American Will Pay You to Suggest Changes to the AAdvantage Program!

Suzanne Rubin, President of the American AAdvantage program, e-mails:

I wanted to pass this info along in case some of your readers are interested in turning their passion for the AAdvantage program into a career. We are always looking for exceptional candidates that would also bring enthusiasm to their job. I’m guessing many of your readers fit the bill!

Here’s the job:

Analyst AAdvantage

This position will be responsible for supporting a strategic assessment of all elements of the AAdvantage frequent flyer program. Position will identify and recommend opportunities for changes to AAdvantage to enhance customer loyalty and drive incremental value to American through the elite program and through mileage earning/redeeming.

Position will be involved in innovative loyalty projects, including leveraging flight data, competitive data and customer data in order to design and implement AAdvantage program and product enhancements that strengthen AA’s relationship with customers. Position will perform sophisticated analyses using database software and tools; producing thoughtful, actionable insights from data analyses, and using those insights to develop and present appropriate loyalty strategies for the new American. Extensive cross-departmental collaboration with Revenue Management, IT, Marketing, and Finance as well as operational organizations will be required.

Make no mistake, they’re looking for individuals with relevant skills and experience — “Ability to write SQL; ability to quickly learn new systems and databases – can mine large amounts of data for insights that form the strategy recommendations” (you aren’t going to just armchair quarterback things, you’re going to work with their data to formulate recommendations).

In my youth, baby… in my youth.

Now I’m curious: Would you want to work for AAdvantage? If you did, what changes would you recommend?

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, 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. Looks like she’s girding for a battle with the Tempe guys.

    Numbers are what win with them and she wants some firepower to try and push a pro-consumer view.

    The good news is they’ll listen to numbers if they bear out a case.

    The bad news is…

    It’s most likely innovation that makes changes like United and Delta’s look slightly more palatable, but still a net negative in value given out for the average reader of this blog.

  2. Sure, give me exactly 2/3rds of Ms Rubin’s salary on a signed 3 year deal. I’m there.

  3. This is actually a very interesting way of recruiting tech talent that happens to be passionate about the space.

  4. While I certainly fit the bill (one of my many “hats” is an IT consultant/executive in the marketing field) I doubt that this job pays much, so I’m not interested. I would have loved to work for them, though! 🙂

    Clearly they’re not looking for recommendations from one’s head, rather from the data. Otherwise, I would have recommended 1) ALWAYS give advance notice on changes, 2) bring back the OW distance-based awards (again, I doubt the data will support that, though), 3) keep US Airways’ nickel-and-dime mentality at arms length in order to not cheapen the AA brand, 4) maintain the SWU on any fare policy as this is the #1 reason many of your EXP flyers continue to re-qualify, etc., etc.

  5. > Clearly they’re not looking for recommendations from one’s head, rather from the data.

    I hate the changes that happened to DL and UA that might be coming to AA as much as the next FF / reader, but if the data pans out for them, why would they listen to the head?

  6. I’ll apply but doubt it’ll pay much. Who knows, I may be appealing to them, spent time at Worldspan, Sr DBA. Analyst positions tend to be low earning, and this one’s not even billed as Senior level…

  7. Oh and since my first joke was met with such loud applause, here’s another.

    Sure I’ll be happy to show up for “interview” however you should know that my interview fee is $813 and we don’t allow any changes to the structure so if for any reason, we have to reschedule, this fee is non refundable.

    Btw if you do “interview” , worst thing you could do is tell them your ideas. That’s all they are bringing you in for anyway, then they’ll promote somebody else . lol

  8. I would love to see a long time Flyertalker or Milepointer get this position. Yes, things need to be numbers driven, but having that filtered by someone with lots of real world customer experience would be a big plus.

  9. You are all quite cynical in your comments.

    They are running a business, silly! Not trying to hand out prizes. Regardless of where their ideas for changes come from, these things must be tested against hard data, statistics, and expected consumer behavior. All very analytical. This does not mean they are heartless autobots.

    Remember how many airlines have been thru or died in bankruptcy. Grow up and realize that companies serve us best by figuring out how to survive.

  10. These are just bogus positions that never get filled and get 100,000 applicants from both humans and computers.

    Oh, SQL programming. Give me a break, all BS.

    They want “ideas” to “enhance” the program? Let’s go back to the 1998 terms of agreement, thanks.

  11. These are just bogus positions that never get filled and get 100,000 applicants from both humans and computers.

    Oh, SQL programming. Give me a break, all BS.

    They want “ideas” to “enhance” the program? Let’s go back to the 1998 terms of agreement, thanks.

  12. I think it would truly be fascinating. But I cannot image the skill set I bring would justify half of my current salary.

    And my focus would be true LOYALTY, defined loosely as choosing to fly on American over other options. Other options could mean United and Delta. But equally, “choosing to fly on American over other options” can mean “choosing to fly American over just staying home”. (As Gary has said, even a crass mileage runner is loyal to the extent he or she is likely flying on distressed inventory.).

    I’d also make efforts to peel off pax from UA and DL, perhaps incentivizing, through bonus miles or segments, travel to or from ATL, SFO, MSP, DEN and other UA/DL fortress hubs IF such travel connects at an AA hub.

    As far as rewards go, I’d certainly promote aspirational awards, doing all I can to encourage perceptions that one truly CAN go to exotic places in first class. of course, this might require coordination with the revenue management folks to make more award seats available. But, at a minimum, I would think AA could provide more close in availability. Indeed, the best charge I’ve ever gotten out of using miles was just a coach redemption, made with LAN km’s from DCA-MIA on the spur of the moment. MIA was fun, but what was awesome was knowing that I was enjoying an unanticipated Wednesday dive during a blizzard in DC. The broad point would be miles can enable you to do fun things you would otherwise never do.

    And I would constantly evaluate the effect of so many miles coming from non-flying sources on the program. Those miles are a cash cow, so as an Aadvantage employee, I’d have to respect their role in the business model, but I’d equally want to evaluate whether they transmute Aadvantage from a frequent flyer program to little more than S & H Greenstamps with aspirational awards. I predict tension between flight accrual and non-flight accrual, particularly because non-flight accrual is subject to inflation – face it, the market basket which would earn 25000 aadvantage credit card points in 1999 would now (assuming an unchained cpi) earn 35000. But a JFK-LAX nonstop will always be the same number of miles.

    On the program front, I’d reinstate the explorer award, assuming it is cost effective – this award really captured my imagination when it was available and I wish I had the opportunity to use it for an awesome trip. And, if cost effective, I’d reinstate the ability to route from NA trough Europe to get to SE Asia and introduce routings through the middle east to SE Asia.

    Regulation can be used strategically to throw competitors under the bus. From a regulatory standpoint, and if it makes Aadvantage look superior to the competition, under the guise of consumer protection, I’d consider lobbying for DOT regulations requiring disclosure of numbers of miles minted and how many redemptions occur in various classes/routes. Again, such regulations would cast some airlines in better light than others, so I’d lobby for it only if I perceived it would cast AA in a comparatively good light (my gut feeling is that it would).

    Last, I’d commission a study, publishing it if it is favorable, tracking, historically, miles required for premium redemptions and the amenities of premium cabins. Folks kvetch about increases in mileage requirements, but seldom normalize the increases to improvements in hard product. If Aadvantge can develop a convincing case that miles buy better value, they should broadcast it.

  13. I just don’t know how you measure things like “Don’t make important changes without notice because your customers will have no confidence in you to do the right thing after that, and will assume you can and will undercut the value of your program at any time.”

    I know some bloggers did not have their confidence shaken by what Suzanne Rubin’s team did a few months ago with stopovers and Explorer awards, but many people not on her private email list did.

  14. You pretty much couldn’t pay me enough to live in Dallas. Oh and I’m not qualified.

  15. In my line of work, AA has one of the most respected departments in the industry (I do more heavy duty analytic work than this job is asking for… to the point where I compete with PhDs for work.) I’d work for them under the right circumstances.

    Airlines are notorious for not paying well. My guess is that this job pays under $70k/year. They’re only asking for a BS, and there is no minimum experience listed, so those are warning signs to me. Plus, the only technical skill they seem to want is SQL, which isn’t all that much in the grand scheme of things.

    Would I work at *this* job, as an active member of the FF community? It depends if they’re open to truly being a leader (they did in fact invent the first FF program, and I hate to say it, baggage fees) or if they just want to follow Delta and United off of a cliff.

    There are a few disadvantages to being purely data driven: 1) You can start to be a self fulfilling prophecy, and 2) You’ve got to understand when the climate that generated your data changes. (A good example would be running a business during a recession, but using data from the last few years’ bull market to predict sales.)

  16. In air satisfaction, which translates into loyalty, can come from many sources. As creative director for 30 years for major newsweeklies, I’ve flown everything from a DC-3 to Concorde. Often the difference maker in the air is the crew–the face, the personality of the airline. Anyone who has flown Virgin Atlantic and BA can tell you which airline has the more welcoming animus, and which airline would be more likely to inspire loyalty.Nothing is more difficult to instill than across the board better, more personable service. But I would guess that nothing pays higher dividends, either.

  17. As a first year MBA at a school that both AA and DL recruit from, and myself gunning for a role at one of these airlines, its good to see that they are thinking about these sorts of problems. In fact, much of how I want to sell myself is that they need to do more of this type of analysis, and build teams and culture around it.

    But this job posting, as others have said, seems to be missing the mark. SQL proficiency does not make you an analyst. This sort of role is going to require a lot of outside-the-box thinking, and a lot of experimentation of products, pricing and services. This needs to be a team, with the ability to cooperate with other parts of the business (premium services, RM) to test bundles, targeted offers, promotions and fares. Singling out a concept of “loyalty” doesn’t strike me as the right objective, because we all know that loyalty is a loaded word – this is about generating incremental revenue to the business, and AAdvantage seems like a reasonable place to start because that’s probably where the customer data is best preserved (KYC).

    In any case, I’m looking forward to making my case to AA in the fall:)

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