This weekend I spoke at the Los Angeles Frequent Traveler University at the Sheraton Gateway LAX.
I drove the 25 minutes to the airport on Friday afternoon, getting in an hour before the cocktail party started. On Friday evening, no talks were scheduled–just a cocktail and cheese party with a brief open bar followed by a cash bar.
I spotted Gary Leff and introduced myself.
As he put it, he is the only miles blogger whose boss is a more famous blogger, so we talked about the George Mason economics department and ethnic food for a few minutes.
During the cocktail party, I reunited with attendees of my Honolulu Seminar in July and my two dinners in Los Angeles. I met a reader who suggested a New Zealand meet up, saw some of my favorite bloggers, and talked tons of points. I even learned a few things from Tahsir about additional users on credit cards that I hope he’ll blog in the future.
By about ten o’clock the crowd was thinning, though I know people talked in the lobby and bar until past midnight. I went up to my room to wait for Bill‘s plane to land and start working on my presentation. When Bill arrived, past 1 AM his time, he was game to meet up with a dozen or more attendees who had gone to Culver City for a few drinks at Father’s Office, so we hit the town with Frequent Flyer University, Giddy for Points, and Just Another Points Traveler among others.
On Saturday, Bill went the morning presentations (hopefully he’ll post his take soon) while I spent the morning writing. I learned the big news of the day later than most when turning the handles in the bathroom produced nothing–the water on the block was out all day because of a burst pipe.
From my window, I watched all morning as a steady stream of hotel employees filled buckets in the pool to give the bathrooms some water.
I snuck down for lunch because the meals were my favorite part of the FTU. The meals are a time when everyone is swapping tips, travel stories, and ideas. My favorite question to ask people: “Do you have any upcoming trips you’re excited about?” That’s why we’re all in this, right?
I had to put the finishing touches on my presentation after lunch, but I got down to hear Randy Petersen talk about his predictions for mileage programs going forward. Since he spoke in code in some of his answers, I won’t repeat any of what he said, but it’s off-the-record talks like this that provide a lot of the value at a frequent-flyer conference.
Saturday’s program concluded at 5:15, and I had told everyone to meet at 6:30 in the lobby for In-N-Out. With time to kill, I walked to the nearest liquor store to grab a case of beer and to invite everyone up to my standard-sized room. We fit a dozen people in the room. Talk mostly centered on some of the premium cabin products that we had flown or had recently booked.
Points to Point B had recently taken a shower on an Emirates A380, so he had the trump card.
Thirty or so people gathered in the lobby to walk a mile to In-N-Out in the rain. The food got top marks from everyone, and afterwards we all made our way outside for plane spotting.
Planes were landing right over our heads. All the planes were either Southwest, regional jets, or Taiwanese airlines at that hour. Tahsir had the bright idea to snap a photo of the entire MileValue team together for the first time.
After dinner, it was time for bed, so I could wake up at the ungodly hour of 9:30 AM the next morning. People whose awards I’ve booked can definitely attest that if they receive an email in the morning, it was sent between midnight and 4 AM–I am a night owl.
On Sunday, I spoke about adding free oneways to American, United, Delta, and US Airways awards under the title Three Vacations, Two Awards. I created a slide show based on my posts on the subject that I hoped would break down a complicated but valuable subject into something everyone could understand. (I will find a way to upload the presentation online for everyone to have.)
Seventy-five minutes flew by, and I couldn’t quite get through everything I wanted to cover. Luckily I have unlimited space on the blog to cover the topics, so expect to see more posts based on the talk.
After lunch, I finally got to see some talks. First I watched the Wandering Aramean go over some helpful tools in the mile world from his site, Expert Flyer, and Hipmunk. I haven’t investigated his tools or Hipmunk very much because they are more useful for people with status and mileage runners. But it was interesting to see what’s out there, and I may find myself using his tools in the future.
Next I hopped between Million Mile Secrets/Frequent Miler‘s talk on category bonuses and Steve Belkin’s talk on … everything. Daraius and Greg went back and forth on whether category bonuses “are worth it,” and I think they both basically agreed that they can be a nice boost, but they are not the main way to earn miles.
The conference wrapped up at 3:30, and a lot of folks rushed to fly out. Those of us who were driving hung around to have one last chance to talk with all the people we can normally only type to.
When most people had cleared out, Tahsir and I went to dinner with Daraius from Million Mile Secrets at Cha Cha Chicken in Santa Monica.
The food was great and the company was better.
The dinner was a delicious end to the weekend, and Daraius is a really interesting person to talk to–whether you’re talking miles, marketing, or varieties of English.
The whole weekend was a fantastic success. Everyone I spoke to learned a lot, met interesting people, got their $99 worth, and left energized to earn and burn more miles. One person who deserves a lot of credit for that is Tommy Danielsen, one of the organizers. He was so busy keeping everything running smoothly that this was the best picture I could get.
The LAX FTU was a great event. The talks, the people, and the venue combined for a fun weekend. If you have a chance to go to a future seminar, I can’t recommend it highly enough. The next FTU is coming up April 26 – 28 in the Northern Virginia (DCA/IAD) area.