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Transcript of November 15th FlyerTalk Live! Chat

With special guests Lynne Roach-Hildebrand (SVP of Loyalty and Database Marketing) of Marriott International, Inc. and Renee Levine (Director, Business to Consumer Marketing) and Carol Spano (Gold Tier Manager) of British Airways


The Marriott session starts the evening off, but click here to jump down to the British Airways session...


Randy Petersen
Welcome to yet another edition of FlyerTalk Live! where tonight will be known as the night the stars came out. WOW! Marriott and British Airways both on the same night. And we have a special giveaway which will make one of you very, very rewarded from Marriott.

Randy Petersen
Starting off first tonight is Lynne Roach-Hildebrand which if you don't know, actually invented the original Marriott Honored Guest Awards program - the longest running hotel loyalty program in the world, when she was pulled out of one of the Marriott Hotels in the Philadelphia area and given the trust of Mr. Marriott to create the program. Yes, she knows her stuff and I think I met her by phone call within days of starting my business back in early 1986. I know that the HGA (now Rewards) program influenced my boss so much in the mid-1980s that it made me a Marriott HGA junkie and look where it got me. So Lynne, thanks. Let's all welcome Lynne and would you like to say a few words before we get started?

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Hi everyone, we're back. Sorry for the delay. . .a few technical difficulties but we should be squared away. . . let's not waste any more of your time. . . what do you have for me?

DrBob
Does Marriott have any plans to eliminate the "paper" award certificates and go all electronic?

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Well, we plan to introduce this technology in the coming months, but we wouldn't completely eliminate paper certificates since some members prefer those.

Mikel at WebFlyer
This question was submitted earlier by Punki: When I began my quest for miles and points Marriott was my first choice as a hotel. Sadly, without status I was never able to book a room. Over the years, I have become top status on Hilton and Starwood, as well as top status on UA and AS. A couple of times I have requested comped status on Marriott to switch and have always been denied, so I stick with HHonors and Starwood. What is behind Marriott's decisions to lose so much of my money?

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Out of respect for our Silver, Gold and Platinum members who have and continue to demonstrate their loyalty toward Marriott, it is not in our practice to provide complimentary elite status to our competitors' best guests. To do so would be unfair to those who have remained loyal to Marriott . Our members are our first priority. While this may be unpopular among some, it is a steadfast promise our best guests truly value. Thanks for the question.

bcalsk
has Marriott given any thought to awarding both miles and points ala your primary Competitor?

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
In order to finance a permanent points and miles offer, we would have to take an approach similar to Hilton's and both limit the number of miles earned with each stay and lessen the value of our points currency. Instead, our members tell us that they prefer to reach awards more quickly by earning more of the points or miles they choose. So, as a permanent fixture, I would say "no" we have no current plans to offer this. Thanks for the question.

Mikel at WebFlyer
This question was submitted earlier by majorbill: How will you keep track of night stays from Jan to Mar 31, 2002 in order to count them both for 2001 status and 2002 status?

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Not to worry. We're on top of it. Any nights you spend over the six month period will count toward your 2002 status. And Jan 1 - Mar 31, will also count toward 2003. Plus, when you pay with Visa, you'll earn double night credits through March 31. Thanks for the question

PG
Any chance of reinstating the 713/714 awards? It is not easy racking up those many points, so it is a reward for the true loyalists.

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Launched in 1989, our 713 remained virtually unaltered until increasing hotel and partner costs, as well as more rapid point-accrual finally forced us to tighten the reigns earlier this year. Now, perhaps truer to its original intent -- our combination awards allow members to package a 7-night hotel stay at any of our 2,100 hotels with the air travel needed to get them to and from their intended destination. By adding miles at a one-to-one points-to-miles conversion, a week's stay and roundtrip air travel to any destination within the U.S. (including Hawaii), Latin America, or the Caribbean will now require the same or fewer points than before. In fact, the only package awards that require more points than before, are those where 100K or more miles are needed to reach the intended destination. Of course, once banked, miles are then free to be used immediately, banked for future travel, or redeemed for upgrades. Even in its revised format, this award offers members a great deal. Thanks for the question.

Randy Petersen
Lynne, you and Marriott are really, really generous to donate to the FlyerTalk Live! chat tonight, a $1,000 Marriott VacationCard. I actually hadn't heard of it before. Could you explain it. My sense is that it's a "frequent traveler" debit card? (and while I'm exempt from winning tonight, I'd still be interested in knowing how to get one)

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Basically, our vacation cards can be used just as cash at any of more than 2,000 hotels. It's a new product that will be available Nov. 17 by calling toll-free 1-800-813-4438 or by visiting www.gifts.marriott.com. And, until Feb. 28, 2002, the cards will be sold at a 10% savings. . .so a $1,000 card will cost only $900. It's a great deal. Thanks for the question.

Randy Petersen
So we have a scoop on this news tonight? Cool. Now the big question....points are earned when redeeming the card....

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Yes. They are. Thanks for the question

Mikel at WebFlyer
This question was submitted earlier by Cat333: Why do the clerks at the front desk sometimes announce the amount of points in your account? I was told this was done at the request of consumers, but I cannot understand the reason for it, and actually find it very annoying -- I don't want anyone who is standing around to know such things.

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
The associates at the front desk of our hotels are informed regarding members' account balance so that they can answer any questions that guests may have. I apologize if one of our associates gave you this information more publicly than you would have preferred--this information was only meant to be helpful for you. Thanks for the question.

Thomas -LON
Are these Vacation cards like Visa Cash cards or copy-machine cards where the card is swiped and the balance diminishes as you use it? Can it be used only at the cashier or throughout the hotel? Also, is it available for use worldwide?

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Yes, this does work just like any other debit card. And, you can use it anywhere in the hotel (spa, restaurant, folio, etc.) and in any of our more than 2,000 hotels worldwide. Remember though--you'll want to bill everything to your folio so that you're sure to earn points for all of your spending! Thanks for the question.

Mikel at WebFlyer
This question was submitted earlier: My question is the visa promotion you have will not help me with regards to double nights which will be credited to earning Elite status unless you allow me to have them to be used for me to qualify for the 2003 elite levels. I have this question through email to Marriott, but never got a reply. Would you consider this avenue or does it already go towards qualifying you for 2003 if you have already maxed out as I have?

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Good news! The nights that you spend with us January 1 through March 31, 2002, and pay for with your Visa card will be doubled as well. And all of those nights will count toward your 2003 elite status. Thank you for your great question!

Randy Petersen
I hate to interrupt again, but what's with all the promotions you have going now? Usually programs go with one thing at a time, but I think I can count at least 4 big promos you have going on right now (Rewarding Weekends, Double Points/Double Nights, Sky's The Limit and Come Out and Play). Will this continue for Marriott?

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Great question, Randy. Just so you know, we also have some other wonderful and valuable promotions in market now as well. We have our Marriott's Rewarding Events promotion, which gives double points to meeting planners for their meetings held through March 31, 2002 (up to 100,000 points), and our one-million points giveaway for members who make their reservation on marriott.com and complete their stay before February 28, 2002. In answer to the second part of your question, of course Marriott Rewards will continue to offer wonderful promotions to our members in order to offer them the greatest value for their membership. I can't give you any specifics now, but I invite you all to stay tuned. Thanks for the question.

bookexp
If I buy the vacation card and use it, will it qualify me for the double bonus in conjunction with using visa ( as using visa alone?)

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Unfortunately, purchasing the vacation card with your Visa will not qualify you for the promotion. You don't earn the points until you make the actual stay, and at that time, you would be paying for your stay with the VacationCard, not with Visa. But the good news is, you have up to 60 months to use the VacationCard, so you can purchase it now with the 10% discount, and use it after the Visa promotion has ended. Thanks for the question.

llcoolj_11106
Are there any plans to make a joint airlines program with Marriott Rewards that caters to the airlines FF members, gold and platinum? I.E Northwest and Hyatt passport program?

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
We do make offers that specifically benefit frequent flyers (for example, our current Renaissance Sky's the Limit promotion rewards American, United and Delta frequent flyers with 1000 bonus miles for their stays), but do not have a specific program in mind at this time. Thanks.

Randy Petersen
Where does the time go? We have our next guest British Airways coming right up, but let's get one last question to Marriott Rewards......

kdbab64
Will the Vacation Card be available in sizes other than $1k?

Randy Petersen
WOW! Lynne, I thought we'd have nothing but Rewards questions tonight but it looks like the interest in the Vacation

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Yes. The VacationCard is also available in a $2,000 denomination, and we also offer a Marriott GiftCard, which is available in $50 and $100 denominations. Thanks!

Randy Petersen
Card has really peaked the interest of many of your members. As we end the first session, let me say it's been a real joy to have Marriott Rewards on FlyerTalk Live!

Dan at WebFlyer
as a reminder...Register to win a $1000 Marriott VacationCard at http://www.flyertalk.com/ftcontest/ The winner will be notified tomorrow...

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
Thanks for inviting us, Randy, and thanks to everyone else for joining us and submitting such great questions. For those who are interested, we have established a dedicated email address and webflyer team to address your individual questions on a priority basis when posed to flyertalk@marriott.com. Thanks again, everyone! We had a great time!

Randy Petersen
You have to come back again in the new year as there are many more questions we can't get to tonight. I am one of the first members of HGA/Rewards and have enjoyed the 713 award which has won many a Freddie Award. I think you as a program have won more Freddie Awards than any other single program. Continued success and we all love Marriott Rewards.

Lynne Roach-Hildebrand
And of course, we love InsideFlyer. Keep up the good work! Happy holidays, everyone. Take care.

Randy Petersen
Well, that is one big program, do you know that they have more than 15 million members in Marriott Rewards?

Randy Petersen
Now, our next guest needs no introduction, but I want to give them one. British Airways has always been the class of the world's international carriers and the Executive Club is no exception. While there is the 'Mother" program in London, Executive Club here in North America is one, if not the most, complete program by any international carrier in the world. They have always marched to a slightly different drummer, but it is quite the program. I'd like to welcome our friends from British Airways Executive Club (North America), Carol Spano and Renee Levine...welcome ladies.

Renee Levine
Hi Randy! Thanks so much for having us tonight. We're looking forward to chatting with our members.

Randy Petersen
Thanks, Renee. It's the questions and answers that are the stars, who has the first question?

Mikel at WebFlyer
This question was submitted earlier by majorbill: Why can't gold and silver holders use Arrivals Fasttrack regardless of what class of service they are flying in? This would be a big benefit.

Carol Spano
Unfortunately, the arrivals Fast Track is not an Executive Club benefit, but rather a cabin benefit (everyone flying in Club, First, and Concorde has access). As you may have noticed, we have been doing quite a bit of work on our website recently, as a result of which this benefit was temporarily misrepresented. This incorrect information has now been fixed, and we apologize for any inconvenience or embarrassment this may have caused our members...

Renee Levine
Club, First and Concorde are our premium products, and so to extend the "premium experience", passengers are also offered Fast Track. If the benefit was opened up to all Silver and Gold members as well, the purpose of the benefit might well be defeated, as it would no longer be fast. Thanks for your question.

jjmc
What percentage of passengers are executive club members?

Renee Levine
As for the percentage of passengers that are Executive Club members, it's about 50%.

Mikel at WebFlyer
This question was submitted earlier by bagold: In U.S. BA Executive member letters, it says that Carol is our personal contact person. However, does Carol really deal with Executive members or just members of her team?

Carol Spano
Yes. I do deal with members on a daily basis. Since there is just one of me, though, I have a team, who helps me resolve Gold members' questions and issues. My team has been put into place to ensure that our Gold members always receive the attention they deserve and expect. Thanks for your question.

Mikel at WebFlyer
This question was submitted earlier by skippythelizard: One of the promised benefits for silver and gold card holders is access to the Arrivals Fast Track channel at Heathrow and Gatwick (not the lounge, I'm referring to the immigration channel). As a gold card holder who frequently flies in World Traveller + or Euro Traveller, I has the policy changed, or do you have a suggestion on how to remedy this matter?

Renee Levine
I believe we've answered this above...Fast Track is not a published benefit of Executive Club, but rather a cabin benefit. You can use this service when flying in Club World, First or Concorde. Thanks.

bagold
A lot of the times, AA agents do not enter the BA number correctly. Our family has had to send in over 40 boarding passes / year to get credit. Why doesn't BA tell AA there is a problem with that? (Now I know the secret it is easier for us.)

Renee Levine
We have worked closely with AA in the past, but since this does still seem to be an issue, we will make sure we continue to work with them to resolve this issue. This is why we do recommend you hang on to your boarding cards. Sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you...we will certainly try to rectify. Thanks for your question.

Mikel at WebFlyer
This question was submitted earlier by skippythelizard: There is a lot of industry talk about BA's sophisticated CRM system ... and a lot of FlyerTalk about various hidden codes in the BA system. What can you tell us about some of these rumored designations like VIP, CIP, SFU, etc.?

Renee Levine
While I can't divulge our CRM secrets, what I can tell you is that we internally do review details about where our members fly, how often and in what cabins. Based on this information, we reward, entice or thank our members in ways that are personally relevant to them. These include personal thank yous, bonus miles, complimentary upgrade and companion tickets, presents, outbound phone calls to offer our assistance, and generally more personalized levels of service both at the airports and over the phone. For those of you who have been flying BA in Club World or First for 3 years or more, or who flew to more than 3 continents last year on BA, you know what we mean! As for "VIP", "CIP" and "SFU", these are not generally terms we use within our CRM system. Thanks for your question.

bagold
I think one question that constantly comes up on FT is how does BA determine who gets Premier status. Could you provide us with any insights into that?

JRS49
Have you considered granting members the opportunity to use award points to "purchase" premium memberships. If not, why not?

Renee Levine
In order to maintain the integrity of the program, we do not allow members to "buy" premium memberships. If you do in fact fly frequently in premium cabins, you will find yourself quickly moving up the tier ranks. Thanks for your question.

Renee Levine
...Actually, the published benefits for Premier and Gold are the same, so once you've made it to Gold, you're reached the highest level of Executive Club. Thanks for your question.

Mikel at WebFlyer
This question was submitted earlier by Roger Hooson: What is BA doing for discount fare, economy class passengers that travel a lot. United has the 36-inch seat pitch Economy Plus product, while BA's equivalent WT+ is available only to those who pay almost full fare.

Renee Levine
All of our cabins have been recently refurbished to bring our passengers the highest value for their money. World Traveller now features ergonomically designed seats with lumbar support and adjustable head rests to make your journey more comfortable. We have also outfitted the cabin with new seatback video screens featuring 12 channels of entertainment to pass your time. Our 3-course gourmet meals have been designed by top British chef Brian Turner and are accompanied by complimentary wine, spirits and other beverages throughout the flight. Just one more thought... While United's Economy Plus product has a 36" pitch, our World Traveller Plus product has a 38" pitch so you have even more room to stretch out and relax. We give you a separate cabin, as well other features such as laptop power ports and a wider seat. We monitor our fares to ensure we are competitive; in fact, a round-trip in BA's World Traveller Plus is competitive with a round-trip in United's in full fare economy. Thanks for your question.

dhammer53
question: will you be repeating the Diners Club promo?

Renee Levine
The Diners Club promo has always been popular with our members. We will certainly be looking to repeat this as we do with all promotions that prove popular with our members. Although I can't confirm any details at this stage, you can continue to check back at britishairway.com for the latest. Thanks.

Beckles
I'm somewhat of an amateur of the Executive Club, but I transferred 100K + miles from Diners Club last year. With the new web system, my account now shows that I need 60 points to retain blue status and my "card" expires December 31, 2004. Does this mean if I don't fly enough to earn 60 points by that date all my points will expire?

No, not exactly. As you know, we've been undertaking an overhaul of our website, so please bear with us. At this stage, you are not required to earn 60 tier points to maintain Blue status. Miles do not expire as long as you have activity within a 36 month period. Your tier points will return to 0 at the end of your personal calendar year (the date you joined or moved up in tier). Hope this helps and thanks for your question.

Darren
Last year, there was a OneWorld promotion whereas if you flew a certain number of flyers, you got 100,000 miles or points. Is there any similar promotion in the works for this year, given the slowdown in air travel?

Renee Levine
Oneworld promotions are driven by all carriers in the oneworld alliance. What this means is that before can launch another promotion like that, we need to get agreement from all members... Given the popularity of past promotions, the alliance will likely be considering all promotional opportunities in the future and how to best reward our most loyal flyers. Thanks for the question.

Randy Petersen
Renee, just tell me who to talk to about getting an agreement among all carriers in oneworld....I loved that promo....

Renee Levine
Randy...I wish I could!

Randy Petersen
but i know Peter Buecking....President of oneworld.

jongar
Will a BA blue member always outrank a AA Plat exec for an upgrade --- http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/Forum15/HTML/001052.html for instance

Renee Levine
BA does not issue discretionary upgrades as a policy. However, as a Blue tier member, you can receive a confirmed upgrade in advance using your Executive Club miles. Upgrade awards on BA are not available for any other airlines' frequent flyers. Thanks for your question.

askworldtraveler
If flying on a RTW in F on BA and AA, with miles counted towards AA - is there any 'value' or tracking if your also a BA Exc? The $ are largely going to BA? thanks

Renee Levine
If you're travelling transatlantic on BA, you will only earn miles if you use your Executive Club card and your tier points will count towards BA elite status. You cannot earn miles and status in both programs for the same flight. Thanks.

Randy Petersen
What has been great tonight is the variety of questions and great interest in Executive Club. We must have you (Renee and Carol) back on FlyerTalk Live! some time in the new year and on behalf of the millions of frequent travelers (or hundreds of thousands of FlyerTalkers) in this world, thank you for your time and wonderful humor for being a very special guest tonight.

Randy Petersen
But I have a question or two...

Renee Levine
OK...

Randy Petersen
Renee and Carol. Much has been made of extending elite level benefits to members of many programs brought about because of the rather slow year long economy problems and companies cutting back commercial travel. Is there any decision BA Executive Club has made in this area for 2002?

Carol Spano
We have extended tier memberships in the past. What we noticed was that the flying pattern of those members dropped off dramatically; some stopped altogether. The reason, they told us, was that they had no need to achieve Gold since they already had it, so they were looking to fly other carriers and achieve status in other programs. This does both us and our members a disservice... We do look at individual cases in which extenuating circumstances may have arisen and make decisions on a case-by-case basis where necessary. Thanks for your question.

Randy Petersen
I appreciate the answer because i had thought that was the case. Very well put, thanks for the honesty. Next question. In the U.K., Air Miles is an important part of earning miles from non-flight activity. For the U.S., is there any direction that you will expand to non-flight programs in a program similar to 'Air Miles'?

Renee Levine
Within the North American Executive Club program, members can already earn miles in many ways other than flying... We have over 35 hotel partners, 3 credit cards, 3 car rental companies, Executive Club Dining, Flower Club, Travelex, a calling card that you can earn miles with, and we are continually looking at extending our partnership portfolio. Look on our website for exciting news about new partners soon. Thanks for the question, Randy.

Randy Petersen
That's my last question and we are right on time for tonight's chat. You have both been as wonderful as we could have ever hoped from our guests. Again, on behalf of your members, thank you for coming on FlyerTalk Live! tonight and we wish you continued great success with Executive Club. Applause everyone.......

Carol Spano
Goodbye and thank you for having us.

Renee Levine
Randy, thanks for the opportunity. Those were some great questions, and I hope we have shed some light on the program. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, everyone.

Randy Petersen
Thanks all, please feel free to stay around and chat the night away among yourselves and also remember to register for the free $1,000 Marriott VacationCard at www.flyertalk.com/ftcontests/


Note: the Marriott VacationCard giveaway mentioned above was only valid for that evening's event.

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