25 Years and Nearly 280 Million Free Flights Later, Frequent Flyer Programs Still Going Strong

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History of frequent flyer programs to be celebrated at 18th Annual Freddie Awards Ceremony.

When American Airlines launched the first frequent flyer program on May 1, 1981, few could have predicted the degree to which these programs would impact the traveling public. Twenty-five years later frequent flyer miles are more widely distributed than any other form of currency, save the dollar, and members of these programs have redeemed their miles for close to 280 million travel awards. Though originally intended to attract the business traveler, it seems nowadays everyone from leisure travelers to luminaries (during his stand-up comedy days Jay Leno was a top earner in the Delta SkyMiles program) carries a “mileage balance.”

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the birth of frequent flyer programs, arguably one of the most influential events in the history of the modern travel industry, InsideFlyer magazine has gathered three of the men who were there from the start to speak at the 18th Annual Freddie Awards ceremony, to be held on April 27, 2006 at the Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport Hotel.

Rolfe Shellenberger, Steve Grosvald and Bob Coggins were actively involved in the development and launch of the American AAdvantage, United Mileage Plus and Delta Air Lines Frequent Flyer programs, respectively, and each will share stories about the early days of these programs, the debates over program names, and the obstacles that almost doomed the programs before they ever began.    

“For the past 18 years the Freddie Awards have honored the best among the airline and hotel loyalty programs, and I couldn’t be more thrilled than to have Rolfe, Steve and Bob, men who were quite active in the start of these programs, share their experiences and insights with the audience,” said Randy Petersen, Editor and Publisher, InsideFlyer magazine.

Each of the speakers will be available for interviews and photographs prior to the event. In addition, David Phillips, better known as “Pudding Guy,” will be on hand to present the award for Best Bonus Promotion. Phillips gained international notoriety when he took advantage of a loophole in a promotion to earn over 1 million miles solely through the purchase of pudding.

Also, for reporters interested in writing stories related to the 25th anniversary, InsideFlyer magazine has compiled a frequent flyer timeline and a list of interesting facts and statistics related to the growth of these programs, including the total number of awards that have been given away in each of the past 25 years. Members of the media can find this information, along with other assorted facts and statistics related to the history of frequent flyer programs at http://www.webflyer.com/company/press_room. Frequent flyer expert, Randy Petersen, is available to discuss these findings prior to their public release.

The Freddie Awards

Introduced by InsideFlyer magazine publisher Randy Petersen in 1988, the Freddie Awards allow consumers to rank airline and hotel programs from their point of view. The awards have grown in stature and importance and are the most prestigious consumer-generated awards in the industry. This year more than 400,000 people cast ballots, and thousands are expected to watch the ceremony live via streaming video at http://www.freddieawards.com.

The 18th annual Freddies are sponsored by InsideFlyer magazine, Points.com, Awards For Mortgages And Real Estate, Priority Pass, Executive Travel SkyGuide and BookingBuddy.com.

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Karen Heldt
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