PointsHound, the hotel booking site which lets you earn airline points for your stay, has added a few new partners to their earning options in the past couple weeks. American Airlines‘ AAdvantage, Virgin America‘s Elevate and the Etihad Guest programs are now options for their members. This brings the total number of earning partner options up to eight:
In my quick scan of the site this morning the Etihad and AAdvantage earning rates seem to be about on par with those from United’s MileagePlus or Delta‘s SkyMiles programs. Earning rates in the Elevate program appear to be rather lower in the few I saw, but still reasonable.
Definitely worth checking out the earning options with PointsHound when looking at hotels, especially when not staying at a branded property (or where their Double Up feature works and you can get both earnings). In some cases cash-back portals might still be a better value, but PointsHound is definitely in the running.
Also, if you’re new to PointsHound and want 250 points in your favorite program when you enroll feel free to use my referral link (I get 250 points, too). The other links above are direct without any referrals.
PointsHound, the hotel booking engine which also lets you earn airline points, has a promotion out through the end of March earning members 500 bonus miles in their airline program of choice for completing a new hotel booking. PointsHound currently has 5 partners available:
When the program initially launched there were some limitations in the earning scheme, most notably that bookings made via PointsHound were considered OTA bookings by the hotels and therefore not eligible for earning points in the hotel loyalty program as well. Earlier this month that started to change as the company introduced certain markets and properties where it is possible to earn both airline points at booking AND hotel points during the stay. That’s a big upgrade for people who like their hotel status just as much as their airline points.
The double earning is limited right now but expected to grown in the near future. Ditto for the collection of partner airlines.
Still no option to search directly for properties where the double earning is possible but that will hopefully change soon enough. In the mean time, at least worth looking in to again, particularly with the 500 bonus miles on offer right now.
n.b.- The link above to PointsHound is a referral link for me. I don’t know if it still actually does anything, but it used to offer bonus points for enrollment.
Another lawsuit has fallen in the lap of United Airlines and their MileagePlus frequent flyer program. This time around it is not based on elite benefits but on claims that passengers are not begin credited with the proper number of points per their contract with the company. And, I must admit, what I saw when I actually read the filing surprised me quite a bit, mostly because the claimant missed the opportunity to go after what is likely a legitimate data set and instead went with one of the more ridiculous claims I’ve heard in a while.
Hongbo Han has filed a class action claim in Illinois suggesting that the airline is shorting customers because they are credited only with the nominal point-to-point distances between two cities rather than with the actual miles flown on any given flight. Han claims that this approach violates the terms of the contract with Mileage Plus because:
Nowhere in the MileagePlus Program Rules does United state that mileage or miles credited are not actual miles flown by the member. Clause 18.1 of the MileagePlus Program Rules merely states that "[i]n the case of air travel, mileage will only be credited for flights actually flown by the member."
The filing includes a number of Beijing – Dulles flight details, noting that United routinely awards 6,920 miles for that routing despite the actual flight routing being more than that. Han’s complaint details the actual miles flown on his travel dates and suggests that United owes him those miles, plus the 25% bonus on those extra miles due to his "Premier status."
Han does acknowledge that the awarded flight miles are determined by the "purchased ticket routing" which does not necessarily match the flown aircraft routing, so it is not entirely clear that there is much of a case here, but I suppose we’ll see. The part where Han cites a USA Today "article" about points as supporting his claim through selectively quoting the content out of context also probably isn’t going to help the case.
What is most surprising to me is that Han took the rather less certain claim in filing the case, ignoring that the number of miles credited often is actually less than the distance between the airports even on the most ideal routing. The IAD-PEK flight he mentions several times in the claim only earns 6,920 points. But the distance between the two airports is actually 6,921 according to the most commonly accepted formula for calculating the distance between two points on a spheroid of the earth’s dimensions. Newark to Hong Kong is 8,065 miles. United even knows that:
And yet they routinely only ever award 8,060 miles for the trip.
There was some outrage a year ago when the points credited for each city pair changed, mostly to lower numbers. United at the time claimed that the issue was related to differing data sets and calculation methods. Ultimately they simply backed off the changes. But that seems a much more likely case of being able to actually win a claim against the company than the suggestion that actual flight miles should be used.
To be fair, I was pretty drunk on a flight back in October 2007 and during the time we spent circling over Virginia and Pennsylvania waiting to land in Newark I wrote an open letter to Continental asking to earn the points actually flown rather than just the point-to-point distance. But I also was joking. This guy filed a class-action lawsuit over basically the same thing.
We’ll see where this one ends up, but I have a feeling it won’t be in Han’s favor.
A copy of the filing can be found here.
UPDATE: It seems that United isn’t the only carrier facing this challenge. US Airways and Delta were served with nearly identical suits (citing the same USA Today story and basically just search/replace on the other salient details) as well.
Getting information about your TrueBlue account just got a bit easier. JetBlue has launched a new website for their members, adding more features and information. They even have a photo of me on my profile; I actually don’t really know where they got that from.
With the launch of Mosaic last year and the changes to the TrueBlue bonus points structure there are also some additional information on the front page about progress towards those levels:
They also have points earning and redemption details going back, in theory, for the life of the TrueBlue account. From what I can see it is actually only the life of the account since the migration to the new TrueBlue program a couple years ago, but it is still fun for me to see all the entries there. It also is a good reminder that I should probably redeem those points one of these days. Sitting on that balance probably isn’t so useful.
And a breakdowns by activity type:
In the Manage My Points section there are some other options related to buying points or getting credit for flights which didn’t previously post:
Overall some nice improvements to the information and functionality available and the flow of data through the site. Personally I am not a huge fan of the UI, mostly because it doesn’t render well on the tiny screen of my trusty netbook, but on a normal sized screen it is pretty solid.
And I really do wonder where they’re pulling that photo of me from…
UPDATE: Apparently I have a profile on their community site which includes a photo. Not that I have used the site in months, but it isn’t quite as creepy as I thought.
This week Southwest announced a rather significant milestone related to their integration with subsidiary AirTran. All flights on both carriers can now be booked as a single itinerary. There are a few limitations – most notably that international routes cannot be booked on the Southwest site – but overall the change means great news for AirTran passengers who don’t like bag fees.
Despite the merger there are a few policies where Southwest is rather more customer friendly which have not migrated to the AirTran side of the operations. Things like bag fees, for example, still exist on AirTran and they were recently raised. Similarly, change fees and re-fare policies on AirTran aren’t nearly as generous to the customer as they are on the Southwest side of things. Up until this past Monday you had to book on the AirTran site to get access to many AirTran routes and destinations. And that meant you had to accept the less customer-friendly policies. Today, however, other than the 8 international destinations served by AirTran, that is no longer the case.
As an example, take a trip from New York to Pensacola. Service into Pensacola is only offered on AirTran flights but they can now be booked using the Southwest site and the prices are identical.
Mixed carrier itineraries look similar on the systems:
Booking these itineraries on the AirTran site means you’re stuck with the AirTran policies. The press release states that any booking which includes a Southwest-operated segment should be exempt from bag fees but the other restrictive rules will still apply:
…[A]ny itinerary with a Southwest segment or that is purchased through a Southwest point-of-sale channel will not have bag fees for the first or second checked bag (weight and size restrictions apply.)
Also worth noting that points earning is dictated by the booking channel. If you book through AirTran you earn A+ rewards, regardless of who operates the segments. There are scenarios where that might be beneficial to the passenger to switch the booking channel depending on whether you want A+ credits or RapidRewards points.
Customers will continue to earn and redeem currency through the frequent flyer loyalty programs of their Marketing Carrier, regardless of the Operating Carrier they travel on. Customers should be enrolled in both Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards and AirTran Airways A+ Rewards programs in order to earn currency from whichever airline they purchase a ticket.
Lots of decisions to make depending on which earns you the best points and has the best policies.
Amtrak has a double points promotion which just went live this morning. And it covers EVERYTHING!
The only catch is that members are limited to only two one-way trips daily. Still, this is a pretty solid deal.
I was only a bit surprised to find a wide range of choices available for award flights from New York to Northern Germany in mid-March. After all, it is the middle of winter and most spring break folks are headed to sun and surf or other more traditional destinations. We had our choice of the non-stop United flight to Hamburg or taking a connection in Frankfurt and flying in to Hannover. Given our initial destination of Hildesheim is much closer to Hannover, plus the better flight time (9pm departure rather than 5:30pm) I figured we’d take the extra travel time. Plus it meant I’d get to experience Singapore Air in their economy cabin, rounding out the full set (I did suites a couple months ago and business a year ago). So, thanks to some MileagePlus points I got us booked on JFK-FRA-HAJ with a reasonable layover in Frankfurt for breakfast and a shower in the Senator Lounge.
We got to JFK a bit early so that we could have dinner. We considered the options in the Swiss lounge in T4 and quickly decided to have a real dinner instead. There is a branch of The Palm in the terminal and, despite some previous bad experiences with other airport steakhouses, we gave it a go. Mostly because it was the only reasonable meal option there. And it was surprisingly good. It was helped by our waitress Victoria who was old-school NYC in a good way. But the food was also quite tasty. And by virtue of sitting there rather than in the lounge we got to see this guy and his sparkly backpack. All sorts of good happening there.
Once on board we were treated to the bonus of having the middle seat between us empty. We almost got lie-flat coach but I was slow to jump into the seat across the aisle. Yeah, loads were light. That was good because the space on board isn’t particularly generous down the back of the plane. There is a foot rest which mostly just got in my way, preventing me from extending my legs under the seat in front of me. And the seats are the articulating ones so the recline slides the bottom forward a bit. Reclining decreases legroom. Yuck.
On the plus side, economy class got amenity kits (socks & a toothbrush) and earplugs/eye mask were available on request from the flight attendants. Also, free drinks with the dinner service, though it was really only beer & wine. Liquor was available but not on the drink cart so the delay in having the FA go to the galley to get it made it a rather unappealing option. The meal was OK. Nothing special, really, either good or bad. I suppose that’s about all one can really hope for in coach these days.
On the plus side, Singapore has quite a selection of movies loaded up on their IFE systems. Most were relatively new releases but there were a few from the archives as well. It took three reboots for my IFE to actually work properly (others around me had similar troubles) but once it got working it was pretty good. The in-flight internet was not working, making me 0/2 on trying that product out with Singapore Air. I’m happy my plan was to sleep and not be working.
Oh, and just because I can, a laviator shot on board showing off my RouteHappy shirt.
Overall I’d say that the timing of the SQ flight was still better than the UA option I had. But seat comfort would have been better on United, especially vis a vis personal space since I can get EconomyPlus for free. The meal was maybe a smidgen better on Singapore Air but with the later departure that matters less. And United’s IFE selection is sufficient for my tastes, maybe even better if you like the classics more than current cinema. In premium cabins there are a many more reasons to favor Singapore Air over United. In economy I’m not so sure about that choice. Especially if you’ve got elite status.
The economy hotel tier in Europe will see a new player come March 2014: Moxy Hotels. The brand, backed by Marriott, expects to open the first of their new properties in Milan roughly a year from now, kicking off plans for 150 properties across Europe over a 10 year period, 50 of them in the next 5 years. The brand is focused on the millennial generation, with an emphasis on stylish design, connectivity and an affordable price. They want to grab the intersection of the backpacker and jet set markets.
Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott International, sees great potential for the new brand:
MOXY HOTELS is the essence of the next generation traveler, not only Gen X and Y but people with a younger sensibility, for whom contemporary style is paramount. Every aspect of the hotel was thoughtfully researched and crafted to reflect and deliver on the changing lifestyles and expectations of this fast-growing customer segment. We believe Marriott will lead the way in redefining the traditional economy hotel experience throughout Europe.
After Milan the brand plans to open in Frankfurt, Berlin and London. Other locations will be targeted in Germany, Austria, United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.
The hotels will be medium sized – the goal is 150-300 rooms at each property – with a focus on welcoming common spaces as much as in well appointed rooms. In this way the Moxy brand hopes to offer the social aspects of hostels while going a step or three up the ladder on amenities and privacy when the guests want it. And with free wifi throughout the properties and USB ports at every outlet the company is clearly taking a fresh view on features, at least in some areas. And for guests who want something a bit more traditional there will still be large LCD TVs in the rooms.
For budget travelers who are also points-focused the Moxy chain offers the best of both worlds. Their participation in the Marriott Rewards program will allow guests to accrue and redeem points similar to other Marriott-backed properties. And with only 20% of the budget hotels in Europe currently brand-affiliated this new product opens up a lot of possibilities in the space.
The way they describe the properties I can see some appeal for my travel habits, despite being quite a bit older than the "millennial" target market. That said, looking at the photos on their website I’m clearly not in the same circles. Not quite hipster and not quite euro-trashy; I don’t exactly know what they are going for, but it does have me intrigued. And, while I don’t really love visiting Milan, I suppose I can plan a trip for next spring anyways, just to see how it is.
Just because I don’t see a ton of value in hotel loyalty programs doesn’t mean I’m not a member of most of them. Keeping up with what’s going on means being a member, even if I don’t have a lot of points. But it also means I get some rather entertaining emails from the programs. This week saw two such emails come in.
The first, from Club Carlson, was advertising their 25% off redemption promotion through April 30, 2013 for properties in China. Alas, this is how it looked when it came in:
Apparently my zero points might be enough to get me an award night with the new discount.
Putting that entertainment aside, the promo is actually pretty good if you’re going to be in China and have some Club Carlson Gold Points in your stash. The promo code is 25REDEEM to get the discount.
The second email came in from Le Club Accor. Turns out it has been a while since I stayed at one of their hotels and my points are going to expire.
Yup…all 78 points are going to evaporate. And I’m not going to do anything about it at all.
I suppose I’m glad I got the emails. And I know that they are using mail merge algorithms to build the content. I just think – especially in the case of the Club Carlson one – the text might need a bit of adjusting to be a bit more relevant and a bit less humorous.
The partnership between Virgin America and Singapore Air has deepened with the announcement this week of frequent flyer reciprocity between the two programs. Members in both programs will be able to earn and redeem points for flights on the partner. Virgin America is celebrating by offering 500 free points to all their members. Mostly great news, really, though the devil is in the details.
For Virgin America’s Elevate members the earning rates for Singapore Air-operated flights are pretty meager:
Yes, I get that Elevate is a revenue-based program rather than a distance-based one so the 1:1 ratio doesn’t necessarily line up perfectly. But a 70% earning rate for paid Suites cabin travel is pretty darn low. A paid business class ticket from San Francisco to Singapore will net 4,220 points or roughly $100 in Elevate credit. That same flight will earn between 10,000 and 17,000 points when credited to a Star Alliance partner of Singapore Air; it is hard to value that at less than the $100 Elevate is offering and quite easy to do better than the $100 level.
Redeeming Elevate points for travel on Singapore Air is similarly challenging. A return trip in business class on SFO-SIN rings in at 95,000 points. Just over 22 round trip flights will net you enough points to redeem for one. That’s roughly double the rate required from most other Singapore Air partners.
For short-haul redemptions in SE Asia, however, the Elevate option may be a reasonable one. Singapore to Bangkok is only 6,000 points and $46 in taxes/fees for a return trip in economy; it is 13,000 in business. That’s roughly $200-350 worth of points and fees. The next closest I can find is 20,000 from ANA or 25,000 points from a host of other carriers for an economy class ticket. Redeeming Elevate points would be a win there, at least compared to the other programs. Or you can look at is as a paid business class SFO-SIN gets you a free economy onward to Bangkok at some later point. Not necessarily the best deal but not completely awful either. And with 136 new routes now available plenty of opportunity to suss out the deals. Just don’t expect a lot of premium cabin inventory to show up, especially on long-haul routes.
For Singapore Air’s KrisFlyer members earning on Virgin American-operated flights actually looks like a pretty good deal. The accrual rates are a minimum of 100% of the miles flown with a 50% bonus for C, D and J class tickets. No bonus for Main Cabin Select but that’s not too surprising. The redemption rates on Virgin America metal are a bit complex, and not particularly great (40K for transcon return in economy) but there is an option for Main Cabin Select redemption if you’re in to that. It is not clear what fare bucket the awards come out of so access to the seats may be limited.
Overall this is a solid partnership, especially for KrisFlyer members. And there are even a few gems in there for the Elevate members, too.