realize until it’s tax season). So, roughly speaking, it’s going to be a wash for Ben’s company.

    Furthermore, he mentioned that he’s not going to hog points/miles earned from paying for this ticket; moreover, Ben is going to use his own funds/miles to pay for his companion’s trip to AUH and from LHR.

  5. I don’t think crowd sourcing this is a good idea. What would be is if AA would comp one of the airline bloggers a free trip in the suites to check it out and report back. Then again most of us aren’t the target demographic I’m guessing 🙂

  6. Love your blog, but agree with CW’s post which I’ve re-quoted below. This was an unnecessary post.

    “C’mon Gary, this is a cheap effort for you to publicize Lucky’s effort. The woman on Twitter didn’t “throw partner airline under the bus” in any way, what leap of logic are you using here to get to that conclusion? And the title of your blog post is incredibly misleading. Reading that post makes it sound like AA took a company position that Lucky shouldn’t be doing this, when that’s simply not the case.

    Please stop trying to create a controversy where none exists, it’s beneath you”

  7. @seth You must have never tried to make money from clicks or worked on a site that did. I’m not gonna sit on my duff and say I’m excused from giving a creator a tip, a purchase, or a donation because I gave him some clicks worth a fraction of a cent! Especially someone who has made me laugh as often as Lucky.

    @andyandy “Tragedy of the commons.” Exactly!

  8. I think the readers doth protest too much, and most likely envy, jealousy masked as outrage, sense of decency, morality, call it whatever you like. I could list things each and every ‘disappointed’, ‘disgusted’, ‘outraged’ commenter here and on Lucky’s blog have done that doesn’t quite fit into the little box they are constructing to view and judge the kick starter campaign. In fact I’m willing to bet a few wish they had come up with it and had lucky promote their effort!

    If people want to pass such judgement in such tones I want to see them eat less so more food is available to the hungry, in fact whip yourself everytime you throw out food that a starving fellow citizen could’ve otherwise eaten. Next stop eating produce shipped thousands of miles because your demand is making that food unaffordable for the local community where it is grown. Next stop driving your personal vehicle and let’s all use public transportation because it will also benefit the less fortunate and the money we save in having to defend fossil fuel global supply chain, pollution and other externalities of oil consumption we can then use to develop clean water for all and access to basic education and healthcare.

    Maybe I’m going overboard with the above, how about the outraged reduce their thermostat in winter by 3 degrees and increase it by 3 in summer and the savings then donated to charities?

    I almost forgot, Apple, Google, Disney, Berkshire, GS and all those profitable American companies surely don’t need profits above 10% and any amounts exceeding that should rather be donated rather used in marketing campaigns, R&D, dividends or retained by the companies in addition, those donations shouldn’t be tax deductible.

    Point is, just because I buy a $600 phone or spend $k on a week vacation doesn’t mean Jim taking money from my charities or accelerating the coming end of days! I’m waiting for the outrages to next suggest newspapers stop spending on investigative reports or any sort of reviews, because they too source your eyeballs and ‘investment’ (subscriptions and purchase) to deliver content and still report profits and don’t donate all of their revenues.

    /rant over

  9. Anyone complaining what other people are doing with their money is an idiot. Plain and simple. And that AA woman is an idiot. Every employee is an ambassador for their company. Saying her view are not AAs does not give her an excuse to be petty.

  10. @Sebastian, You said ‘Are you assuming they make millions with this? Pffff’
    I say that the few successful bloggers are making a living. Good for them. 😀

    The information that bloggers such as Gary provide is useful. And the repetition from multiple bloggers is what I/we need to get the information in our thick skulls. 😀 I’ve read that it takes 3 times for anyone to fully comprend what’s been said.

  11. Sorry, but Leslie needs to find a new job. Her tweets were WAY over the line. She called out not only Lucky, but then on top of it, the people who donated to the campaign, too. I was on the fence about donating, but her audacious tweets encouraged me to throw Lucky some $. If anybody knows anything about Lucky, they know how incredibly generous he is with his time, and how willing to help and helpful he has been to so many over the years. His reviews of products are simply incomparable, and well worth some of my $ out of my entertainment budget.

    Leslie’s tweets make me wonder how she feels about people flying in AA’s first class. Are we “over the top” for enjoying a good meal, bed, and slippers? I think she should apply with United, where the company policy is that elite’s are over-entitled. She’d fit right in. She should be let go or reprimanded for her over the top actions.

  12. She is a PR for an airline so whatever she does in her personal life directly affect her role as a PR. I would not have a problem if she worked in finance, supply chain or any other role at AA but PR? She made a really bad judgment on using social media to vent. She looks young and young people were not educated the same way older people were. They still think they can vent their frustrations or do whatever they want and nobody will care. She has to learn that once online it is forever. This will follow her entire career and even if she apologizes it will be posted on internet forever. It is funny how people today vent whatever frustration they have on social media without thinking on the consequences but then when they see the big mistake they made they find it is easy to apologize. BS!!!! She is only apologizing because she knows her job is on the line for her comments. She still thinks the Kickstarter idea is idiot.

  13. This controversy is pretty silly and is all about perspective. It has nothing to do with charity at all. Lucky laid it out pretty well in his post equating this to going to the movies. When I go to the movies I don’t weigh the movie ticket with a donation to my favorite charity. This is about paying for entertainment plain and simple. If I am entertained by reviews I should be ok with contributing to the his blog providing me with that review. Another way to look at this would be a consumer reports subscription. If you pay for that subscription you are paying a business to review a product on your behalf. You may elect to purchase a product or service based on that information.

  14. It’s a ingenious and shrewd business move by Ben. It’s a win win situation for him. If his kickstarter succeeds, he gets a free first class ticket. If it doesn’t, all the publicity his blog has received leads to more traffic revenue.

  15. For those arguing that people can do anything with their money, you are technically right but you’re being incredibly shortsighted. Someone buying a Ferrari and/or a Armani suit for yourself is different then a 1%er basically asing people to buy his ticket for him. He can afford it but he’s letting idiots pay it for him who will never get anything out of it. Big whoop, you get a blog post? Do you get to eat the food, taste the wine or sit in the seat? No you don’t. If you want to experience it so badly, I’d tell you to buy it for yourself but that would require the type of self-discipline many of you lack.

  16. What’s the difference if Lucky gets the $ from Kickstarter or pimping affiliate links? If anything, it’s a more honest approach.

    As for the AA spokeswoman, she needs to be fired/reassigned. She’s a liability not an asset.

  17. Gary, I think you should reread your post from May 3.
    ==========================================
    I frequently criticize sloppy thinking and misrepresentations as well as bad travel advice.

    But I’m not always proud of the way that I do it.

    I can do better.
    ========================================

  18. Kudos Jack. Again, this is beneath what I’ve expected from Gary. It’s not that he’s wrong (or not entitled to his opinion) but it is a hateful departure from what I’ve grown accustomed to from this blog. To me it has nothing to do with Lucky or what he’s doing. I hope to see better here in the future. If not, I’ll take my 3-4 page views a week elsewhere.

  19. There are folks who are criticizing Lucky for doing this, and there are people who support him. I have to admit, its purrrty creative, and the comments I receive from folks overseas is “…only in America..”. As one of the major points/miles blogger, He has contributed greatly to the hobby, and as myself have learned a great deal from him, as well as everyone else…but to dog him for doing this? Let’s just go for the ride and see how far he gets 🙂

  20. I wonder how many people supporting Ms Scott, saying it was her own personal, private view also supported Donald Silver with his own personal and private conversation.

    I quite like Lucky’s idea and contributed. Did I contribute money that I would have otherwise donated to charity no. I think it’s somewhat righteous and narcissistic of people to think they know better than I on how I should spend my own money. We all indulge, whether its overpriced coffee, paying for convienience or just making impulse decisions. Supporting lucky in his endeavour is no different.

    Just because we might have different views on what we would do with the 20k in the end, doesn’t mean we should judge either Lucky or the people supporting him.

  21. Am I the only one who is completely turned off by @Seth and his constant harping?

    I get it. You hate the idea. I disagree with your vitriol. I spend all sorts of money on frivolous things and never once think, “gosh I should give this to charity.”

    I also give to charity. But at the end of the day I don’t involve myself in how others spend the money they earn.

  22. Another yappy woman learns about the Streisand Effect. Fire her azz.

  23. For those who think that Ben should pay for the trip himself ‘as an investment in his business’ there is no way from any reasonable risk-adjusted net present value model that he could possibly grow his blog by the $25k cost of this ticket off of the trip report.

    And he IS paying for it through his business model. He’s essentially asking interested readers to prepay for his trip report, in order to justify the expenditure.

    There’s not a charity element here really, that’s just confusion.

  24. @Carl P – bloggers do not claim to be the spokesperson for the bank. individuals can speak their mind, but that doesn’t mean all things they can say are well-advised.

  25. WOW….a lot of angry people out there. That Leslie person sound like a c@nt to me. I do with my money what I want! Lucky is not forcing anybody to give him money. And yes, I wanna see that report! I hope he gets not 25K, but 50K so he can fly twice! :)-

  26. Leslie is nothing more than a self-righteous beeeeoooooch who makes herself feel good and fuzzy by dictating WHERE people should spend their money. HER causes are important. HER ideas are important. If someone else does something that she doesn’t approve, then that person is an IDIOT. That travel-fellow had every right to create that Kickstarter, unless he broke the rules (which I don’t believe he did). Leslie would make a good politician. She would increase taxes, spend the people’s money on bogus charities — bogus wind, bogus solar, and let’s not forget the World-World Fund that will save the Czechoslovakia jungle slug. She is exactly the opposite of what she “portrays.” YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED, AMERICAN!

  27. I agree with Gary. If Leslie gets in trouble that’s entirely her own fault. As for Lucky, I think people are way overthinking this. Let the dude do what he wants, I for one think it’s a fun idea and look forward to reading the review. Doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. Bringing charity into this whole discussion is nonsense, people are entitled to spend their money however they want.

    I also agree with victor (post 172). Every time I see comments from Seth on other blogs, he’s always hating on or criticizing something. Like the time he high-and-mightily railed into The Points Guy for blogging about flying coach. Guy needs to relax.

  28. Gary’s pitchforking for Leslie sets new levels in hypocrisy and unprofessionalism. Absolutely unbelievably pathetic.

  29. “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?”

    That is such a giant leap of stupidity that you ought to be ashamed of yourself, that is if you had any shame left.

  30. I did not agree with Gary on his coverage of AA’s devaluation. However, I support him 100% on this as well as I support Lucky on his kick starter.

    It’s his blog and he can start a kick starter for whatever he wants.. If you don’t like it, then don’t patronize his blog. If you think his content is worth it, then pay what you want and wait for the review when it happens. Either way, please move on to better things in your life.

    In regards to Gary’s post, I am happy he did post the harsh and out of place comments by Leslie (AA employee). Either she advertizes her job in her profile or not is not relevant. She openly dissed someone whom she doesn’t know for something that she has no business meddling in. If we take her logic, every luxury we so much crave, luxury seats on an airplane, high end hotels and restaurants and traveling all over the world and spending money is a shameful act when you could be donating all of that stuff to charity. Charities are a private matter and people give what they want, when they want, how they want and if they want. How about people shut up and mind their own damn business. It’s better to stay silent and be though a fool than open and confirm that.

  31. “Throws partner airline under the bus” is a bit much too.

    Why not call it, “BoardingArea Blogger Blasts American Spokesperson, Throws Charities Under Bus”

  32. Yup, it is extremely melodramatic and you can tell he is just looking for some aspect to feign outrage about to try and be self-righteous about being offended. What a gigantic stretch!

    Faux outrage ratcheting way up in seriousness and now seemingly cheerleading for heads to roll. Put down the pom poms over your hurt feelings Gary, it’s unbecoming.

  33. I can be quoted as saying “people are stupid” in regards to this situation. Do you want my bosses number Gary? so you can take care of things?

    You remind me of a kid on the elementary school playground who, rather than saying “i’m gonna beat you up” or something, said “my dad will sue you”. What a depressing microcosm of the mentality of your society you provide.

    Thank you Leslie for not being afraid to know whats right and tell it how it really is!

  34. This is insane!

    I donated to Ben because I WANTED to. I’m a grown up who makes her own decisions and I don’t appreciate others telling me what to spend my money on, how I’m an idiot, and all the other venom being spewed by people who have no, absolutely NO right to tell me how to spend my entertainment money.

    Ben suggested an idea that is extremely original. Many of us liked it and are willing to support him. It is no one else’s business how I spend the money I earn. End of.

    And yes, I give to charity…the ones I want to and not because some self-righteous people are trying to guilt me into it.

    As for this woman who tweeted…stupid thing to do. Stupid to call names and I for one was ticked when I read what she had said. None of her business either. I will cut her some slack though and assume that she typed before she thought. We’ve all done it.

    Perhaps those who are so incensed by this should put their energies to making the world around THEMSELVES a better place and quit lambasting an idea that they didn’t have the creative balls to suggest.

  35. Creative balls? Are you joking? “Extremely original”? WTF?

    Ben is an extremely competent individual with this capability, but you are confusing an absolute chutzpah olympic event for ‘creativity’.

    First thing I thought when I saw this product and it’s payment requirements was who is going to have the audacity to try something like this.

    It’s many things. It’s not groundbreaking or creative.

  36. Ms. Scott needs to find a job where her personal opinions would not conflict with her professional responsibility. The blogger’s request for money may or may not result in voluntary help with the cost of the ticket. What’s wrong with asking for help on a voluntary basis? I would never fly it and will not send in any $s, but for people for whom getting a review of this product has some meaning; let them chip in. Don’t know why everyone is getting steamed up about a non-issue.

  37. I think the whole kickstarter thing is entirely ridiculous. Anyone who has contributed money is a complete fool and deserves to lose whatever they donated.

    I can’t believe he has the audacity to ask for donations for more than the price of some new cars or someones yearly salary just so he can take an 8 hour flight. This is a great example of what is what’s wrong with the world.

  38. I donated the amount that I would receive in entertainment value from reading his review. No different to seeing a movie, you could argue that it’s extravagant to spend all the money on sets etc. just to create a story and that money should go to charity. I’m expecting something in return for my money and I’m almost rather happy with an upfront business model that doesn’t have the potential for bias like credit card affiliate links do.

  39. Wow – the last time I checked, Lucky lives in the United States of America. Being a citizen of the US, he is entitled to write what he wants, fund whatever kind of project he likes (Kickstarter isn’t a charity site), fly whatever airline he wants, and spend extra to increase his flights carbon footprint. His readers are free to spend their money on whatever they choose.

    Someone mentioned “Spectacularly wasteful is relative. To some, buying a nice car or eating an expensive meal is wasteful since the money would do more good being donated to charity. I suppose we could *all* exist upon the bare minimum in life and donate a lot to others.” – Yeah It’s called ObamaCare, no thanks.

    Where is the outrage at the unethical behavior of most charities (even the big ones) who end up only giving 8% of their take to the actual cause?

    I hope Ben’s project get funded – I would love to read his review. I’m in for $50.

  40. Gary – if there is now way for Ben to ever justify the $25k expense and foreseeably recoup that via any risk adjusted NPV model, then he should NOT undertake this project. All business owners evaluate projects based on capital requirements and return projections. If the math doesn’t add up, the hat in hand is not the solution. I am a big fan of your work and Ben’s. But the “finance” of this deal, while seemingly masked as a humble and creative joke, is fundamentally flawed by any business measure. Lucky doesn’t have to review Etihad’s residence if he can’t afford it; neither should Apple venture into building cars if they can’t afford that investment cost. Am sure an Apple iCar would be cool too, but if the shoe don’t fit ….

  41. I tend to agree with the spokesperson. Lucky is too eager to the attention so always trying to create topics- most about him. He is getting more and more closed to his good friends Justin Rose Lee. Maybe MTV will also have a show for him soon.

  42. @Truth for what it’s worth my take is that it doesn’t make sense for Ben to do *for himself* but if his readers want to cover the cost, then it makes sense to them. It’s sort of like a cancelled TV show with a big fan base, here’s the chance for fans to bring it back by covering the cost if they value it enough. The number and amount of commitments will determine whether it makes sense to do. At a bit out of pocket for Ben it makes sense purely out of his own enjoyment, and his readers benefit. But with a $25k gap it doesn’t make business sense for Ben to do it. Only by others covering part of the cost will the economics work out. That’s my read anyway but Ben and I haven’t discussed it.

  43. Ben is so ready to trade at least faux-modesty and humility for infamy, notoriety, or ‘celebrity’ status a la JRL (in a very crude sense of the word) . This much is clear. Shame because he’s made a good honest living for himself.

  44. “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.” A disappointing post since I have always valued your opinion and insight. Not sure why you are so wired about this whole situation. Who are you mad at?

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