Earlier this month I attended the fantastic BoardingArea.com blogger conference in Colorado Springs and won a $100 Hyatt promotional card. “I won” translates into one of you won.
The card is valid for up to $100 on a single purchase until August 31, 2013 at any physical hotel location in the United States. Here’s a bit more on the T&Cs from the back of the card:
The card may not be used toward the purchase of alcohol, for a purchase at any outlets not owned by the Hyatt hotel at which you are attempting to use the card or for an online or telephone purchase. Card is not redeemable for cash, unless required by law.
A maximum of one promotional card may be redeemed in a single transaction and a transaction may not be split into multiple transactions to use multiple cards.
Use of card will not accrue any benefits under the Hyatt Gold Passport program. Cannot be combined with other offers.
There’s more to the T&Cs on the back of the card, but it’s the usual stuff you’d find on any gift card and the above is probably what you wonder about most.
I’m giving it away and all you have to do for your chance to win it is leave a comment on this post (one per person only, please). I’ll use random.org to draw a winner this Friday, May 24, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. PT.
Be sure to enter your valid email address in the comment form as that’s how I’ll get in touch with the winner. And don’t worry if your comment gets held for moderation — I’ll be sure to clear and approve all comments before the drawing.
– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.
There’s just no escaping April Fools’ Day, especially if you’re engaged in monitoring social media all day. And while I’m not an enormous fan of it, there are some good ones today in the airline and travel world. Here are my favorites:
- Exclusive: Memo Details New United Airlines ‘Super Elite’ Level by Christopher Elliott: Did you hear? United plans a new Global Services Plus level beginning June 1. Members must be addressed as “your highness” or “your royal highness” at all times. United agents are encouraged to call non-Global Services Plus “gate lice” and “kettles” in the presence of this super elite group. And there’s a lot more!
- Doug Parker Decides ‘Small is Beautiful’ – Doesn’t Want AA-US Merger After Livery Concerns by Brett Snyder: “Everyone knows the most important part of any merger is how you paint the airplanes. This one was just too difficult for us to figure out,” sighed Parker, according to Brett’s post. And another possible reason for the merger failing according to one source was, “I mean, would you want to live in Dallas?”
- Yes! I Bought a Bank by TheMrPickles: The one and only himself bought a bank, which offers probably the best and most unique travel loyalty credit card out there. You’ll have absolutely no issues with Vanilla Reloads, points will transfer to other banks’ loyalty programs and SPG and Hyatt will treat you like royalty. And there’s so much more in this rather elaborate post.
- WestJet Announces ‘Furry Family’ Pet Program: As they did last year, Canadian airline WestJet produced a fun video about a new service. This year, they announced the easing of restrictions surrounding “pets” traveling in-cabin. No longer will they have to be in an approved container, instead allowed to roam free in-flight. And by pets, I mean goats, bears, ducks and baby crocodiles. Well done, WestJet, well done!
There are many more out there, including spoofs from Delta, JetBlue, Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic, as well as a couple from fellow BoardingArea bloggers. Do you have a favorite?
- A lawsuit filed by a United Airlines Million-Miler will proceed, as a judge threw out United’s request to have it dismissed. Well… parts of the lawsuit were dismissed, but others are still in play. The judge said, “At this stage of the litigation, the court finds it plausible that defendants had a contract with Million Miler members which differed from the contract they had with other Mileage Plus members.” Will Regional Upgrades and 100% bonus miles return?
- In other United news, Seth at Wandering Aramean reports that United will drop a second appetizer choice from existing service on two-cabin international BusinessFirst flights (think legacy Continental). Not a big loss and the single cold appetizer is certainly nothing special. The change takes effect March 1.
- Hyatt Regency will take over and reflag a former downtown Los Angeles Marriott property in May. It marks a return for Hyatt to downtown L.A. after an eight year absence. And in other Marriott news, the chain is adding/reflagging seven hotels in Thailand in the upcoming months.
- A JetBlue flight was diverted because a passenger was miffed that a fellow traveler didn’t pay for the “premium seat” next to her. Apparently, a passenger was moved from his non-premium seat to one next to her due to an inop seatback monitor and she couldn’t handle it. Really people?
- In other bad behavior, American Airlines apologized and refunded Kristen Chenoweth a pet-in-cabin fee after a flight attendant allegedly made a mistake in claiming the actress/singer failed to properly document her pooch. The FA reportedly yelled at Chenoweth causing her to break down in tears.
- Allegiant Air began scheduled Las Vegas-Reno-Las Vegas service today. The twice-weekly service occurs on Fridays and Sundays, and a look at their fares today reveals a decent bargain on many dates for less than $100 round-trip (assuming you don’t assign yourself seats, buy with a credit-card or check bags). I’ve been meaning to try out the likes of Allegiant and Spirit just for the hell of it. Now that I’m Reno-based, I might just have to give the Vegas flight a try.
- And finally, in exciting news to my Amenity Kit Series, Delta Air Lines will begin issuing new BusinessElite amenity kits this month. The new offering will feature a bag by Tumi and skin care products by Malin+Goetz. Sounds (and looks) like an upgrade to me.
[Updated: This offer is no longer available: Please visit my Mileage & Point Earning Credit Card page for existing offers.]
In other airline, hotel and travel industry news last week…
- Reservations and gate agents at United Airlines voted to remain unionized last week, marking a big win for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). A total of 16,720 people voted – 8,305 in favor of representation, 5,865 against – and they represent United’s second largest workgroup behind the carrier’s 21,400 flight attendants. Continental Airlines agents were previously un-unionized. Separately, United reported a 3.4 percent increase in traffic for the month of February compared to last year and a 1.5 to 2.5 percent increase in PRASM, a smaller increase than the previous few months.
- American Airlines posted positive February operational results enjoying a 6 percent increase in traffic from the previous year, its largest increase in many years. Wholly owned affiliate American Eagle Airlines saw an 18.9 percent increase in traffic. A company spokesperson cited improving U.S. and Japanese economies and the inauguration of new service between LAX and Shanghai as contributing factors for the growth.
- Delta Air Lines passengers have been given free access to Amazon.com while flying on the carrier’s Wi-Fi enabled aircraft, in addition to the existing free access to Delta.com and news content from The Wall Street Journal and People magazine.
- Southwest Airlines will be moving its San Antonio customer service center to a former Kmart store location this year and add 322 new jobs in an agreement with the city. The carrier will receive up to $581,649 in incentives during the next 10 years so long as the new center employs a minimum of 800 workers.
- Virgin Atlantic opened their new Clubhouse at New York’s Kennedy Airport last week and Richard Branson was on-site for the opening party that hosted travel agents, journalists and other invited guests. The new location is airside past security and will allow Upper Class passengers to change into their “sleep suits” prior to heading to the gate, if so inclined.
- Lufthansa unveiled its new lie-flat Business Class seats that will be initially seen flying on the carrier’s Boeing 747-8 aircraft and eventually rolled out fleet-wide. The new seats are angled towards each other in a V-configuration and all face the direction of travel. An eight-week trial was conducted on the FRA-JFK-FRA route where 1,349 passengers and a test crew evaluated prototypes of the seat.
- The relationship between online travel agency Orbitz Worldwide and Hilton Hotels & Resorts took a turn for the worse as the hotel chain decided not to renew its long-term agreement with the agency. As a result, the OTA reduced the prominence of Hilton properties on its website and in some cases, outright removed them from search results. According to Hilton, the move was made “in the best interests of our guests and our more than 3,800 hotels around the world.”
- Starwood Hotels & Resorts plans to open 80 new hotels this year as well as 25 new properties in Europe over the next four years. The company already opened a new W Hotel in Paris and a Le Meridien hotel in Instanbul, Turkey this year and looks to focus on other fast-growing markets, including Russia, the Ukraine and additional sites in Turkey.
- Hyatt Hotels Corporation will open new properties in Zurich and Moscow, two of the most expensive cities worldwide for hotel rates. The Hyatt Regency Moscow is planned to open in 2015 and will feature 297 rooms and 56 luxury apartments. In Zurich, Hyatt has plans for both a Hyatt Regency and Hyatt Place near the airport to open in 2017, each with more than 250 rooms.
In other hotel and travel industry news last week…
- In an attempt to steer traffic away from Online Travel Agencies like Expedia and Priceline – and the commissions paid to OTAs – several major hotel chains beta-launched Room Key. The brands include Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Marriott and Wyndham, and Room Key acts as a portal to a hotel company’s website where the booking actually takes place. It’s a pretty slick site, but I found it a bit slow in uploading choices when entering a city or zip code. They’re hoping to capture more chains and will fully launch this March.
- Club Carlson (Radisson, Country Inn & Suites, et al) has a pretty incredible promotion offering triple points for stays now through March 16, 2012. Registration is required and new this year (in the U.S., anyway), points are accrued for food and beverage purchases at the properties in addition to the room rate. Loyalty Traveler has an excellent breakdown of the promotion and its inherent value.
- A woman is suing the Starwood Hotels & Resorts chain claiming a man who received her room key at a property in Finland just by saying he was her husband sexually assaulted her. If true, it’s absolutely horrific. Her lawyer is Gloria Allred and whenever she enters the picture, I just never know what to think. She helped push Herman Cain out of the GOP running, but some of her other cases just seem peculiar to me. I don’t know why, but I’m always skeptical with her cases. Again, if true, by all means Starwood needs to face justice.
- The popular and well-known Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki completed its $45 million renovation of the Rainbow Tower. All 800 rooms were renovated and received new bathrooms, fixtures, furnishings and carpet. The top floor sports two suites – Duke Kahanamoku and Niumalu – both of which saw $1 million in upgrades. Pretty stunning. After the Outrigger Waikiki and Outrigger Reef on the Beach, the Hilton Hawaiian Village is my next favorite moderate hotel in Waikiki. Nothing beats the Halekulani, though.
- The former Carlton Hotel in midtown Manhattan, as a Preferred Hotel property, became a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel last week. The Autograph Collection was launched by Marriott in 2010 and features luxury and historic hotels around the world, including The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and The Algonquin in Times Square. The Vice President of the Group mentioned additional properties would be coming online this year in the U.S. in New Orleans and South Beach.
- Four Seasons recently made an $18 million investment in their website and online presence. The company refuses to break down the details, but one article quotes it likely includes “the big, bright photography seen online, new booking process, mobile optimization, social media integration and personal profile technology.” One day I yearn to holiday at one of their properties, but it remains out of reach for the time being. The article also quoted something I found revealing – 32% of Four Seasons guests cite the ability to check-in without speaking to someone as valuable versus the 78% of airline passengers who claim the same importance. I guess it’s sort of apples to oranges here, though. A Four Seasons front desk “agent” (they probably have much better titles) is a much higher caliber position I’d have to guess.
- Finally, business travel growth shows signs of slowing (except on the luxury end), but at least it’s still growing. One leisure analyst thinks it could be a marker of overall trends in both business and leisure travel, but another report reveals that travel agency air sales increased 6.1% in 2011. Total transactions were down 2.1%, but things still sound pretty optimistic. After all, the major airlines launched a fare increase this week that appears to have stuck.
Late last month I posted a review of how travel managers ranked airlines, those people who have contracts with Fortune 500-type businesses who are responsible for planning travel. The same outfit, Business Travel News, also surveyed a similar 519 corporate travel department officials who rated hotel chains across 13 categories.
As with the last post, these reviews come from not the end-user of the hotel room, but the department that books it for their clients. They certainly receive feedback from the travelers, but I think it’s worthwhile to see how hotels are viewed from a contractual booking-type basis. The chain I’m loyal to didn’t come in to well… eh hem… Hilton.
Each category was ranked on a 1- to 5-point scale and I’ll share the results below broken across seven tier categories from Deluxe to Mid-price extended-stay hotels. The USA Today reported on these results and further interviewed a few end-users, one of which praised Marriott claiming, “When a reservation is booked, I never have to worry about my room being there for me.” This gentleman spends 125 nights annually on the road, so also enjoys Marriott’s top-tier loyalty benefits.
The Ritz Carlton took a hit in this year’s review, dropping to third among the Deluxe properties. Marriott won the Upper Upscale category, Crown Plaza took Upscale – which is a surprise to me… my last several Crowne Plaza stays were rather mediocre – and Holiday Inn swept the Midprice range. Sheraton’s Four Points took the top honor for Select Service hotels, Staybridge Suites won Upscale extended-stay and TownPlace Suites by Marriott finished out on top for Midprice extended-stay.
I’m on my way to achieve Hilton Diamond status this year and might have to reconsider whom I book with in 2012. I feel a status match in my future with either Priority Club or Starwood. I’m definitely open to advice and recommendations, so please chime in with any comments.
And now the results… please click into each one for a full view. All images courtesy Business Travel News.
In other airline, hotel and travel industry news this week…
- Late last Friday US Airways filed a lawsuit against… its own pilots. Upset with what they’re calling an “illegal slowdown” by some East (read: US Airways) pilots, the carrier claims their West (read: America West) pilots are far more efficient in minimizing delays that impact on-time performance. Having taken weather and other non-pilot factors out of the equation, US Airways claims the percentage of flights arriving on schedule by East pilots has declined 11% since May. As it is, both geographic pilot groups have been at odds with each other since the merger of America West & US Airways over seniority issues. Still though, is a lawsuit against your own pilots the productive way to resolve the issue?
- Staying with US Airways news, one of the carrier’s former mechanics was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay full restitution for stealing $586,000 worth of equipment, some of which he sold on eBay for approximately $350,000. Items included torque wrenches, headsets, airplane landing lights, seat belts and a large hydraulic jack. Sadly, he had a 30-year career with the carrier and an otherwise clean record. Claiming disgust with being demoted and having his pay and retirement cut, he sought to reclaim his losses through theft.
- The battles between American Airlines and Orbitz are ongoing, but both parties have entered into an agreement that will keep the carrier’s flights on the OTA “into 2012.” The court order that required American to restore flights on Orbitz dictated it be maintained that way until a new court order, or September 1, 2011. In likely cooperation with each other to avoid additional litigation, they appear to have agreed for a mutual extension for the time being.
- In coincidentally related news, Travelport (who has a 48% controlling stake in Orbitz) has extended a content deal with American Airlines ensuring the carrier’s full availability, fares and other content will continue beyond the current expiration in the Worldspan global distribution system (GDS). Travelport operates three GDSs, namely Apollo, Galileo and Worldspan, and the day after the Worldspan announcement, they confirmed full-content agreements for Apollo and Galileo would also be extended. The GDS world is often confusing to the regular traveler, and I intend to devote a future post into explaining the systems, their origin and current controversy in the industry. Oh, and separately, United Airlines Economy Plus seats can now be sold by agents booking through Travelport GDSs.
- Delta Air Lines began new nonstop service on the Los Angeles to Oakland route on Monday. Operated by SkyWest, Delta is hoping to capture some of the Southwest Airlines traffic in that market and offers five round-trips daily. American Airlines via their Eagle regional subsidiary will begin daily LAX-Aspen flights this ski season beginning December 15, 2011, continuing until April 2, 2012. Lastly, Etihad Airways, the flag carrier of Abu Dhabi (UAE), is looking to expand their Australian presence beyond Sydney & Melbourne to possibly include Perth and Adelaide in the future. My opinion… probably an add-on segment to existing flights.
- Finally, I was pleased to see many companies in the industry I follow post profits for this recent quarter and/or half-year. In addition to the major carriers (sans American), Allegiant Air posted a net income of $11.9 million for the second quarter and the carrier is all but certain to begin service to Hawaii in 2012. Hertz saw a $55 million profit in the same quarter compared to a $25 million loss in the same quarter of 2010. Hyatt Hotels citing strength in “select-service brands” (e.g., Hyatt Place and Summerfield Suites) posted a net income of $37 million. To finish, and perhaps to American Airlines’ digust, GDS provider Amadeus saw its six-month net income grow 12.2% to a whopping $377 million.