Positive Executive Changes at American Could Benefit AAdvantage Members

When Bridget Blaise-Shamai was tapped to lead the AAdvantage program last month, being promoted to replace Suzanne Rubin, I noted that Kurt Stache moved over from Senior Vice President of Alliances and Partnerships to become Senior Vice President of Marketing & Loyalty.

So it looked like AAdvantage would report up to Stache, who reported up to the Chief Marketing Officer Andrew Nocella who reported up to American’s President Scott Kirby.

Of course Scott Kirby is out as American’s President and is now President of United. Chief Operating Officer Robert Isom was promoted to President.

And now American is re-organizing its executive teams. There’s a commercial team and an operations team, each reporting to Isom.

Under the new organization, senior vice president of revenue management Don Casey, senior vice president of network planning, alliances and sales Andrew Nocella, and senior vice president of marketing and loyalty Kurt Stache, will be part of the commercial team. The operations team will consist of senior vice president of regional carriers Kenji Hashimoto, senior vice president of customer experience Kerry Philipovitch and senior vice president of integrated operations David Seymour.

Nocella is now in charge of alliances and sales. And Stache reports directly to American’s new President.

Long-time American Airlines customers will remember that Kurt Stache used to be head of the AAdvantage program himself, and regarded as a straight shooter. It’s amazing to think that the AAdvantage award calendar was rolled out on his watch (it hasn’t been improved much since) as well as the program’s 25th anniversary offers.

The negative changes to AAdvantage that we’ve seen were driven by top executives no longer at or overseeing the program.

Of course we were always going to see a more revenue-based program. And award availability and AAnytime (extra miles redemption) award pricing are driven more by inventory and revenue management than by the frequent flyer program.

And while having the executives who drove negative program changes no longer directly responsible for the program isn’t a panacea for flyers by any means, there are at least smart people in charge with an understanding for how the program drives value to the airline. Stache has one other thing going for him, too: not being responsible for the much-maligned #GreatestFlyers campaign

Meanwhile Starwood’s executives continue looking for a chair after the Marriott Merger Music stops, with head of global sales Alison Taylor becoming new Senior Vice President of Sales at American, reporting to Nocella.

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. Just hope the situation improves before January 2018, when my Executive Platinum expires and I launch from AA.

  2. …but still reports to Robert Isom and ultimately Doug Parker who has turned AA into their US Airways experiment. Got it.

  3. Gary, I just discovered another terrible thing about Advantage in 2017….

    If you use Citi TY points at 1.6 cents each to buy revenue tickets on American like me, come Jan 1, 2017 you are SCREWED

    AA will award redeemable miles based on distance flown on most tickets x .5, and then your elite bonus on top of that for tickets purchased through Citi (as they code as a “bulk”/”Special” fare)

    But the REALLY BAD news is for fares bough through Citi using TY points, AA will only gobble you 10% EQD requirement – yes 10%

    So to qualify as EXP you need a $12,000 EQD spend in a year.

    A $10,000 first class ticket on AA from Dallas to Tokyo bought through Citi will earn you only $1000 EQD.

    That is INSANE

    Wonder how many people will not make EXP who fly 200,000 miles a year, but will only have have say $4000 in EQD as AA only awards 10% of the EQD for flights booked through Citi.

    So, basically – using Citi TY points to book American tickets after Dec 31 is a REALLY BAD IDEA!

  4. Still waiting to see if they add an EQD waiver through AA credit card spend.

    Will they launch a new Citi card with the new contract going into effect on Jan 1?

    Will Barclay offer new product also on Jan 1?

    What happens to the ability to earn 10K EQM with the Citi Exec AA card and also the Aviator Silver card?

  5. This is such non-news dressed up like some sort of expert insight.

    It’s about as equally insightful to say “Atmospheric condensation may possibly cause rain somewhere”

    No way, Gary! You don’t say! Next you’ll be claiming that positive changes in the White House may benefit Americans. Get out of here with your outrageous claims!!!

  6. Honestly, the one change the “points blogosphere” should push for is reasonable award availability. Whoever is running the AAdvantage program needs to be convinced that the “fare bucket” from which frequent flyer awards are pulled from should have plausible inventory. From a passenger perspective, there’s nothing worse than seeing a market saturated with junk fares that still has no frequent flyer seats available for days on end. That’s how bad AA award availability currently is. Even Delta seems to have decided that making standard award seats available has business value (heck, when you’re SELLING most of your points to third parties, this shouldn’t be a hard decision to make). If the AA team can be convinced of this, I think most AA frequent flyers will be reasonably satisfied with the program.

  7. I just don’t buy this perspective that whether to emphasize or de-emphasize the FFP is a function of the personal whims of the individual tasked with running it. Like a new person is going to show up and say “Well golly, we should treat our elite members better because it makes me feel good.” No, they have reams and reams of data that we will never see, and they use it to drive decisions. If what they have done so far had put profits in the tank, it would have been undone faster than I can type this sentence. Now granted, we can argue long-term versus short-term and say they’re being myopic and thinking quarter-by-quarter, for sure. But I don’t buy in on this idea that someone is going to come in and just say “Make AAdvantage great again!” And if they do, it’s going to have to be backed with data, tons of it, which supports their position. The market will lead the way, and right now the market is leading them to cut back on the FFP.

    The point is that it is a seller’s market, and all the foot-stomping in the world isn’t going to give buyers (us) any more leverage.

  8. @Tim;

    I believe the Citi TYP ticket would earn 10% of miles flown, not fare paid. Not that it makes much difference.

    Yeah, this means my Exec Plat retention strategy is no good. Probably won’t make Plat Pro even, given how cheap fares are getting for my milk run (LAX-MIA).

    Gary, a definitive post on this would be quite useful.

  9. Two thoughts:
    1. Why is loyalty and marketing not part of operations, specifically customer experience? It seems to be the best marketing is a good customer experience, which then breeds customer loyalty.
    2. How does someone like Alison Taylor or another Starwood executive get a job just like that? Does American just create a position for her? I’m always amazed at how a job just suddenly opens up for big-time executives switching companies.

  10. @joshG
    please please please master Josh…tell us at least which airline you work for? the suspense is killing us….
    oh sorry…I think they are calling you for a treat after posting again…run boy run!!!

  11. @Tim – seriously? Did you not post the same question/rant just the other day in the comments on the post about the changes to AA’s website? Answers not good enough for you there?

  12. @gary: Thanks for the info. Here’s to hoping things will get better (but I won’t hold my breath). I can’t believe the nosedive the program has taken in the past year.

  13. Gary wrote: “The negative changes to AAdvantage that we’ve seen were driven by top executives no longer at or overseeing the program.”

    But come January 2017, the next negative change takes effect. That’s when Platinum-Viagra at 75K miles starts, $12K for EXP, etc.

  14. can we get rid of people like Josh G sorts, they contribute zero info to rest of readers, wasting my time… funny he posted 1st, does he lurking around eating Gary’s crumbs then strike at 1st chance?

  15. @Bob – No. That comment was in regards to redeemable miles earned. This post is in regards to the new EQD (Elite Qualifying Dollar) requirement kicking in in 2017 – 2 completely different things. Seriously.

    @beachman – A ticket bought with Citi Thank you earns redeemable miles bases on distance flown x .5 (50%) and earns EQD at a rate of only 10%

  16. By the time everyone settles into their new offices, I will probably be finishing up my last planned trip on AA – only two left this year. I am loving the new choices I have flying airlines other than AA, and being able to only fly AA when their J/F fares or schedule/routing presents a compelling advantage over their competitors. For this year I have two trips left on AA, one on JetBlue and 3 on Delta – all but one is paid J or F – last year that would have been six trips on AA, but since they’ve enhanced the AAdvantage to the point that being an EXP is irrelevant, I can take more direct and cheaper flights – Thanks AA!

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