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Vasu Raja, the Vice President of Planning at American Airlines, is responsible for planning and scheduling the airline’s 6,500 daily flights. He joined us for one of the most AvGeek episodes yet.

Raja shares details about growing Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) to 900 departures, the why and how around scaling back New York City flights, explains why you won’t be flying on any 767s to your international destinations this summer, and more.

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Full Transcript:

Brian Kelly: Hey, you out there. Yeah you, listening to this episode of Talking Points. It’s your host Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, and we want to hear from you about the show. What kind of topics do you want to hear more of? Who would you love to hear me interview? Where do you want me to go? What destinations, conferences, you name it? Give me all of your feedback because we’re going to be relaunching Talking Points with amazing new episodes, and we want your feedback. Go to thepointsguy.com/podcast to learn more and let me know by May 1st.

Brian Kelly: Welcome to today’s episode of Talking Points. You know, we’ve interviewed CEOs and COOs and all different types of people from the travel industry, but never have we had a head of network planning. So I’m excited to introduce our guest, Vasu Raja, who is the VP of network planning at American Airlines. Thanks for joining us.

Vasu Raja:: Thanks for having me.

Brian Kelly: You know when I looked at your Linkedin profile, I had to keep clicking more, more, more when looking at all the different positions that you’ve had at American Airlines, and you …

Vasu Raja:: I could never hold a job, Brian.

Brian Kelly: You’ve really run the gamut, and so from the looks of it, you went to business school, and you got in… in, was it revenue management?

Vasu Raja:: I started in sales planning actually in 2004. Yeah, at the old AMR.

Brian Kelly: And what is sales planning?

Vasu Raja:: Sales strategy. So we would help prospect accounts, determine how market share performance was doing, things like that.

Brian Kelly: Got it. So then you just started to rotate through different positions, and how …

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, you know, it was a fun time and a scary time all at the same time, right? It was 2004 when I started, right? So the US industry was going through a lot of change, AMR not the least of which. And so, on the one hand it was personally a really cool time to be there because we got that the whole business was changing and I got to go and learn a ton of new things. But it was also a really scary time because it was … every year was a little more stark than the year before. And so I’ll tell you, Brian, that’s probably the best thing about my job now is having gone through that at the old AMR and having kind of lived from one crisis to another, having seen routes that were just perennial money losers and stuff like that… now being in a place where we can start to change that and start to see the results of that is a really, really super fun thing for me.

Brian Kelly: So how would you describe working at AMR versus working at American Airlines today?

Vasu Raja:: Well first of all, it’s all in the same building. So it’s in many ways very, very similar. Some of it is the company, a lot of it is the industry, too, right? But the biggest thing I can say is in those days we were living to survive, right? We were truly and literally making it one winter to the other. We would run daily cash flow models, literally daily cash flow models. We looked at route profitability on a cash basis very often. And now that’s not it at all. We don’t have cash-negative flights and when we do, that’s a really big issue. We’re trying to optimize profitability and right now a lot more of our debates are not about survivability, but sustainability, prosperity, right? How do we keep the thing that’s American Airlines living forever and how do we build a route network as the spinal column so that it can indeed live forever.

Brian Kelly: And first of all, route versus route (note: pronouncing it “root”). Now as someone who’s in this role, you are an authority. You’re an influencer on how to say this. So you say “root.”

Vasu Raja:: I say “root,” but I don’t have religion. When people say route, I go with that, too. I’m cool either way, I guess.

Brian Kelly: I think new routes. I think I would say routes.

Vasu Raja:: New roots, new routes.

Brian Kelly: To-ma-to, to-mah-to.

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, yeah.

Brian Kelly: So you guys have destinations all over the world?

Vasu Raja:: Absolutely.

Brian Kelly: How many destinations do you have actually?

Vasu Raja:: Oh, at this point I think we have well over 200 destinations worldwide that we serve. On a destination basis, the United States is the vast majority of them, but, yeah… And growing all the time, too.

Brian Kelly: So your job is to align the right planes to the right routes?

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, that’s right. So we first set a long-term plan for the airline and then determine what routes — or roots — we’re going to fly, and with what kind of fleet and during what times of day.

Brian Kelly: So with your regional subsidiaries, do you do their planning as well? Or do you just say …

Vasu Raja:: Yes, yeah, absolutely.

Brian Kelly: And which plane and all that?

Vasu Raja:: All that stuff, yeah. Yeah, it’s a ton of fun. You know, it’s such a massive fleet and with so much opportunity in our system. So it’s a lot of fun figuring out where all these things go.

Brian Kelly: And I can imagine you’ve probably got sophisticated computer programs. So what’s the human versus computer element of setting that network?

Vasu Raja:: Well, you know Brian, that’s a great question because so much of it … There’s as much art as there is science in it, and the way we like to think of it is that the computers are there to help make it so that the humans can do what humans are best at, which is to think. So the computers do things like they help do flight numbering for the airline and they help our schedulers go and make the simple connections, but what we really spend a lot of time trying to do is, one, really define, strategically, what we’re trying to do, spend a lot of time evaluating whether the decisions we’re making day-to-day are actually executing against that and if the strategy is actually paying out, right?

Vasu Raja:: You know, it’s really easy in the world of network planning where you say, for example, one of the things we’re doing now, we’re going to grow DFW and it’s more growth …

Brian Kelly: To 900, right?

Vasu Raja:: To 900 departures, yeah, which in May there’ll be more departures in a single hub than we’ve seen in the post 9/11 industry in any hub. But when you do that, it’s easy to say in concept, but what do you grow? How do you grow? At what times of day … and all of that are very granular decisions that humans have to make. It’s really hard. Robots can help you, but the human has to make it.

Brian Kelly: Especially in the forecasting. There’s trends, but big events that a computer model wouldn’t know about, right?

Vasu Raja:: Absolutely. That’s a perfect example of it, right? A forecast would say that demand may be going to market XYZ, but actually what happens there’s a huge … [crosstalk 00:05:44].

Brian Kelly: Japan next year will slow down, but actually… Olympics

Vasu Raja:: Totally, totally right? And the things that forecast can’t quite get their hands on, right, are a big Japanese multinational creates an office in North Texas.

Brian Kelly: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Vasu Raja:: Well that’s something you’re not going to forecast that because it happened in the last six months.

Brian Kelly: So you have your eyes and ears on the ground, your team like …

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, you have to kind of look at all things. That’s where the art comes in from, right? And the more you do it, the easier it gets, right? So, you know, one of the things that we realize is in DFW, it is such a massive East/West hub for the airline. What we find is actually our West Coast markets do better and better, they’re hungrier and hungrier for more pipe the more we add certain kinds of cities in the East Coast. And some of those cities tend to respond a whole lot better to … There’s a lot of demand that goes from the Southeast of the US into Arizona and DFW is a great connect point from it, a ton of demand that goes from the Southeast of the US into Colorado, DFW is a good connect point for it.

Vasu Raja:: And so once you know that, then it makes it easier to add the next route out of DFW.

Brian Kelly: So obviously having the right amount of planes and destinations. What’s more of a resource capacity? Planes versus gates at airports, like an actual ability to grow, or?

Vasu Raja:: Candidly it probably is different for different airlines. For the American Airlines that’s here today, the bigger constraint is gates. Infrastructure at large may be the better way to say it, right? So in New York City, right, we would love to have a 500-departure hub in New York City, but the reality is between slot constraints, airspace constraints, ground space or gate constraints, that’s an impractical thing to have happen, and so we have to figure that out without that.

Brian Kelly: And there’s been a lot of talk about JFK in AAs plans pulling back. You know, there is the runway construction and people are parsing. So what is AAs strategy at JFK? Is it to build up that international business or to really focus more in that lucrative trans-con market?

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, that’s a great question, Brian. Actually this is probably more than anything else comes back to your earlier question about how it’s changed between AMR and American Airlines… at least for me. There is so much of our system… Our strategy is that we connect people to the world by connecting them through our hubs, right? In New York City that’s a very different thing. Again, we don’t have the slot portfolio, the size to go and have a 500-departure hub here, and so here, we are focused on getting customers to and from New York City, but most specifically getting premium customers to and from New York City. And when I say premium customers, I mean people who tend to travel a lot — but not exclusively for business — who value a deep schedule, a great product, not just on the airplane but on the ground. And that may sound like a niche, but in New York City that’s a huge, huge market and so a lot of what we have done in New York City is actually cut away the things that are not consistent with that and focus heavily on the things that are.

Vasu Raja:: So we have gotten out of routes from New York to say, Santo Domingo, but we have all 777s flying in New York to international, right?

Brian Kelly: This is exciting. So the 777s are … Because it used to be a lot of 767s, which is nowadays a very sub-par product across the Atlantic. So now, so this summer travel season …

Vasu Raja:: All 777.

Brian Kelly: All 777s.

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, and we’ve seen a huge benefit from that, right? So our customers love it. We’ve been winning market share back. It’s rare when you fly a bigger jet. We had 757s and 767s before and it wasn’t very successful, it wasn’t profitable. We moved the 777s and 2018 was the first time we’ve generated a fully allocated profit flying New York to international in 20 years.

Brian Kelly: Us picky New Yorkers, we know a good product when we see one.

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, but you know what? There’s truth to it, right? And we find that when we do have a product and a schedule that works for the premium customer it works. And so LA is a great example and we have an airplane type that at one point in time people would have thought was just ridiculous in the market, but it does really, really well for us. In fact, it is arguably the gold standard of products. And so there’s a lot of markets of really big premium markets like that where it works. So our JFK is first built around that, but also what you’re seeing from us too is part of our play is that we’re a premium airline for people coming to New York and there are so many cities in New York because of slots and things like that that don’t really have great nonstop service.

Vasu Raja:: Many of those cities are huge cities in our network: Nashville, Knoxville, Charlottesville. They don’t sound like huge cities necessarily, but they don’t have great service outside of American Airlines and when we go and connect those, there are people who own companies and things like that who come here and meet with investors and stay in hotels and are good for New York, too. So much of our New York is that.

Brian Kelly: So JFK is essentially, what, eight different airports? You know, they’re not connected and they operate totally pretty much independently and LaGuardia is going through a multi-billion dollar (renovation). I’m even confused that which airlines, the terminals at LaGuardia. Like I’ll show up to a terminal I haven’t been to in years and say, “Wow, this is totally different,” and we can’t even keep up with the news here.

Brian Kelly: So AA is split at LaGuardia. You know that Terminal B.

Vasu Raja:: Yes.

Brian Kelly: Although the one thing that so annoys me about LaGuardia is that the gates are D and a number, but it’s actually Terminal B.

Vasu Raja:: Yes.

Brian Kelly: I like, on more than one occasion, have just looked, “Oh, I’m gate D whatever,” and I’ve told the Uber driver.

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, many Uber drivers are confused for the very same reason, yes.

Brian Kelly: So what’s the terminal strategy at LaGuardia? Is there a full renovation of those coming? They just got a Starbucks. That’s pretty exciting.

Vasu Raja:: That is true. Yeah, there’s a full renovation. The new LaGuardia will be an amazing thing when built and it’s not an easy space on any number of ways to go and rebuild and everybody has been super patient and (it’s) a wonderful thing as our customers have worked with us through it.

Vasu Raja:: But, yeah, we will have a fully state-of-the-art LaGuardia facility. We’ll have the shuttles gated. It’ll be the fastest walk from curb to airplane we can possibly make it, right through the premium line. We want it to be in every way be a world-class experience just like what people have at Kennedy. Similarly, the new Kennedy — as we start bringing British Airways and IAG into it — will have a similar sort of experience where it’ll be a truly world-class premium experience where you can go through industry leading vast premium lounge all filling 12 to 14 New York to London flights a day.

Brian Kelly: So you mentioned the 767s coming off of international. Now, one of the reasons why I’m loyal to AA, I fly a lot New York-Miami, it’s my route and I love taking the 767. People call me a diva that I need to lie flat for a three-hour flight, but by the time you board, you’re on, I mean, you’re there for four plus hours and it’s so nice to not have a seatmate and …

Vasu Raja:: Well, you know, Brian, …

Brian Kelly: … and Wi-Fi.

Vasu Raja:: I’ll make you feel better. You’re a New Yorker and, no, but seriously that’s a good thing. I mean that in a great, great way, and we’ve seen that. So, you know, the 767 as an international product is really challenging on any number of levels and we have been consciously testing it more domestically, so much so that we actually have a lot of 767s flying Miami domestic to New York, to San Francisco, even Vegas.

Brian Kelly: Why have they never been on LA and, you know, it’s like LA will have 730, like you said the Max, or 321s with recliners and it’s like …

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, it’s actually gating issues in Los Angeles.

Brian Kelly: Oh, really?

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, we do have the 777s that fly with two LA-Miami 777 through there and they end up flowing either into Miami or into the LA network. But, no, we can’t gate the 67 in the LA that’s there today. That’ll change in the future.

Brian Kelly: Interesting.

Vasu Raja:: But, no, we’ve seen that and as we’ve deployed the 67 more domestically, especially in New York, it has really taken off. There’s a lot of demand for that full flat product and that’s where we see in all those big markets and Miami is one of them, LA, San Fran, De Gaulle, Heathrow, even DFW, we are consciously trying to go put the most flatbed first class seats of anybody.

Brian Kelly: I go to Charlotte quite a bit as well, and I fly Charlotte-Philly and I love taking the A330 on that 60-minute flight. For people listening, like for such a huge jet on such a short route, like — it makes sense, or is it really just utilizing it in between international runs?

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, actually what it is is that the airplane wakes up in maintenance at Charlotte and then it flies to Philadelphia where it then goes and flies Philadelphia to Europe. So the maintenance of all the 330s is all done out of Charlotte.

Brian Kelly: Interesting.

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, and so that’s also where we have a number of routes in Europe that are the same between Charlotte and Philadelphia because we get a routing efficiency and we can fly Philadelphia to Europe and then Europe to Charlotte.

Brian Kelly: Interesting, things I didn’t know.

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, that’s right.

Brian Kelly: What are the most exciting new routes that you’re adding to the network or the most notable new routes that you’re kind of crossing your fingers right now, like, “Geez, I hope these ones work out?”

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, another great question. For right now, there are sort of two categories of them for me. The first is just, in general whenever you grow 900 departures and grow it to that scale and we spent a lot of time thinking about those and looking at them. So the first set of new routes that are there are our routes from DFW into what we call the Pacific Northwest. So we’re doing more flying to Kalispell and things like that and those are markets which tend to do really well out of DFW, but it consumes a lot of airplane time, and so we tend to watch those, but the ones that are really on our mind are routes such as Dubrovnik, Pereira …

Brian Kelly: And Philly, right?

Vasu Raja:: Colombia, Miami to Cordoba, because for years and years American Airlines has an amazing domestic network and our customers love it. We produce really great margins there and we’ve had an international network that has lagged it, for lack of a better word. And for much of the last two years we have cut away kind of chronic money-losing markets and we have been devoting that capacity into starting new things and we call it expanding the frontiers of American Airlines and the initial results have been promising. Last year we were the first US carrier into Prague and Budapest. They did great. They did really, really well and so now we’re trying to do more of that stuff and if this stuff works, then the stuff we have in store for 2020 should really be a lot of fun.

Brian Kelly: And why did you choose Philly over New York for Dubrovnik, for example?

Vasu Raja:: Where Philadelphia works is it is a great connecting point.

Brian Kelly: Actually, I love Philly airport and Charlotte, too, actually.

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, it’s an easy airport. It’s an easy place to connect. It’s an easy place to run a transatlantic operation. It doesn’t have a lot of the issues, the ground space issues, that can exist in New York airports. And in Philly, we can connect 95% of the demand with the exception of New York City over Philadelphia. And for a market like Dubrovnik, so much of it is little pools of traffic that originate everywhere from the West Coast to the South to the Midwest. New York, however, works for us when it’s a big local marketplace with an amazing premium product.

Vasu Raja:: And so though we’ve been growing Philly (it) by no means means that we’re not growing New York. It’s that New York’s future growth will be in those big O&D markets where we can … where the premium product matters.

Brian Kelly: All right. Now we’re going to take a quick pause to hear from our sponsors.

(Commercial break)

Brian Kelly: (The) 737 Max, you guys just took it off the schedule through August. I mean as a head of the network, this must be a major headache for you. What goes into the response and shuffling around, taking planes from routes, or… ?

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, look, the process was strenuous, but the decision was easy. Look, we have great confidence that this airplane’s going to be recertified this summer, however, we don’t have certainty when that’s going to be, right? And right now customers are going out there and they’re booking summer travel plans, which no matter who you are is a big deal, right? And so we want to ensure that all of our customers have the confidence that whatever they’re booking is something that is going to fly. And if we didn’t have the certainty for when the Max would be in the schedule, we didn’t feel comfortable having it out there.

Vasu Raja:: So for that reason, we took it out for the summer. Needless to say, we didn’t just cut Max routes one-for-one, but we tried to spread it so that first of all we took out flights where there weren’t a lot of bookings on it. So we minimized the impact to the customers that have already booked to places where historically we haven’t had a lot of bookings. Three routes where there’s a lot of frequency … so we took out a few Miami to New York because we have 18 of those; don’t worry the 767s still on it, though.

Vasu Raja:: And lastly, we took out really kind of long-stage markets where we don’t have to cut as many departures to get an airplane.

Brian Kelly: I actually was on NBC Nightly News recently and I said that it could get to the point where the Max name is toxic and consumers we don’t want to fly it and actually President Trump just said in a Tweet that he thinks “It needs to be rebranded.”

Brian Kelly: Do you think that’s overkill? Or do you think that there’s a real issue on hand with consumer confidence in the aircraft?

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, you know, too early. I don’t have a good answer to that. For us the most important thing is really just providing certainty about the summer schedule for customers.

Brian Kelly: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Vasu Raja:: That’s … any which way you look at the situation, I think there’s a lot of ways to speculate on it, but the most clear and present thing we can do for our customers is just give them the comfort of knowing that the schedule they booked is going to be the one that flies, and after that, everything else would just kind of sort itself, I suppose.

Brian Kelly: And when people do have schedule changes, they happen, it’s part of the process, right? And what is American Airline policy, if you know? Is it an hour that you can refund your flight if the schedule changes? Or…

Vasu Raja:: Look, we’d have to get back to you on what the time is, but, yeah, we try to work with customers needless to say, especially when something as exogenous as this happens.

Brian Kelly: One of the tips we tell people is always log in to make sure your seat assignment changes. I guess that’s the benefit of booking as a group, right? That your systems don’t know when people want to sit next to each other. Are there any other tips that you would give people? Actually, minimum connection times, how do you determine minimum connection times? Is that your team that does that?

Vasu Raja:: Well, first explain the concept. Look, a minimum connection time is what is the minimum time it would take you to get from flight A to flight B at a given airport, right? And it varies a lot. So DFW is the best example because it’s such a big and spread out airport. If you’re connecting from one side of the airport to another, that’s a different minimum connection time than flights that are gated in the same terminal. The minimum connection time from domestic to international is different than domestic to domestic, and so it’s actually a quite complex thing.

Vasu Raja:: Actually, though, to give your listeners some comfort, we spend a lot of time looking at that to ensure that people can, in fact, operate it. This summer JFK is having runway construction and, again, consistent with our kind of brand promise to our customers, one of the things that we looked at as we’ve changed our flight schedule is to ensure that all those minimum connection times are legit minimum connection times.

Brian Kelly: Because you’ve padded the flight time as well, so there’s a little bit of …

Vasu Raja:: We do, absolutely. The flight time has some of that padded in there and the minimum connection time is one that we actually do time and motion studies to ensure that people can go and run it, and we stress it for peak time operation, right? For what people are likely to experience on Fourth of July weekend as they’re running through the airport with their family.

Brian Kelly: It’s always good to get that cardio in. That’s the bright side …

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, we hope they don’t have to get too much of that cardio in and we would try to build it so that they don’t.

Brian Kelly: One of the great things about my job (is) I get to go on a lot of inaugural flights and there’s so much excitement. I assume you do as well? What’s been your most memorable inaugural flight that you’ve taken?

Vasu Raja:: Well, so it’s funny actually. The most memorable and [inaudible] flight that I took was one that I took by accident actually. So it was right when we started from DFW to Hong Kong and I was actually in Hong Kong for business and my first flight back happened to be the inaugural and so I got to the gate… I didn’t think about it at the time. I wasn’t in route planning. I was in revenue management and I got there and there were a bunch of Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and there was this huge event. You would have thought there was like… the Hong Kong airport was basically all surrounding the American Airlines gate and lo and behold it was the inaugural.

Vasu Raja:: So that was a pretty fun one. That was a good party.

Brian Kelly: I’ve taken that route several times. I love that. You know, you’re an executive for an airline, you’ve got flight benefits. Are you still a points guy, though? Do you play the points game?

Vasu Raja:: So, I will tell you this. I sort of play the points game. I am not nearly as good at it as what other people with whom I work with are. I have small kids and so we pretty religiously sit in like the last row in coach and I refuse to let them get out of there. So we do play the middle seat and coach game quite a lot.

Brian Kelly: Sounds awful. I’m kidding. Traveling with kids is fun.

Vasu Raja:: I can’t always be business class on Miami-JFK, but …

Brian Kelly: Okay, economy, so what’s your favorite AA plane to fly in economy with your kids?

Vasu Raja:: Oh, no doubt whatsoever, it’s the MD-80.

Brian Kelly: Oh, really?

Vasu Raja:: Look, I tell people that the MD-80 helped raise my oldest son. You know, we … when he was born…  like 14 days after he was born, we took him on the MD-80 and we would religiously get, like, row 24. It’s like across from the lavs, right next to the engine and he had trouble sleeping, he was colicky, but when you put him on the MD-80, you …

Brian Kelly: The hum of that engine.

Vasu Raja:: Oh, man.

Brian Kelly: That takeoff lift will put you right into your chair.

Vasu Raja:: So he’s 10 now and to this day he gets on an airplane and starts going to sleep.

Brian Kelly: And the MD-80 is coming to an end soon, right?

Vasu Raja:: Soon it is. Soon it is, yes.

Brian Kelly: Are you going to take the kids on one final like loop on the MD-80?

Vasu Raja:: You know, they would love to. They would absolutely love to do it, but I think we’re going to save that for customers and employees, though.

Brian Kelly: So what route are you most excited to take with your kids on a vacation? Where do you like to go to actually unwind?

Vasu Raja:: Oh, we try to take as much adventure with them as possible, and so we’ve gone to every country in South America with them.

Brian Kelly: Oh, nice.

Vasu Raja:: I think what we’re probably most looking forward to doing with them is Iceland this summer. I think we’ll do that …

Brian Kelly: Ah, Iceland’s amazing.

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard that.

Brian Kelly: Does AA fly there still?

Vasu Raja:: Yeah, from DFW to Reykjavik and so …

Brian Kelly: Oh, wow, what plane is that?

Vasu Raja:: The 57 … 757.

Brian Kelly: So you’re traveling by yourself on a business trip, window or aisle seat?

Vasu Raja:: Oh, always aisle. Always aisle, but that said, so, I try to mix it up every time I travel, I randomize it. So I’m going home in a middle seat, I came up in an exit row.

Brian Kelly: Are you one of those people that likes to meet new friends on planes?

Vasu Raja:: Well, I like to see what the experience is like, it’s some different things. You know, my team’s also involved in, of course, configuring airplanes, too. So I like to sit everywhere. Yeah, and I try to like observe enough social cues so I don’t chat up the wrong people. You know, sometimes when you’re the guy in the middle seat looking forward to talking to the guy in the aisle and the window, they’re not as excited as you may be.

Brian Kelly: Well, so on behalf of TPG readers, just try making the bathrooms a little bit smaller. I mean a little bit bigger!

Vasu Raja:: Like I said earlier, we’re just so excited for the future. You know, for so many years at American the active network planning was just trying to get to the next winter and through the next winter and now we get to actually do things like thinking about growing DFW to 900 departures and how we could potentially expand on the good thing we’ve got in New York. And so it’s a great time to be there, and I really appreciate being on your show.

Vasu Raja:: I look forward to being back.

Brian Kelly: The ultimate job for an aviation geek. Vasu Raja, thank you so much for joining us.

Vasu Raja:: Absolutely, thanks for having me.

Brian Kelly: That’s it for this episode of Talking Points. A huge thanks to Vasu Raja, VP of Network Planning at American Airlines. I think this was our most AvGeek episode yet.

Brian Kelly: Again, I’m your host, Brian Kelly, and this episode was produced by Margaret Kelly and Caroline Schagrin with editing by Ryan Gabos. Our theme music is by Breakmaster Cylinder. Special thanks to Christie Matsui, my legendary assistant.

Brian Kelly: And if you’ve been enjoying Talking Points so far, thank you, and please leave us a good review on Apple Podcast, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Brian Kelly: This episode may feature offers that are subject to change and are offered by our advertising partners. ThePointsGuy.com is a free website, so we do advertise in order to generate revenue. For a full listing of our advertising policy, go to thepointsguide.com/advertising.

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  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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