Suzanne Rubin Leaving as President of American AAdvantage

I was genuinely sad to learn on Monday that Suzanne Rubin is planning to leave American Airlines in early summer. She shared with the AAdvantage team that it’s to care for immediate family, and my thoughts are with certainly with her.

She ran the largest loyalty program with over 100 million members, and took it through turbulent times (a bankruptcy and a merger) and successfully managed the integration of AAdvantage with the Dividend Miles program — with barely a hiccup.

American Airlines spokesperson Casey Norton says,

We’re sad to see Suzanne Rubin leave her role with American, but we are pleased she will remain a part of our extended family. Suzanne has accomplished a lot with the AAdvantage program, maintaining its position as one of the best loyalty programs in the airline industry, even while going through a complex integration. We wish her all the best as she takes time to focus on her family and spend more time with her daughter.


Suzanne with Her Team at the Freddie Awards, April 28th in Las Vegas

Suzanne was named President of AAdvantage in December 2011 when Maya Leibman became the airline’s Chief Information Officer. Suzanne brought stability to a role that had seen several leaders in a short time. Maya spent less than a year and a half in the role. Derek DeCross spent mere weeks in the role, replacing Rob Friedman (who moved up to Vice President of Marketing and is now at Amtrak), before moving to sales.

Her husband remains with American Airlines Cargo.

I first met Suzanne on the oneworld MegaDO charter trip in January 2012. I sat with her and still remember our mechanical delay out of Seattle. She was texting with Maya and came up with a plan to give everyone on the flight 10,000 redeemable and elite qualifying miles. She got up and announced she had been looking for a reason to award miles, and everyone suddenly was thrilled with our delay.


Suzanne Rubin Announcing Elite Qualifying and Redeemable Miles for Everyone!

I always found Suzanne to be one of the most genuine people in loyalty. There are a lot of pompous jerks in the space. Suzanne always seemed to have the members at the forefront of her thinking even as she balanced the needs of the business as her competitors made fundamental changes to their programs. For most of her tenure AAdvantage was the clear most valuable loyalty program offered by major US carriers.

She also genuinely listened. I didn’t agree with every move she made by a long shot, but when members expressed their strong frustration over changes that were made without notice in April 2014 — the elimination of distance-based oneworld awards that very few members used and were costly to train agents on — she clearly heard member unhappiness and ensured that even minor tweaks to the program were communicated with advance notice. A long-term dedicate employee at American, I only heard good things from former colleagues in revenue management as well.


On the Red Phone Dealing With a Frequent Flyer Emergency!

There’s no word yet on who will take over the role at AAdvantage, but there will be significant shoes to fill on behalf of 100 million members of the program.

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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Comments

  1. I don’t know who she is, but that was a nice piece you wrote about her, hope her family situation improves.

  2. The very best to Suzanne! It had been reassuring to have her in her role, knowing that there would be no shenanigans, as the other major programs have dumped on their frequent fliers. Thanks to you, Suzanne, for being a truly upstanding representative of AA.

  3. Really unfortunate news re Suzanne. Now that Delta kicked him to the curb, we should all pray (often and hard) that Slippery Jeff doesn’t go back to his roots and take her spot at AA. That would be the kiss of death for what used to be a great program.

  4. The AAdvantage award cutbacks “April (7, 2014) Massacre” was a genuine blow, particularly because it came without any notice. I believe she learned from that, as she said at the Freddies the October award miles going to revenue based accrual and it would be announced about one month prior to implementation.

    Mostly, she has “walked the walk” and been both forthright and very astute and skilled at dealing with major changes, such as the merger of USDM into AAdvantage. I’ve not always agreed with her, but I’ve admired her and her leadership. I wish her well in her new endeavors.

    And I hope Parker-Kirby at least try to appoint someone who can ably fill Suzanne’s shoes. This is not the position for someone from America West who will bring his Ginsu set to carve out massive savings and devaluations from what could be a rewards and loyalty that can differentiate American from its competitors.

  5. While I wish her well
    I’m skeptical that this isn’t about replacing her with more US AIR like employees and their tactics to ruin everything about the Advantage program
    Award availability is the worst I have ever seen in the program with the least desirable flights if anything comes up at all when I search
    I am going to cash back credit cards Southwest and a handful of other Int and domestic programs
    The Parker affect is showing and looking similar to Delta every passing day which screams run in my perception

  6. I had to re-read the following sentence about five times to understand its meaning: “She shared with the AAdvantage team that it’s to care for immediate family, and my thoughts are with certainly with her.”

  7. You said Suzanne became pres of advantage in 2001 when Maya Leibman went to be CIO. Wasn’t that 2010 Orr 2011? In 2091 Suzanne was a manager in revenue management. I worked for her. Maya didn’t become cio until 2010 or 2011. Suggest you do better editing.

  8. How could someone be in that role for THIRTEEN years before figuring out that best practices entail giving members notice of any changes? Not sure why she gets a pat on the back for that…

  9. I too was fortunate enough to meet Suzanne at the oneworld MegaDO in 2012. She sat with me and asked a lot of questions. She genuinely was interested in my travel patterns as a business traveler and multi program elite traveler. I wish her well on her next chapter. Big shoes to fill indeed.

  10. This is horrible news. I have a bad feeling that “Discount Dougie” will appoint a “yes-man” into the position to accelerate “enhancements” to AAdvantage. Suzanne was a rockstar, and will be sorely missed.

  11. Jose said ‘The AAdvantage award cutbacks “April (7, 2014) Massacre” was a genuine blow, particularly because it came without any notice. I believe she learned from that, as she said at the Freddies the October award miles going to revenue based accrual and it would be announced about one month prior to implementation’.

    Now lets call it the way I see it. She was around long enough, especially since she had a relationship with Flyertalk (Randy) and many travel bloggers such as Gary. She knew ‘the score’.

    She learned nothing because she didn’t care about the AA frequent flyer. Management does what they feel is right for the company, and doesn’t care about the fall out. She survived the fall out. We (frequent flyers) didn’t.

  12. This is a WONDERFUL news.
    Suzanne Rubin made AAdvantage -> ADisadvantaged by eliminating, overnight w/o any warning to AA loyal customers, North America gateway city stop-over option and the AA Explorer awards. Later on she introduced couple of extra categories and reduced the # of Saver awards seats (saying she is giving more choices..yea right!).

    Suzanne Rubin pissed off so many AA loyal customers that she should have been fired a while back!

  13. Jason, how amusing to suggest better editing when your post states “in 2091 Suzanne was a manager in revenue management.” It might be time to look in the mirror. 🙂

  14. In Australia the ‘leaving to spend more time with the family’ in business and politics is code for being shown the door!
    I don’t know Ms Rubin, but I do know that my warm and fuzzy feeling towards AAdvantage, due to all the negative changes and appalling IT systems (phantom flights never corrected) deserted me around the time of the recent savage devaAAluation. Of course, she was at the wheel before/after that happened.
    I hope that the new appointee will be charged with making genuine improvements to AAdvantage rather than further chipping away at the still breathing corpse we now see.
    Oh, and how did it work out at the Freddies for AA? Better than previous years?

  15. Susanne is a wonderful leader and will be hard to replace. I enjoyed her leadership while she lead the American Airlines Vacations team. With that said, I am really happy she will be able to spend time with her family.

  16. After missing my flight and having to hang around for four hours on stand by, I overheard numerous conversations between employees that almost made me call a cab. It’s never nice to hear how a pilots feet hit the ceiling after going through turbulence, and other employees complaining about their jobs. Worst airline ever.

  17. After missing my flight and having to hang around for four hours on stand by, I overheard numerous conversations between employees that almost made me call a cab. It’s never nice to hear how a pilots feet hit the ceiling of the cockpit after going through turbulence, and other employees complaining about their jobs. Worst airline ever. Can’t blame her for getting out.

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