The Early Days
FFOCUS was formed as a close-knit community of very frequent flyers of US Airways. Our organization began on FlyerTalk and grew from there. Through our knowledge of the Dividend Miles program and the loopholes contained therein, we were the masters of maximizing the program. Then the service levels started declining...
The Quote Heard Around the World
Ben Baldanza, then a Senior Marketing Executive at US Airways touched off a firestorm of controversy when he was quoted in USA Today stating the following with regard to their most frequent travelers: "Someone who flies a lot isn't necessarily loyal if what they're doing is buying the lowest-priced ticket every time they fly," he says. "That's not necessarily the kind of loyalty we want to reward. We want to reward those people who pay a premium for the services we offer."
The Cockroach is Born
Discussion on FlyerTalk began immediately. Then one user, a Chairman's Preferred member, said it made him feel like a "scheming Cockroach" in the eyes of the company. The name resonated with the group and became a symbol of the cause. After a lively discussion on FlyerTalk, we christened ourselves the "Cockroaches" and on August 24, 2002, the US Cockroach was born. FFOCUS' founding members embraced the cockroach and began wearing their unique pins to identify themselves at airports (see image to the right). The concept worked and awareness began to spread about the Cockroaches! Soon thereafter, the folks at US Airways began to take notice.
Following our RoachFest 2004 meeting with US Airways executives, we changed our name to FFOCUS - Frequent Flyers Organized and Committed to US Airways Success. That meeting was to have been a start of great things to come and the new name signified a renewed alliance between passengers and management. For a period of time, we engaged in ongoing, comprehensive dialogue with the management of US Airways and offered valuable input to the organization. That was all to change. Shortly thereafter, US Airways filed for their second bankruptcy. Just a few months later, America West Airlines and US Airways announced their intentions to merge, vowing to create the world's largest full-service, low fare airline.
The New US Airways
The merger of America West and US Airways has been a difficult one. One of the first items on the agenda was a virtual cessation of communications with FFOCUS. The management of now Tempe, Arizona-based US Airways Group were engaged in a full-throttle merger and had no time for us or the opinions of our members, who represent some of the airline's highest revenue generators. The decline of US Airways began almost immediately. Instead of a merger joining together two airlines, the merger essentially constituted a takeover of US Airways by America West. "East," as the former US Airways was now referred to, was to be brought into strict compliance with America West's standards of operation. Executives and employees refer to this as "The AWA Standard." Seats got closer together, First Class seats and coat closets were removed, and meals in first class made way for the snack basket with a plastic cup on the side. The transition has been well documented in the media and can only be described as having set new standards in total disregard of an airline's customers. As we failed to achieve any meaningful dialogue with the new management, our members began to seek other airlines. Almost immediately, meaningful partnerships between our Policy Committee and other airlines began to come together. Was customer service still alive at the competition? The answer is a resounding yes!
While our membership still includes some of US Airways' most elite frequent flyers, we're changing. We're evolving. We are now Frequent Flyers Organized and Concerned About Unacceptable Service. We are an advocacy and support group for passengers of all airlines. We have a lively, members-only Forum where advice, ideas, and a wealth of information (and lively discussion) is shared. Periodically, we gather throughout the country for meetings and "Do's" to chart our future course. We invite all to join our unique, private forum and our web site which contain a wealth of information useful to any air traveler.