From the Bloomberg article (linked above):
LodgeNet hasn’t posted an annual profit since 2006. Last year, 95 percent of its revenue came from the hotel industry, with Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International Inc. accounting for about a third of sales, according to the company’s filings.
Go figure. When your business model involves what many would call fleecing – charging exorbitantly high prices for things that should be much cheaper… or free – you go out of business!
Personally, given their apparent unawareness of the internet, Google, NetFlix, Hulu and tvguide.com, I can’t say I’m surprised at all. I hope this shakes them up a bit and they take a look at where they can add value, what consumers would pay for, and better align their offerings.
Letting me watch LodgeNet channels/content on my smart device while trapped in a hotel meeting room for a seminar? That I’d pay for.
Today is the first business day of 2013. One of my goals this year is actually to travel less – last year was 178 segments / 158K elite-qualifying miles and 149 nights in hotels. This year I’m setting the goal of reducing my flying 30% to 125 segments (I’m primarily a short-haul segment-based qualifier), but my hotel nights will likely stay about the same.
Given that reduction, it’s time to look at what makes sense for status. My primary carrier is American Airlines, where I fly enough to maintain Executive Platinum status. It’s safe to say that the majority of my travel will be on American this year, but American still has a “hole” in the southeast… and I travel in/through southeastern cities quite a bit. Normally, AUS-DFW-ATL (or any other destination) isn’t bad, but something like Atlanta to Charlotte becomes a problem on AA unless I’m willing to fly through Dallas, Chicago, Miami or New York to get there (and pay the price to do so).
Last year, that southeast-region travel was flown on Delta, primarily because of the “Alaska loophole” for status, earning, redemption and day-of-flight upgrades on Delta flights for Alaska Airlines MVP’s. But to maintain MVP Gold status on Alaska I need 60 segments on partner airlines. Given that EP status requires 100, and that’s my focus, that leaves me with about 25 segments to use towards status elsewhere… if possible. Even Alaska’s lowest tier, “basic” MVP, requires 30 segments on partner airlines.
After reviewing the programs, route maps, schedules and general fare competitiveness I’ve decided to move my southeast travel to Airtran. Recently acquired by Southwest, Airtran is a large player in the region with exactly the connections I need – and their Elite status is simple to obtain and keep. Earning status requires 10 one-way coach class trips (or 5 round trips) in 90 days; keeping it requires 25 one-way flights in a year – exactly the number I needed. The one “catch” is that only Airtran flights count toward Elite status. Although flights on Southwest can earn points convertible to Airtran credits, those credits do not count towards Elite status. Given that my travel overlaps Airtran’s route map well, though, I don’t foresee a problem with this.
Making this move, though, required two concurrent actions. First, I switched my American Express Airline Reimbursement Program choice to Southwest/Airtran. This gives me $200/year towards incidentals, including bag fees – enough to cover the flights I’ll need to get Elite status and free checked bags on Airtran. Second, I requested a status match from Southwest. Southwest has a history of status matching programs, albeit selectively, but I wrote a concise email with the request/reason and hope to hear back (and will post the result) soon.
I’ll still have the MVP Gold status I earned last year to fall back on should I need to fly Delta, and the occasional need for flexibility with Southwest will make earning points with them nice because I’ll have a way to use them on Airtran.
I’d love to hear feedback from readers about the ins and outs of Airtran, Southwest points/credits converting to Airtran credits, etc. I’ve read ThePointsGuy’s article on the program – what else should I know?
Along with all the airline miles, I’ve also spent quite a few nights in hotels this year:
Starwood – 102 nights
Hilton – 23 nights (Diamond requal through Surpass)
Hyatt – 22 nights
IHG – 2 nights
Marriott – 0 nights
Total: 149 nights
That’s an average of just under 3 nights/week in a bed that’s not my own. Granted, some of that was vacation travel but the good majority of that was business-related travel.
Starwood is usually my first choice but when they’re booked up or there’s not a Starwood property available I’ll fall back to Hilton. I also had quite a few Hyatt nights this year due to a convention and an incredible Hyatt promo that allowed me to accrue 24,500 miles on United (enough for a free round trip ticket). The two IHG nights were essentially mistakes – my failure to read the terms of a promo correctly – but were still nice stays. I list Marriott only because while I had no stays this year, I did last year and will again next year due to a convention.
What program did you accrue to? And since I know there are road warriors out there with more stays, who’s got the highest number this year? And more importantly – was it worth it?
It looks like all my travel will be done by December 19th this year and that we’re doing a stay-cation in Austin for our Anniversary (nice hotel, elegant dinner, and Willie Nelson @ Austin City Limits the next evening). Where’d I end up?
- 111 segments
- 118,156 EQM (including DEQM promos)
- 70,810 actual flight miles
- 185,069 RDM (not including restaurants, rental cars, etc.)
Requalified as Executive Platinum
- 61 segments
- 37,342 EQM
- 73,564 RDM (not including rental cars, credit cards, etc.)
Requalified as MVP Gold
- 6 segments
- 2,768 EQM
Did not requalify for status
- 178 segments
- 158,266 EQM (including DEQM promos)
Where’d you end up?
I’m going to hit 100 nights with SPG this year, which means I’ll qualify for a Personal Ambassador. What’s a Personal Ambassador, you ask? SPG.com defines it like this:
SPG 100 Nights Benefit
Our highest level of service. Imagine having a single point of contact who can help make everything fall into place when you travel. That’s exactly the kind of personalized service SPG ambassadors provide. They handle everything from room preferences to restaurant reservations to special occasions. Just tell them what you need, and they’ll work to make it happen any day of the year.
Essentially, while many properties have Platinum Concierges available to any Platinum members, this is a single-point-of-contact for any kind of related request for any SPG stay. Rather than have to look up a hotel, contact the Platinum concierge, make the request, etc., I’ll just be able to contact one person at SPG who will take care of the rest for me.
How often will I use it? Probably not often. If anything, I might use it for Your24 requests here and there, or difficult-availability reservations. Beyond that, I’m usually pretty firmly in control of my own destiny.
What has your experience been with a hotel-chain ambassador/concierge service? What things have you asked for and been granted or denied?
“I’ll have the fish!” isn’t something you’ll usually hear when it comes to airline food. Fish is more difficult to prepare, store and re-heat than other proteins, and the variety of fish can make it difficult to match to personal tastes. Imagine my surprise today when, given a choice, the fish dish was different enough to make it a viable choice.
I was on AA 1843 from AUS-LAX; the flight left at 12:10 PM – right at lunch time. After getting airborne, getting a hot towel, drink and warm mixed nuts, the FA started lunch service (back to front, since this was an odd-numbered flight and AA uses FEBO). The choices were a cold salad with chicken (which she called “chicken salad” and many people interpreted as a different dish) or a “fish quesadilla.” Cold iceberg lettuce not sounding appetizing, I opted for the quesadilla. What was served was a nice surprise:
Here’s a closeup of the quasadilla, which included pretty much a whole filet of a whitefish I’d guess to be Tilapia:
A bonus was the matching salad – the first time I think I’ve had pickled red onions and cotija cheese on American Airlines:
Even more, it came with an unexpected extra – new bread choices! I opted for the cheese roll:
My seatmate opted for the pretzel stick roll:
While some have bemoaned the changing of menus and portion sizes (espcially on “snack” offerings) recently, I found the new lunch offering presented today to be one of the tastiest airline meals I’ve ever had. The tortilla kept the fish, tucked neatly inside, appropriately moist and the cheese used (Manchego?) had a good flavor (it’s notoriously difficult to mix fish and cheese). The meal was filling and the salad matching the style of the entree so closely was a pleasant accoutrement. I’m looking forward to the flight home from SJC-DFW, now!
I’ve personally never seen the apocryphal Cheeseburger on an AA flight but I’ll ask the rest of you – what are you most favorite (or least favorite) airline meals, and why? If we can, let’s limit this to DOMESTIC meals, since international meals are going to vary significantly across carriers.
“Million Mile” status typically confers lifetime benefits on most carriers, American Airlines included. I’m closer and closer to one million miles… in more ways than one. I’m about to cross the 75% mark towards Million Miler status on American Airlines and I’m within striking distance of one million redeemable miles across five mileage programs, even after recent redemptions.
I’m at ~731,000 “Million Miler” miles today and I’m flying about 70,000 actual paid “butt in seat” miles per year (only actual flight miles, excluding award tickets, count towards Million Miler status – 500-mile minimums for EQM/RDM don’t apply to MM counts). That puts me about three and a half years away from lifetime status. While Gold status on American isn’t huge in terms of benefits, having a baseline of status certainly makes a difference.
As far as redeemable miles, I’ve got these current account balances (rounded off for clarity):
- American: 506,000
- Alaska: 28,000
- United: 52,000
- US Air: 202,000
- Hawaiian: 20,000
- Total: 808,000
I’ll fly enough to add at least 30,000 more miles to that pool this year. In a pinch I could add another 50,000 miles to any of those programs with a transfer from SPG of 40,000 Starpoints; I could also add 30,000 miles from 200,000 HHonors points – 80,000 more miles from hotels, 110,000 miles in total. I value hotel points, however – especially Starpoints – so I’d prefer to leave those be. So what will I do with these miles?
- Well, we’ve already got a week in Hawaii planned next summer via the Alaska/Iceland Air deal, so no miles are needed there. I recently burned 55,000 Alaska miles for a coach ticket, too, so that my daughter could join my wife and I on this trip.
- The US Air miles are for a Christmas/New Year’s trip we’ll take next year to Europe. Based on the “330 day” release schedule, that trip should be bookable around the end of January next year.
- The AA miles are being saved for three Oneworld RTW “Zone 9″ awards in business class, 220K miles each (total of 660K). Zone 9 awards are good for 35,000-50,000 mile trips spanning multiple Oneworld airlines. This trip will be in 2014, so I’ll be booking it next year (about the time I hit 660K).
- The United, Alaska and Hawaiian miles are “safety net” miles – 25K is enough for a coach round trip on US Air or United via United, Alaska, American or Delta via Alaska, and Delta via Hawaiian.
Are you banking miles for a trip? Where do you want to go and what earning options are you using to get there?
Sunday, September 30, 9:15 PM and the delays continue at DFW. Here’s the flight board:
Given the continuing instability it’s likely the rest of my flying this year will go to Delta unless/until AA gets this resolved. Unfortunately, AA’s labor doesn’t seem to see how poorly this reflects on them – and how much that ends up hurting them in the end.
I even witnessed a new tactic tonight – station management working the gate coming on board and ID’ing every passenger seated in First class, one by one, from the manifest/passenger list. Every person, every seat – after we’d already boarded using boarding passes that were scanned by the scanner as we proceeded down the ramp.
At DFW, the delays at our gate and the ate beside us were both attributed to “crews cleaning the aircraft.”
While actions like these continue, passengers lose.
Update: My 9:40 flight was finally officially delayed until 10:00 PM, and took off sometime after 10:10. This update sponsored by Gogo…
United’s “Buy Miles at 40% Off” promotion is back through October 31st. It’s not targeted and is open to anyone using the following link:
20% off up to 30,000 miles (3.0 cpm)
40% off 30,000 miles or more (up to 100,000) – 2.3 cpm
That’s not as good a deal as US Airways 100% bonus promotion (functionally 50% off) at 1.8 cpm, but if you have an immediate use at a redemption rate above 2.3 cpm it can be a good savings.
As always, buying miles simply to bank them isn’t a good investment – but using miles to offset upgrade costs generally can be.
Finally, these are “redeemable” miles only – they do not affect elite status qualification.
Are you buying United miles? How will you use them?
Which Oneworld partner program other than AAdvantage is useful for a US-based AA flyer with mostly US domestic travel? I asked myself this as I looked at my secondary earnings program and why I use it. For now, it’s Alaska, because I have to fly enough Delta and don’t want to be a SkyMiles/SkyTeam member. I also carry an Amex Platinum, which gets me lounge access on AA/AS/DL/US, so I’m not depending on status for that, either. Finally, the domestic benefits of AAdvantage – upgrades, in particular – make it well worth staying primary. My next goal is 1MM on American, and lifetime Gold status. That said, is there a case for Oneworld flyers in the US where AAdvantage be better supplemented with a partner’s program?
Let’s look at the OW members and their status programs (several have different earning programs such as JAL MileageBank), at a glance, and cut out any with significant restrictions (flight on native airline, reduced earnings, etc.):
BA/Iberia (IAG): Avios
(o) Uses Tier Points, based on fare/partner
(-) Requires 4 segments on BA/Iberia
(-) 25% mileage credit on anything lower than Y/B fares
(-) Status earning (EQM/EQS) seems restricted to only S7 flights – partner flights are RDM only
Royal Jordanian: Royal Plus
(-) Requires at least 4 segments on RJ for Silver (Ruby), 8 for Gold (Sapphire)
(-) 25% mileage credit on deep-discount economy fares, 125-mile minimum earning
(-) 25% EQM earning on deep-discount economy, 50% on W fares
(+) 100% EQM/EQS on all AA Economy fares
(-) Requires at least 4 segments on LAN
JAL: Fly On
(o) Uses points and miles
(-) Requires significant percentage of travel on JAL group airlines for status
That leaves Cathay Pacific and Qantas. Of the two, each has some different perks, depending on your approach:
Cathay Pacific: Marco Polo
(-) $50 fee to join Marco Polo unless you status match in or earn Silver without being a member
(+) 100% EQM/EQS on all AA Economy fares
(+) works on a rolling 12-month basis, resets EQS/EQM to 0 at each level change
(o) Status ladder would be:
- 30/20,000 to reach Silver
- 40/60,000 to reach Gold
- 80/120,000 to reach Diamond
- 80/120,000 to re-qualify as diamond (12 months from upgrade date)
Qantas: Frequent Flyer
(-) Uses status credits based on mileage distance of the flight
(+) All fare classes on AA flights qualify for full status credits
(+) Generous lifetime status program: 7,000 credits for Silver (Ruby) and 14,000 for Gold (Sapphire)
Are you a member of another Oneworld program, but a US-based domestic traveler? Are there benefits besides lounge access or lifetime status that I’m missing?