Our FTU Signature Event Speakers each bring their own passion of travel to their sessions.
We invite you to learn more about each of our speakers, and how their expertise will advance your knowledge of travel, loyalty and rewards.
Keith founded Point Hacks in 2011, after getting hooked when taking a round the world trip with his new daughter using points without setting foot at the rear of the plane.
Many years, a few more round the world trips, and millions readers of later, Point Hacks has grown to become the leading source for points and loyalty information in Australia and New Zealand.
Senior Writer at Point Hacks
Daniel is a Senior Writer at Point Hacks. He is based on the Gold Coast, but with many family and friends scattered around both Australia and the world, he travels quite extensively.
He fell in love with the idea of point hacking from an early age, when frequent flyer points where generally earned through flying and credit card spend. With the evolution of frequent flyer programs to what they are today, he believes there is no better time than now to earn and redeem frequent flyer points and get the most value out of them.
Editor at Australian Frequent Flyer
Matt is the lead editor at Australian Frequent Flyer, Australia’s largest online travel community. An expert in frequent flyer programs, he’s always looking for ways to maximise point earning and burning opportunities.
He also manages Award Flight Assist, where he has helped countless Australian travellers to redeem their frequent flyer points effectively. He has a particular interest in finding “sweet spots” in airline award charts and discovering unique ways to redeem points for flights in the pointy-end.
Matt has a passion for travel and loves nothing more than flying to exotic locations around the world… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course! He also speaks fluent German and is currently learning several other languages.
Editor-in-chief and frequent flyer guru for finder.com.au
Angus Kidman is the editor-in-chief and frequent flyer guru for finder.com.au, Australia’s biggest comparison site and the home of Points Finder, the definitive guide to earning the most points down under. He’s been working as a journalist and editor covering travel, money and technology for 25 years.
Before Finder, he spent seven years as the editor of Lifehacker Australia, where his regular travel challenges included flying all four of Australia’s major airlines in a single day, working for an entire month while travelling the country with only hand luggage, and doing his entire job on the road using only a smartphone.
His work has appeared in dozens of publications, including Gizmodo, Australian Personal Computer, the Australian, the AFR, Business Insider and the SMH. He appears frequently on Australian TV and radio, popping up often on Sunrise, The Project, A Current Affair and the ABC.
Angus has lifetime gold status with Qantas and is currently undertaking a project to visit and review every single one of Virgin’s Velocity lounges. His best-ever flight experience was being upgraded from a discount economy seat to first class. Follow him on Twitter @gusworldau.
Corporate and Leisure Travel Specialist
Alicia Clark has over 29 years professional experience in the travel Industry both as a corporate and leisure travel specialist.
She is passionate about sharing her knowledge by assisting travellers in constructing journey plans and itineraries that allow them to explore the world with all bases covered.
To build relationships with her clients and set her apart from your usual travel agent, she actively participates in numerous social media
forums, and has become a member of those communities, getting to know what people want, and letting them get to know her! She has become known as the go-to travel consultant for maximising status credits and assisting clients to maintain or attain their preferred status level.
Alicia has been credited in a number of blogs, newspaper articles and magazines highlighting the benefits of working with her.
You can contact Alicia via email [email protected].
Airline & Hotel Loyalty Consultant
As a publisher and global speaker on hotel & airline loyalty programs, David is focused on developing strategic solutions for loyalty programs, and is passionate about the critical link between loyalty strategy and the customer experience. Find out more at catchitloyalty.com.
Area Director of Revenue Strategy for Marriott International
Samir Bhatnagar is the Area Director of Revenue Strategy for Marriott International. Having grown up in the Washington, D.C., area, Samir has had the opportunity to live and work in Washington, Las Vegas, New York and is now based out of Sydney.
Samir oversees hotel strategies for Marriott properties in Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji, and New Caledonia.
Samir is an avid traveler, having been to 59 countries, and 49 of the 50 states in the US. He’s a miles and points junkie, currently an American Airlines Executive Platinum (Emerald) and Virgin Australia Platinum. He’s flown about 2.1 million lifetime flight miles, but doesn’t hold Million-miler status with any airline because he switches his alliances every few years based on where he’s living.
Other than the occasional mistake fares, Samir’s best regular mileage run was IAD-MSP-HNL-DTW-AMS-DTW-HNL-MSP-IAD which used to earn about 26.5k EQM and almost 60k RDM for about $300USD in 4 days. He loves jumping on great deals when they come around!
Sarah grew up in Sydney but spent a decade in Darwin from 2001 before relocating to Brisbane in 2011 and is passionate about Queensland and the Northern Territory.
She’s had an obsession with planes and aviation from a young age, often taking herself and younger brother out to Sydney Airport in the school holidays to watch from the observation deck as planes landed and took off.
She has over 30 years industry experience starting in travel agency aged 17 and also working as an in-house travel logistics co-ordinator for a large software company and in a trainer and customer support role for a global distribution company.
In more recent times Sarah has worked for various carriers as both flight attendant and ground staff in Darwin and Brisbane.
Having experienced travel from many different perspectives she loves sharing her knowledge and helping people get more bang for their buck when it comes to award travel and finding solutions for people flying business class on a budget but especially how to earn and burn miles in the pointy end of the plane.
Nick La Galle
Nick has been collecting and using frequent flyer points since 1995, however it wasn’t until 2005 that he discovered the benefits of status with the airlines. Nick’s interests have been photography and IT, and he was able to combine those interests while working for over 20 years at a multinational media company. As the work travel increased he climbed his way up through the Qantas ranks; he has been Platinum since 2010 and achieved Lifetime Gold in 2016.
Now working for himself teaching photographers how to manage and store their images, he maximizes points earning through company purchases and strategic travel routing.
His frequent flyer knowledge extends across the Qantas and OW programs, as well as maximising Amex Membership rewards points.
Visit Nick at ProtectMyPhotos.
Physical Travel Solutions
Yvonne Strydom is a Physiotherapist registered to practice in every state & territory of Australia.
She opened and has operated her Private Practice on the Redcliffe Peninsula near Brisbane, QLD since 1983.
In 1995 she started travelling to the US up to 12 times / year for additional small workshop training, in Seattle & Sacramento with the Ursa Foundation.
In the process of 185+ return trips to the US – that’s over 370 trans Pacific crossings! – plus another 28+ to Africa & Europe, including every StarMegaDo, she learned a few things.
And realised that as well as Australia being a really really long way from everywhere, in addition to the workshops she signed up for, she was also incidentally and steadily acquiring a whole huge new area of expertise!!
As a result, Yvonne has now added *Travel Physiotherapist* to her portfolio of skills. To her knowledge, she coined the term and is 1st in the World to use this title!
Since 2009 she has been speaking about her health management & injury prevention strategies for travellers “Physical Travel Solutions” “Move Well, Travel Better” at various forums and corporate events nationally and internationally, including to many frequent flyers in galleys at 10,000m!
She is a former Director at URSA Educational institute for Manual Therapy, & Kinections Treatment Centre and Educational Institute in Sacramento CA USA.
Since 2014 she has been on faculty with The Flight Doc, where she has spoken about all things miles & points & status, as well as her Physical Travel Solutions to Move Well, Travel Better.
Meanwhile, she lives near Brisbane Queensland Australia, consults from her Private Clinic there, and continues to travel widely to gain further insights into the needs of her traveller patients. It’s for the research, of course. And the miles! At one time she was 1K with UA, EXP with AA, and the equivalent of triple each of these to gain Platinum One with Qantas.
When she is free, she arranges social events so she can catch up with Flying Friends.
Contact Yvonne directly:
Founder & Director – Premium Flyer
Alex Prez is the Founder and Director of Premium Flyer, a Brisbane based travel company specialising in pointy end flying and luxury travel.
Alex is a 15 year veteran of the travel industry, a Virtuoso member for over 10 years and most recently started ‘Upgrade Your Travel’ to promote the benefits of using agent-only VIP hotel programs to maximise the value you get from your high-end hotel stays.
When Alex isn’t travelling the world in style or helping his clients to do the same he can be found cycling around Brisbane & Gold Coast, spending time with his loved ones and running his other business with his fiancée Donna in the health & wellness sector.
Anika McLane is a lifelong global explorer with experience travelling underage, with a disability, on a budget, as a strict vegetarian and with a toddler – though thankfully not all at once! She travelled to 20 countries across six continents before the age of 20, and another 20 countries in her 20s. Her travelling challenges have ranged from international flights as an unaccompanied minor, solo backpacking through Europe at 16 with a broken arm, no bank card and no phone, navigating Fiji in a wheelchair and more recently, managing long-hauls on her own with a baby. Anika has a wealth of firsthand knowledge of the Special Requests list! In particular Anika will be joining Yvonne at FTU SYD to discuss the preparation, planning & practicalities of travelling with infants.
Will & Christy Maxwell-Steele
Christy & Will are living proof that even the geekiest avgeeks can find love! Meeting (properly) for the first time at the launch party (and associated Giraffter party) for a travel-junkie charter trip called Star MegaDo 4, by the time the actual trip came around only a few months later, they were ready to get married! Having been kicked off the row of economy seats on Lufthansa’s D-ABVR flying from Los Angeles to Frankfurt by an of-course-she-wasn’t-drunk Christy, Will popped the question from the Dorito-crumb-covered aircraft floor. The response sounded like a yes – but he checked a few times in the weeks ahead just to be sure. They were married in June of 2013, with the ceremony officiated by none other than the “Godfather of Miles and Points”, Randy Petersen.
Christy (catgirl), an American formerly based in Chicago, was a corporate road warrior for an international bank. Despite being in the US with easy access to amazing credit card offers and promotions, the vast majority of Christy’s elite status was earned the hard way with butt-in-seat miles since manufactured spending was a definite no-no in her position. Obviously being a sucker for punishment (as if her marriage to Will wasn’t evidence enough), Christy continued her life away from home in her spare time by doing mileage runs and holidays with friends and family.
Will (wijomas) – aka Ryan A.A. Bingham (yes, that was his legal name, though he had to change back when Christy refused to become Mrs. Bingham) – is a Kiwi entrepreneur and InsideFlyer Kiva Lending Team captain who at the time was based in New Zealand, and briefly in the San Francisco Bay Area after the wedding. Having left school and entering the corporate world at the ripe old age of 13, he earned his first top tier elite status as a 15 year old who wasn’t even allowed in many airline lounges due to their stringent liquor licensing policies. Will spent most of his teen years and twenties flying upwards of 200,000 miles per year both for business and pleasure.
The Catjomases (Catjomii?) now live together in Auckland, New Zealand, and still try to fly as much as possible – which is no easy feat on a budget from Down Under!
New World Loyalty
Phil is the Founder and Principle of New World Loyalty – a specialist loyalty agency that provides specialist loyalty and customer strategy advice. With an exceptional track record of business success, Phil is recognised as one of the most accomplished and innovative in the industry and has an exceptional track record of delivering business success.
Prior to forming New World Loyalty, Phil managed Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer program for over 7 years Phil, transforming it from a basic ‘fly ten get one free’ program into a strong and independent business that delivered massive strategic, functional and financial benefits to the Group, recently selling for $960m.
Phil is an expert in the financial aspects of loyalty programs and has used this expertise to design business models that overcome the traditional challenges for FFP’s including access to reward seats and liability management, whilst enabling far better decisions and ultimately outcomes. Phil is well acquainted with the Global Airline Loyalty industry having partnered with or advised multiple major airlines from every continent.
Jessica discovered the online world of frequent travellers when she moved back to Melbourne and lived in close proximity to the airport. She soon immersed herself in the community of frequent travellers where she found the breadth and depth of knowledge simply staggering.
With so much willingness to share, Jessica took just six years to obtain Qantas lifetime Gold status (OneWorld Sapphire). The next milestone is lifetime Gold with British Airways (OneWorld Emerald). Although even she admits that that will be quite the challenge.
Jessica is not afraid of a challenge, though. She once flew to London from Australia for 24 hours to have dinner – and all in economy!
In her day job Jessica works for a Victorian emergency service. In her spare time she is a moderator with AFF, and always on the lookout for an opportunity to “jump on a jet plane”.
Full time freelance writer
Caroline Lupini is a full time freelance writer specializing in travel hacking, personal finance, and, of course, travel! She has written for The Points Guy, Frugal Travel Guy, Business Insider, Lonely Planet, Johnny Jet, and others. She has also previously spoken at the New York Times Travel Show and the Ann Arbor DO (Flyertalk). The flexibility of working online has allowed her to travel to 80 countries total, many of which have been in the last 4 years. Caroline is working toward a goal of visiting every country in the world, but doesn’t have a completion date in mind just yet. In addition to traveling and writing, Caroline enjoys spending time skiing, scuba diving, spending time with animals, and other adventures. You can find out more about Caroline and links to her articles written elsewhere on her blog at carolinelupini.com and https://upgradedpoints.com/author/caroline/.
Mark has been active on most of the AU local and international flying community forums for 15+ years. His knowledge of hotel and airline programs as well as most things to do with travel, all blend to weave solid insights and ability that have endured despite the many changes in programs.
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