The Former Pan Am And Continental CEO Who Gave Us American AAdvantage Has Passed Away

We are losing the men who created the modern frequent flyer program. Rolfe Schellenberger died last year. His boss Tom Plaskett also has died. Plaskett was only 77 years old.Tom Plaskett started his career with American Airlines in 1996 and spent 12 years at the airline. His team launched American AAdvantage, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. He was Senior Vice President Marketing.The codename for the frequent flyer program that evolved into AAdvantage was originally Loyalty Fare. This was because the original task was creating a discount for frequent travelers. Consultant Hal Brierley and Schellenberger were part of the team. They realized that any discount fare would not be matched and wanted to find a way to keep customers coming back.Initially, AAdvantage was introduced as a promotion. It wasn't made permanent until April 1983, two years after its inception. This would grow to be a huge program that was not obvious from the beginning.The original AAdvantage charge 12,000 miles for a first-class upgrade (there weren't any capacity controls). A first-class roundtrip ticket cost 50,000 miles. If you purchased a coach ticket for your companion, it included an upgrade. Two first-class tickets cost 75,000 miles each. British Airways added awards a year later: 20,000 miles to upgrade from first class into Concorde, or 40,000 miles for an economic roundtrip between the U.S.A and London for two people.In July 1982, AAdvantage Gold introduced the elite status AAdvantage gold. American's first hotel partner was Hyatt. The new American-Hyatt partnership makes sense. In the fall 1982, members were eligible for discounts on Hyatt properties throughout Mexico. For example, a double room at Hyatt Cancun Caribe was only $37.50 and a double at Hyatt Regency acapulco was only $30.50.AAdvantage was founded with around 200,000 existing customers. American claims that 144,000 of the original members and those who joined in that first year are still active in the program.Plaskett left American in order to become President and CEO at Continental. However, he lasted less than one year due to clashes with Frank Lorenzo, executives at Texas Air and executives. Texas Air merged the operations of Continental with People Express Frontier, New York Air and New York Air during Plaskett's tenure. He was elected Chairman and CEO of Pan Am three years after the airline's bankruptcy. Later in his career, he was Chairman of Greyhound.