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100 YEARS OF SCHEDULED COMMERCIAL AVIATION: 1981 START OF AMERICAN AIRLINES AADVANTAGE

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100 YEARS OF SCHEDULED COMMERCIAL AVIATION: 1981 START OF AMERICAN AIRLINES AADVANTAGE

Last week in our 100 Years of Scheduled Commercial Aviation Time Line Series you could ear bout when the US Airline Deregulation Act was signed in 1978.  This week we continue on the time line to 1981 when @AmericanAir started their #AAdvantage frequent flyer program.

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AAdvantage was launched May 1, 1981, it was the second such loyalty program  in the world (after the first at  Texas Internation Airlines in 1979) and remains the largest with more than 67 million members as of October 2011.

 
Increased competition following the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act prompted airline marketing professionals to develop ways to reward repeat customers and build brand loyalty. The first idea at American, a special "loyalty fare", was modified and expanded to offer free first class tickets and upgrades to first class for companions or discounted coach tickets. 
 
Membership was seeded by searching AA's SABRE computer reservations system for recurring phone numbers. The 130,000 most frequent flyers, plus an additional 60,000 members of AA's Admirals Club were pre-enrolled and sent letters with their new account numbers. The name was selected by AA's advertising agency and is consistent with other American Airlines programs featuring "AA" in the name and logo. 

Less than a week later, rival @United Airlines launched its Mileage Plus program; other airlines followed in the ensuing months and years. The rapid appearance of competition changed the nature of the program and as airlines began to compete on the features of their frequent flyer programs, AAdvantage liberalized its rules, established partnerships with hotel and rental car agencies and offered promotions such as extra free beverages. In 1982 AAdvantage also became the first program to cooperate with an international carrier; members could accrue and redeem miles on British Airways flights to Europe.

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