Many of us follow The Points Guy for some of the greatest advice available regarding the accrual and redemption of credit card and mileage points offers. From airline tickets and seat upgrades to hotel deals and every perk in between, The Points Guy is now one of the world’s most influential travel resources with millions of site visitors each day looking for tips on maximizing the points system of nearly every credit card, airline, and hotel in existence. A few days ago I attended the 2019 TPG (The Points Guy) Awards honoring the best of the best in travel, loyalty and credit cards of the year. It was a blast!
The Points Guy website began as a small personal blog of sorts. As Kelly explained to me, he just had a meticulous knack for maximizing his travel experiences through the use of airline and credit card mileage points. More and more friends were impressed by his knowledge and began to seek his advice when they were planning to travel. He thought the website would be a cool way to post information about how points work and the best ways in which travelers could take advantage of them. Thus Kelly’s new moniker, ‘The Points Guy’ was born in 2010.
Popularity for The Points Guy grew organically as visitors to the site began to exceed beyond just Kelly’s friends. The website was appealing and simple to navigate, but most importantly it was robust with real sound information, similar in a way to a financial news source. Kelly himself, along with being knowledgeable, is tall and handsome, with a terrific smile that signals a level of approachability you would expect from a paid spokesmodel – but only he wasn’t. He was the real deal and unintentionally that authenticity turned him into a brand.
Today Brian Kelly heads the company as its CEO and has expanded the team exponentially to include a distinguished editorial staff and an extensive network of global freelancers. The Points Guy receives 10 million unique monthly visitors and has more than 3 million followers across its social media platforms. As for The TPG Awards, I had no idea what to expect. I assumed at first and somewhat dismissively that the evening would be full of travel industry execs, reveling in their fabulosity and patting themselves on the backs for creating elite programs that only the world’s most premier cardholders would ever get to experience. I was wrong. The awards ran the gamut of programs at every level, and the ceremony itself was one of unexpected enlightenment.
Take, for example, the red carpet arrivals I had the pleasure of interviewing. Among the first was – honoree Beverly Bass. Now retired, Bass was hired as the third female pilot at American Airlines in 1976. She went on to become the airline’s first female captain. The TPG Awards shared a compelling docu-short to honor Bass, depicting her childhood love of aviation, her career, and most harrowingly, her distinct memory of 911. On that infamous day, Bass was en route to Dallas Fort Worth Texas from Charles de Gaul. Suddenly she had to divert the commercial flight she was piloting and was directed to land in Newfoundland instead due to the closure of American airspace. Her connection to 911 is part of the Broadway musical collective, Come From Away which features individual reflective stories from that day. This was the first time I had ever heard of this trailblazing aviation heroine and I have The Points Guy to thank for it.
Also recognized as a Special Achievement honoree was Katherine Johnson, former NASA employee, and world-renowned mathematician. Johnson is the subject of the 2017 Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures.” Her daughters were on-hand to accept the award in their mother’s honor. They shared memories of their childhood growing up with a math genius for a mom who is still alive and well at 101 years old.
With a focus on quality content and factual information TPG has become a trusted travel platform robust with editorial content, first-hand flight, hotel, and airplane reviews, curated travel guides, immersive video, as well as global event activations. Still, there’s more. I was blown away to also learn of TPG’s commitment to social justice and philanthropy.
Leading the brand from obscurity to becoming one of the world’s leading travel resources has been a labor of love for Brian Kelly, who, as a proud, openly gay man, has steered his company toward new initiatives that can impact and save lives. Most notably is the story of DACA recipient and flight attendant Selene Saavedra Roman of Texas. Roman came illegally to the US from Peru when she was three years old and grew up in Dallas. She graduated from Texas A&M University, is married to a US citizen, and has a social security number through which she pays full taxes on her income.
A rule of DACA protections is that its recipients may not be allowed re-entry if they leave the country, and they could be deported back to the country where they were born. As a new hire for Arizona-based Mesa Airlines, Roman expressed concern about risking her DACA status when she was scheduled to work on a flight to Mexico. The airline assured her she was legally allowed to fly to Mexico from Houston and back, and so she accepted the assignment. Upon return, however, US officials took her into custody and detained her. She would spend nearly two months in a detention center before being released.
CBS News credits The Points Guy as the first media outlet to take on Roman’s plight in a featured story, which led to a firestorm public backlash against ICE and helped to accelerate her release. Roman was a special guest honoree at The TPG Awards, and she delivered an emotional speech expressing the uncertainty of what might have been if The Points Guy had not shared her story with its millions of readers around the world.
In another emotional moment that evening, Kelly introduced a young gay man who had endured torture at the hands of his government in Chechnya – a country intolerant of homosexuality with a history of persecution, beating and even killing gay people. His rescue came from coordinated efforts of Rainbow Railroad in conjunction with Kelly, who uses the TPG platform to promote the donation of travel points to help refugees from all over the world travel to safety.
The Points Guy is so much more than just a place to learn about travel points. Kelly leads the organization as one of the LGBTQ community’s most perfect allies, combining social justice, support of humanitarian causes, and yes, of course, spectacular tips on how to best use your points to snag that first-class ticket on your next uber-gay getaway to Puerta Vallarta.
See More Pics From The Event Below:
CHECK OUT ALL THE NIGHT’S WINNERS!