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Online travel message board spawns live meeting

If you travel frequently and haven't checked out Flier Talk, you might want to see what people are saying about your most-often-used airlines. It's pretty active and interesting, and even led to a live meeting last summer between frequent posters and airline reps. From an article in the New York Times (free reg. req'd):

Early in April, Continental Airlines played host at a gathering in Houston for members of, a travel Web site best known for its message boards where travelers discuss, dissect and often complain about pretty much anything related to travel, but mostly airlines and their frequent-flier programs.

The event grew out of a bet made by Dean Burri, a FlyerTalk regular (screen name: Cigarman) and Lawrence W. Kellner, Continental's chief executive.

"Larry and I were having a disagreement about the power of a site like FlyerTalk," Mr. Burri recalled. "I was telling him that I think it's very important that travel companies watch these sites, for the good and the bad, because rumors get blown out of proportion. He said there's not more than 60 people on FlyerTalk who fly Continental on a regular basis. I told him he was crazy, so a wager ensued."

The bet? If Mr. Burri could get more than 60 of the site's members to fly to Houston, paying for their own airfare and hotels, Continental would give them a behind-the-scenes tour of the airport and a dinner, and Mr. Kellner would give them a talk and take questions from an audience not accustomed to pitching softballs.

A lot more than 60 showed up - 274, in fact - putting faces to screen names like Flyzabit, MileCrazy and UpgradeFreak and engaging in a give-and-take with Mr. Kellner and other senior Continental executives that Mr. Burri described as "like Oprah."

Power to the people, right on (apologies to John Lennon).

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