American Announces New President Of AAdvantage

In May it was announced that Suzanne Rubin would resign as the President of the American AAdvantage program, apparently so she could could care for her immediate family.

I had the opportunity to interact with Suzanne several times, and always found her to be very pleasant and competent. While I’m ultimately not happy about the direction the program took (by being completely uncreative and copying what Delta and United did), I almost got the sense that Suzanne wasn’t a fan of it either, and that some decisions were made above her.

Prior to that a lot of positive changes were made to AAdvantage under Suzanne’s leadership. Furthermore, overall I think they did a great job handling the American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles integration, when you consider the scale of that project.

AAdvantage-Program

Well, American has just announced some new executive appointments, some of which are directly related to the AAdvantage program. Specifically:

  • Kurt Stache will be appointed as SVP of Marketing & Loyalty (he was previously SVP of Alliances & Partnerships)
  • Bridget Blaise-Shamai will be appointed VP of Loyalty, and President of the AAdvantage program (she was previously Managing Director of Customer Loyalty & Insight)

Here’s the part of the press release about Kurt and Bridget:

Kurt Stache, who most recently served as SVP of Alliances & Partnerships, has been appointed to the role of SVP of Marketing & Loyalty. In this position, he will oversee the airline’s marketing strategy and implementation across all channels, as well as direct the company’s customer relations management and loyalty programs.

Prior to his role as SVP – Alliances & Partnerships, Stache was based in London and served as VP – International, with responsibilities for company business in the Atlantic and Pacific regions. Previously, he held additional leadership posts including VP – Global Sales, President – AAdvantage Marketing Programs, and Managing Director – International Revenue Management.

“Kurt has excelled throughout his career at American,” said Nocella. “He has held leadership positions across the airline and is uniquely qualified to drive our marketing strategy and ensure our programs are aligned and optimized.”

In addition, Bridget Blaise-Shamai has been promoted to VP – Loyalty and will take over as President of the AAdvantage program. In this role, she will oversee all aspects of the program’s recognition and reward propositions for AAdvantage members. She will also be responsible for the airline’s customer relationship management initiatives, AAdvantage customer service, and all travel and retail mileage partnerships and business solutions. Blaise-Shamai has spent more than 20 years with the airline, most recently as Managing Director – Customer Loyalty & Insight. Prior to that role, she held several leadership positions including Managing Director – Distribution Systems and Director – AAdvantage Partner Marketing.

“Bridget is the natural choice to step into this critical role and lead our loyalty programs forward,” added Nocella. “She has extensive knowledge of AAdvantage and has been an integral part of its growth and evolution during the last several years.”

American-787

Bottom line

Ultimately I think Bridget is one of the most knowledgable people about the AAdvantage program, and also has an incredible amount of context. Kudos to her on this new role. I’ve found her very pleasant in all my interactions with her.

I recognize the decisions made up to this point probably largely haven’t been hers, though I don’t envy the overall customer sentiment she’s probably inheriting, between revenue based mileage earning, reduced elite benefits, and an award chart devaluation. To me, the AAdvantage program used to be industry leading, while now I consider it to be average.

At this point I’m no longer loyal to American, but rather am just someone who happens to earn 100,000+ elite qualifying miles per year with them, and that comes with certain perks. But for the first time in five years, I won’t be sad if I don’t bother requalifying for Executive Platinum next year.

Regardless, congrats to Bridget, and good luck! 😉 She has been at American for over 20 years, so certainly deserves the promotion.

Comments

  1. Given a choice and relatively competitive fares, it’s hard to understand why a business traveler these days (or a leisure traveler for that matter) would choose to fly AA over Delta. As bad a day as Delta had yesterday, can you imagine what it would have been like if the power outage had been at AA or United?

  2. @travel4b
    many reasons. Maybe the business traveler’s company has a corporate contract with American and doesn’t with Delta, and requires that all travel be on AA? That’s possible. Maybe the traveler lives in a city like Chicago where AA or UA has tons of nonstop and DL requires a connection (specifically for California). There are tons of reasons why somebody might fly AA over DL, and it’s usually driven by some mix of geography, nonstop flight availability, fares, corporate contracts, etc. I live in DC and frequently have to go to Chicago for work. I wont do a connection. DL has tons of connecting opportunities, but I stick with nonstops. There are tons of reasons why somebody might choose one over another. While Delta is nice, there’s no way I’d choose a potentially nicer onboard experience 9biscoff cookies!) in place of a nonstop flight. Never.
    United had a similar issue last year in July and things were corrected in a few hours. So it does happen.

  3. With the new appointments at AAdvantage, does that mean they will dump the revenue based program, lower awards to more reasonable levels, get rid of the 75K “Platinum Plus” level (what a joke!), and dump the minimum-spend requirements? lol.

  4. After the program was devalued and then gutted with a revenue based system, not sure what else there is to do. Seems like they will sit back and copy Delta and United, leaving innovation to others.

  5. Ben

    The most important takeaway in this post (at least for me) is your second to last paragraph.

    Over the past year or so, I read many of your AA posts/trip reports and wondered if I was flying on the same carrier. My EP experiences over the past year or so have been – for the most part – terrible. Soft product/hard product disappointments, the downward slide of the EP program, unhappy employees, a third string website, flight changes — all add up to the fact that I will no longer fly AA unless I absolutely have to… Needless to say I’m delighted to hear you are no longer loyal to AA.

    Also very happy to read about your recent experiences on JetBlue. In a very short time, I switched my loyalty to JB and have become an ardent fan. I know they may not work for everyone route-wise, but in my view, they are one of the only carriers I know who focus on the customer and, remarkably, make flying enjoyable again.

  6. I understand all the butchering of frequent flyer programs because it seems nowadays there is always 50 AAdvantage members waiting for upgrades at the gate. I’m 1,000 EQM away from Gold status . Not sure how that is going to help my addiction to flying first class . Whenever I have gotten an upgrade it has usually been on a Saturday night redeye , Thanksgiving day, Christmas Eve, Super Bowl Sunday (To/From Boston if New England is playing) , 2nd night of Passover Seder (Transcon) , or New Years. Basically anytime people who fly all the time must be home spending time with their family and away from work is when you can get an upgrade.

  7. In my experience, AA hit bottom in the past two years during the merger but my recent experiences have been great. I believe they’re on the upswing and I’m sticking with them for the foreseeable future. The fleet upgrades are coming and I’m optimistic. I flew with Delta for years but for some of us, they just don’t offer the routes and hubs that work. The only thing that’s constant is change so maybe the new boss will surprise us with some good stuff. We can always hope.

  8. I miss USAir. For all it’s faults I could count on getting upgraded on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. That may not work for the business traveler but for us retirees it works. I still have over 500,000 miles and I intend to use them by buying coach tickets and using 15,000 and $150 to upgrade. It’s not my first choice but for me I get what I want at a discount. When the miles run out I’ll be on JetBlue.

  9. @travel4b

    Off the top of my head– downsides to Delta:

    1) Terrible IRROPS services– You can actually BUY tickets for tomorrow morning on DL flights that the currently ‘re-booked’ passengers have already been informed are canceled. IRROPS is always a hot mess on DL. The 8/8 hack repercussions will continue all week– yet they are still “selling” inventory for flights that don’t exist. IN other industries it’s called fraud, On DL it’s business as usual.

    2) Prioritize “Card Spend” non-Customers (ie the AMEX crowd) over their Frequent Flyers.

    3) Ancient, gas-guzzling DC9s

    4) Rules always changing in adverse ways. Unreliable business partner.

    5) Operationally miscues– did you notice the DL Mainline flight the other day that landed at an active nuclear base ‘by mistake’? Oops!

    6) Sidegrades to ‘Comfort Plus’, whatever that is… More DL games.

    7) SkyDrachma– the worst devaluing currency in the FF world.

    8) No mileage chart.

    Need I go on? Delta left me in the wrong city on the wrong day 4 times in the first half of 2014. never again. Never again.

  10. Saw the impact of the American devaluation last week. I’m platinum on American and flew from LAX to MIA on 7/30 and back on 8/2. Earned 4800 miles going east and 1200 coming back. I’m already signed up for the Delta Amex to earn miles there so feel like I’ll be shopping for a new program.

  11. I have noticed something else going on with the website searches that I haven’t seen before. (I am lifetime Platinum with AA so you can guess who I fly whenever possible. !)

    1. When you search for flights overseas using cash or miles, the AA flights are last behind British Airways, or not listed at all, even if you put “AA” only in the search , as they do have codeshare flights with BA. I live in Phoenix and like the Airbus 330’s business class to Europe out of Charlotte and Philadelphia . Used to connect though there all the time with US Air. There are many direct flights to both of these cities from Phoenix then on to London or Frankfurt or Paris, Yet the search results take me through Chicago or DFW or even LAX and often on BA! I have to use Multi -city search these days for them to even show up. Then I call AA and tell them what I want. What a pain ! Not understanding the purpose here but I’m sure as you said its revenue based. I would think they would want their passengers to fly AA across the pond and give us AA airplanes as a top of the page choice before BA flights?

    2. Over the last six months I have noticed if you put in a search for a flight using miles – even business class and first , using supersaver miles, it habitually adds a connection! Never used to do that. Using the example above if I put Phoenix to Charlotte one way, it routes me through Denver or Chicago vs direct flight. On a search for a flight using miles RT business class to London , the return trip routed me from LHR to LAX to MIAMI (!) then to Phoenix! This was for later in 2017 and believe me there were plenty of seats available LAX to Phoenix using miles as I did ” multi -city” and they popped up. After a few other tests It’s clear this is what they are doing, they add a connection unless the person is using anytime miles, ( and even then direct flights are sparse) even if it’s flying across the country to Miami and almost back again, vs a one hour flight from LAX to PHX !

    3. I was just booking a revenue flight from Phoenix to Syracuse. Flights do go through Charlotte and my sister lives there, wanted to stop for a night to visit her. If I put in RT Phoenix to Syracuse I connected through Charlotte or Chicago . If I did multi -city with a day stopover, or just one way to Charlotte, it took me through Denver or DFW vs giving me the direct flight option! The only way I found the PHX /CLT flights was to search for one way. schedule , not price. Then the direct flights showed up. In addition the multi city is now more expensive vs les expensive , which we were warned about a few months back , and this trip search proved it by several hundred dollars. So instead I will call and say I want to layover for 24 hours vs play the web game.

    Bottom line it’s as if someone is sitting there just trying to figure out ways to frustrate us loyal customers even when we are paying for the tickets! Why???? I see Doug Parker’s stamp on this stuff after my many years with America West/US Airways. Very sad.

  12. Have you posted on the Starwood/ AA bonus promo happening this month? Transfer 20k from Starwood to AA and come out with 30k in your AA account. Round trip biz to Europe is 80k.

  13. being exp plat is just a waste of money. the ability to use your system wide upgrades, at the time of booking, have never happened. AA was bad. US Airways was horrible and now AA is slowly grinding to the bottom of the pit.

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