FTU: Is it Worth It?

While I was working in Rio de Janeiro, my husband took advantage of a trip to his hometown, DC, to attend a recent Frequent Traveler University. While he has attended similar events in the past, this was his first with FTU. How did it go?

THE BEST

Attendance was huge, maybe 700 people, with attendees coming from all walks of life. There were many business-type frequent fliers but also many who were new to travel and eager to learn about ways to earn more miles and points. To me, it is always fun to learn from both. With FFers, it is natural to trade war stories; with newbies, their interest and excitement is contagious.

With such a huge range of travel experience, FTU correctly designed basic and advanced level tracks. Perhaps not surprising, their advanced sessions sold out first.

As with all events, sometimes the most fun is the time spent with other attendees. Learning about where they live, their travel patterns, what they want to get out of FTU is time very well spent. This event also happened to include a real quirk. The winner of our airline ticket giveaway was attending the FTU event. Nice to have a conversation with him afterward.

There were many BoardingArea bloggers who had presentations as well as other favorites like the Million Mile Secrets team of Darius and Emily. One of my husband’s favorite writers, USAToday journalist Ben Mutzabaugh, gave an outstanding presentation on the state of the airline industry, leaving lots of time for Q&A. Knowing my husband, he could have spent the entire day talking about this one topic. Other great bloggers also attending were good friends Chris McGinnis and Johnny Jet. Unfortunately, Randy Petersen was unable to attend, a big disappointment to many.

THE WORST

Presentations for airline frequent flier programs were all excellent. The problem was they selected only a few airlines to be represented. Inexplicably, they included Alaska Air but not Delta. Of course, they had great presentations for American and United but nothing for Southwest or JetBlue. This missed the needs of many attendees.

A couple people said that even the advanced track was not advanced enough. Apparently they were looking for ways to earn more miles and points that go beyond what has been published or discussed before. Sad to hear about their disappointment but there are reasons for this. There is only so much you can say about bonus signup offers, current reward promotions, and manufactured spend. True, occasionally there are a few quirk things that may be available but frankly, they will not be around very long if they are widely publicized. In other words, the best way to learn about these is through private conversation. This is another reason networking is so valuable.

So, is FTU worth the price of admission? To use a popular term, this is a Your Mileage May Vary kind of thing. If you are brand new to learning about travel tips and ways to earn miles and points, this will no doubt seem a bit overwhelming. It is way too much to take in over only a couple days, though you should certainly walk away with some useable tips immediately.

At the other extreme, those who have been following this industry for a while and have a good idea about methods and ways to earn miles and points may find that even the new information may be a bit lacking. Of course, most attendees are somewhere between the two extremes so there is definitely value for the masses. For virtually everyone who attends, the best part is spending time with others. The camaraderie and willingness to share information from a group like this is very impressive.

So what could someone like me learn at an event like FTU if all these topics are already well known? I learn what’s important to readers. I listen to questions because that tells me what you want to know more about. Events like this are always a win for me because the only way I know what’s important to you is when you say something. At FTU, attendees speak loud and clear so expect more posts about these topics.

Comments

  1. I think going to FTU and FTU Advanced at least once is worth the money. I do wish though that the organizers require FTU Advanced folks to attend regular FTU first. When I went to FTU Advanced Chicago back in July, I met a few people who just started a few months before and the conversation was one-sided (meaning they wanted to hear our tricks/tips but they didn’t have any to give us in return.) Normally I don’t mind giving tips but at the same time, at FTU Advanced, the registration fee is higher and expectations are indeed higher as well.

  2. Carl, my husband is a rabid road warrior who knows most of this stuff but yes, it was worth it to him because of the great conversations with others outside the sessions. He can talk travel all day long.

  3. Hi Carol

    I live in and attended FTU advanced last weekend. It was excellent. It wasn’t my first time and I actually think many of the topics were way into the weeds advanced which is why I attended. For example, when applying for credit cards, which credit files you should freeze ahead of time. No idea before this.

    The presenters are very knowledgeable and pretty willing to share, which is great. I did get the slight impression, as not the most frequent of flyers, that I was a bit on the outside looking into this world.

    Readers, I suggest going once to the beginner session. If anything, you will learn how to maximize your online spending for cash back and miles earning purposes.

  4. I also attended DC this weekend and found it thoroughly worthwhile. I did the advanced track and actually learned a lot about the manufactured spend / credit card side of the house. I understood a lot in theory based on reading F/T and M/P but having folks there to answer questions I had certainly helped. I think I probably would consider going to another one mostly because I learnt as much from the other attendees as I did the bloggers presentations. My complaint about advanced was that it felt basically like a summery of their respective blogs. If you’d read all their posts, you wouldn’t learn anything new from that. You HAVE to be interactive with both the bloggers and the other attendees. If you’re new to the mix and mingle scene, or not very good at it, it’s probably best to do beginner just to begin to learn the people involved and get comfortable and friendly with them.

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