Money talks. The airlines have been clear about that for some time now, each tweaking their programs a bit to make it more and more obvious. Today’s major move comes from United Airlines which is matching Delta‘s plan to track spending as a part of qualification for elite status in 2014 (towards 2015 status). Much like Delta the rule of thumb will be 10 cents per PQM; you’ll have to spend $10,000 to be a 1K going forward.
The following charges count towards the spending requirement:
- Base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges
- Flights flown by United, United Express, or Copa Airlines
- Flights operated by a Star Alliance or a MileagePlus partner airline and issued on a United ticket (ticket number starting with 016)
- Economy Plus purchases
Similar to Delta there will be an exemption for $25,000 annual spend on a co-branded credit card. Unlike Delta, however, United will not allow the CC spend to get you in to 1K (DL does for Diamond). Also similar to Delta, the spend requirement only applies for members with a mailing address in the 50 United States.
I get why they’re doing this. It sucks for me personally and 2014 will likely be my last year as a 1K. But I get it. And for the few people holding out hope that Delta would reverse course, this pretty much seals the deal on that one.
Stays at Marriott hotels can now (and again) earn miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program. The two programs were partners in the past took a bit of time off and now are together again. For the occasional Marriott guest this means one or two points per dollar spent at the various Marriott brands. And for folks with larger balances in the Marriott Rewards program those points can now be moved en masse out to AAdvantage.
Here’s the breakdown on the two options:
You’ll earn two AAdvantage miles per $1USD spent on all qualifying transactions at these participating brands:
- JW Marriott®
- Autograph Collection® Hotels
- Renaissance® Hotels
- Marriott® Hotels
- Marriott Vacation Club®
You’ll earn two AAdvantage miles per $1USD spent on room rate only at these participating brands:
- The Ritz-Carlton®
- Gaylord Hotels®
You’ll earn one AAdvantage mile per $1USD spent on room rate only at these participating brands:
- AC Hotels
- Courtyard by Marriott®
- Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott®
- SpringHill Suites by Marriott®
- Residence Inn by Marriott®
- TownePlace Suites by Marriott®
- Marriott Executive Apartments®
You can convert Marriott Rewards points to AAdvantage miles:
- 10,000 points = 2,000 miles
- 20,000 points = 5,000 miles
- 30,000 points = 10,000 miles
- 70,000 points = 25,000 miles
- 140,000 points = 50,000 miles
American is also now a participant in the Hotel + Air packages Marriott offers. A seven night stay at a Category 5 hotel should cost 150K points (4th night free, 25K/night) but with the package you can get 50K AA points AND the 7 nights for 200K Marriott points, only 60K more than the 140K it takes to transfer to the 50K AA points from the chart above. Yes, you need to have a whole lot of Marriott points to get to that bonus, but if you have them it can be a tremendous value. Note that if you plan to redeem at a Category 1 or 2 hotel this program is probably a bad value.
Finally, as part of the new partnership launch the two companies are offering 500 bonus AAdvantage miles for stays at any Marriott which are credited to an AA account from July 15 – August 15, 2013. Not sure why the wait to start, but it is there.
Always good to have more partners. Added bonus in this case is that the partnership is a pretty fair one.
The TrueBlue program has gone from one of the most strict in terms of points expiry to one of the most generous and their customers don’t have to do a thing to take advantage of the change. Rather than requiring earning activity via travel or the co-branded credit card once per year to remain active points simply do not expire now. At all.
From the email I received this morning announcing the change:
[M]embers have expressed concern that accounts must stay active for points to never expire. So, we did something about it.… Starting today, you can hold on to your TrueBlue points until you’re ready to redeem them. No activity requirements. No asterisks. No expiration dates. Just points, glorious points.
This is a significant change and one which should make many customers very happy. The lack of black-out dates and dollar-based redemption approach already make spending TrueBlue points quite easy, assuming you’ve accumulated them. Now the accumulation part gets a bit easier, even for just the occasional traveler.
That’s a win to me, though I do wonder if there will be any appreciable change in the numbers related to their AmEx CC holders.
As of 1 October 2013 Aeromexico is changing their award booking buckets to align with (most of) the rest of SkyTeam. Economy awards will book in to X and business class into O. This change has exposed the new business class bucket to one of the data sources I use for the Wandering Aramean Travel Tools which means I can now offer easier searching and alerts for Aeromexico award seats. Here is a sample search result screen:
From what I can see so far the X inventory for coach awards isn’t available via this source so those searches won’t show but I’ll keep an eye on it.
Give it a try and let me know if you run in to any troubles. And remember that this is only for travel after 1 October 2013.
Just a couple weeks ago there was discussion bout how to beat the Qantas fuel surcharges on many awards, thanks to their new partner Emirates. It should come as no surprise, really, to learn that the two carriers have come to an agreement on resolving the split in their charges. Also, no real surprise that the agreement is not entirely in customers’ favor, though it also isn’t all bad, depending on how astute a customer you are.
Photo from the Qantas/Emirates flyover of Sydney Harbour courtesy of Qantas
Emirates and Qantas have agreed to match their YQ fuel surcharge fees in shared markets. For customers this means no more using the EK flight numbers to avoid the fees, even if redeeming Qantas points. The change will take effect with tickets issued from 1 July 2013. For Sydney to London the fee will increase from $150 to $460, quite a raise. That rate is still #300 lower than the current Qantas rate, however. And Qantas has agreed to drop their fees to match the now raised Emirates numbers; that’s the silver lining in this, at least as much as there is one.
Qantas will also be changing the calculations for their charges to account for the cabin of travel as part of the fee. Premium class travelers will now pay more than customers traveling in the back of the plane. In some cases (notably Oz-SE Asia and Oz-Africa) this change means an increase in the fee paid for premium cabin customers. Australian Business Traveller has a chart with the new numbers on their site.
For the uneducated this change might appear to be a good thing. After all, many QFF redemptions just got cheaper than what their customers thought they could get. For those in the know, however, this is just another loophole closing and fees going up. Bummer.
I love good data. Taking huge chunks of information and trying to distill trends, patterns and links has always been interesting to me. And so I find myself wondering this afternoon just what to do with a massive batch of data related to airline award searches. See, for about the past year (probably longer, actually) I’ve had a tool available online to allow people to search for awards on Star Alliance carriers. And those searches each return some collection of data. Over time the data collected added up and I now realize that I have more than 5 million rows of search results available.
And now I cannot help but wonder what I should do with it. Also, I’m not entirely sure I know how to tease the data out into something useful.
Are there trends in when seats are released or booked? Are certain months or routes really more likely to have seats available? More likely to be searched on?
What else? What types of information do you want me to try to pull out of the data?
No promises, as I’m not entirely sure I know where to begin with the analysis, but I’m definitely willing to give it a shot if anyone has a suggestion of something that seems like a useful query to run.
Man do I hate being right on this one. I’ve been saying for nearly a year now that the three major global alliances are losing their cachet in various ways, mostly do to the big three Middle-Eastern carriers shaking things up in the market. This time around, however, it isn’t one of those carriers making a splash; it is Delta.
Starting on 1 September 2013 flights on many Delta partners will no longer earn full credit towards Medallion (elite) status in the SkyMiles program. The partners are being split in to four tiers, with the differences between the tiers basically the bonus earning as an Medallion member, bonus earning for premium cabins and whether the miles flown will count towards Medallion status. Quite frankly, it is ridiculously complicated, way more than it should be for any program.
Most surprising in the changes is that flights on Korean Airlines – also a member of SkyTeam – will no longer earn any credit towards elite status. This is on top of the changes which went into effect in March where many fares suddenly earned reduced Medallion credit. It is also, to the best of my knowledge, the only bilateral alliance partnership where no credit can be earnt towards elite status. That’s pretty crappy. To be fair, some KE flights carry a DL code and booking under the DL code can earn MQMs, but that is a very limited subset.
Last October, in discussing the Middle Eastern carriers and alliances I wrote this:
The real value for the airlines likely lies in the anti-trust immune operations. These tend to follow alliance lines but they aren’t exclusively so. And just being part of an alliance doesn’t guarantee participation. In other words, the real money comes not from the alliance but from having the right partners and government approvals.
Delta is putting this to work in a big way. Their joint venture partners (plus Alaska Airlines) are where the best earning happens. Other partners earn at lower rates. Delta isn’t the first to take such an approach. United changed the earning rates on premium cabin fares earlier this year, with non-JV partners earning no bonus while JV partner flights can net significantly more points. Similarly, United doesn’t offer elite bonus mileage earning on non-JV partners.
UPDATE (18:49 EDT 5 June 2013): It turns out that Delta and Korean do have an ATI in place for their trans-Pacific operations and they have for more than a decade now. Based on that this change makes less sense, but such is life.
The global alliances promise benefits like interline agreements for ticketing and bags, reciprocity for elite status benefits and some joint marketing efforts. But that’s all. They do not promise seamless award redemption or earning rules and they never have. Yes, they are good for customers but only when it comes to actual travel, not necessarily where the loyalty programs get involved. And it has always been that way. Delta is stretching the boundaries here, but it is nothing all that new.
This change is bad news for members of the SkyMiles program, to be certain. It also moves the line in terms of what competitors can change while remaining “better” than the other options. But Delta is not the first to pursue this approach to the programs and they won’t be the last. Ultimately it comes to this: If you want your business to be rewarded by a partner then you need to do business with them in a way which lets them also benefit. The more they benefit, the better they will reward you.
Today is a major day in the world of hotel loyalty and Las Vegas. In short, 12 properties – all part of the MGM portfolio – have essentially become Hyatt affiliates for the purposes of earning and redeeming points. Las Vegas is historically one of the last markets where earning hotel loyalty credit for stays at the more popular hotels is somewhere between difficult and impossible. Starting on 20 June 2013 guests at any of the 12 MGM hotels in Las Vegas, including Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and The Mirage, will be eligible to earn Hyatt Gold Passport points and stay credits. Later this summer there will also be reciprocity between the MGM M life program and the Gold Passport program, with elite status matching between the two.
In a statement, Hyatt Gold Passport SVP Jeff Zidell notes, "We know The Las Vegas Strip is an important destination for our members, and now they will have the chance to earn points and redeem award nights at 12 outstanding resorts from Bellagio to MGM Grand to Mandalay Bay."
Hyatt Gold Passport members will earn 5 points per dollar spent on both the room rate and incidental spending (only up to the first $5,000 per stay) at M life resort properties. Platinum and Diamond elites will earn 15% and 30% bonus, respectively, on top of the base earning. Oh, and the earning is additive with the M life program; you can earn in both programs at the same time. Stays at Hyatt Gold Passport properties will also count towards earning in the M life program at a rate of 8 tier points for every eligible dollar spent at a Hyatt hotel or resort. Stays at the MGM properties will not receive elite benefits such as room upgrades, late check-out or free breakfast. They will also not have the resort fee waived for elites. Lots more details in the FAQ/fine print here.
On the redemption side the same 12 hotels are participating there, too. For the properties which are category 1-4 hotels the free night certificates from the credit card will be valid. It will not be possible to redeem Gold Passport points for upgrades to suites at the MGM hotels.
Here is the breakdown of the 12 participating properties and which reward category they are in:
Category 6 – 22,000 points/night
- Mandalay Bay®
Category 5 – 18,000 points/night
- MGM Grand®
- The Signature at MGM Grand®
- The Mirage®
Category 4 – 15,000 points/night
- Monte Carlo™
- New York New York™
Category 3 – 12,000 points/night
Category 2 – 8,000 points/night
This is the second significant announcement from MGM’s M life program in the past week. The other was a partnership with Southwest Airlines regarding reciprocal earning for flights. Between these two new partners M life is stepping up their game quite significantly. And a lot of travelers can benefit as a result.
Looking to find award seats on Hawaiian Airlines flights? So long as you’re redeeming partner miles for the trip I’ve got a new option available via the Award Search page on the Wandering Aramean Travel Tools site. Currently economy partner seats can be searched for or alerted via the Star Alliance award method but that method is limited only to economy class seats. Based on my quick checks of a few data points those seats line up with the inventory available to both United Airlines MileagePlus members and American Airlines AAdvantage members but, again, only coach seats and pretty much (at least in my testing) only inter-island flights. But if you’re looking to redeem AAdvantage miles between the mainland and the islands or other partner flights the existing tool isn’t so great. Fortunately is turns out that the data is now available via another means.
Both the "T" (economy for partners) and "D" (first for partners) fare buckets are now searchable through the Hawaiian Airlines Partner Award Availability page. Here are a couple sample search results:
The data source even has some built-in proximity searching (which I don’t entirely understand) so a search for SFO will include SJC and OAK, too:
Like the other searches from the same source partial itinerary matches will be returned; that’s why LAS shows in the above results (the LAS-SFO segment doesn’t have inventory but it might still be useful).
At the end of the day I’m actually not entirely sure just how useful this is. I don’t spend much time searching for HA partner awards and I have no idea if others do. But the data is there and I can expose it like this, so here it is.
Last week I was facing a bit of a conundrum: I had an upcoming flight on an alliance I don’t bank a lot of miles in and I wanted to make sure I got the best points value for the travel. This was one of the $950 Chile in business class fares so, to be honest, even without the miles I’d say I was getting pretty good value (n.b. this is the same trip ultimately canceled due to illness but the exercise still makes sense I think). Given that the flights covered more than 12,000 miles in paid business class there had to be somewhere useful to put them, right? Here’s the thought process I went through to make my decision about where they should post.
First up, as is my default for flights on both American Airlines and Delta, I looked at crediting to the Alaska Airlines MileagePlan program. Alas, the two longest flights were codeshares (AA code, LA metal) which meant no chance of credit. Without those flights crediting the pain of splitting the segments onto different programs was far in excess of the value realized. OK, scratch MileagePlan from the game plan. I guess I really need to do some research on this one.
My next thought was to credit the flights to AAdvantage. It is an AA ticket, I already have some points in an AA account and, all else being equal, it seems like a reasonably safe place to put a small stash. But is it the best choice? Here’s what the points would have looked like credited to AA:
Netting over 16,000 award miles isn’t so bad, but also not spectacular. More disappointing to me was that the status earning potential in AAdvantage would be pretty poor. The 19,000+ EQPs is great but I still wouldn’t be AAdvantage Gold (lowest elite tier) And getting 6,000 more EQPs would take a lot of flying on cheap fares (only .5 EQP credit for G, Q, N, O and S) which is what I usually purchase. I was mentioning my disappointment over this to Fozz and he suggested Avios as an alternative. Now I had to do some real research.
The combination of Avios and British Airways Executive Club is one which I’ve thought about from time to time but never done much research on. I get Avios from my American Express Membership Rewards transfers more than from actually flying with their partners so not so much in caring about accrual rates. And status in a program which requires me to fly some number of segments on their planes isn’t quite so easy when said planes are based in London. Still, I had to give it a look. The numbers were pleasantly surprising.
That same 16,491 award miles number gets me three one-way short-haul awards (and a decent bit leftover) or two one-way medium-haul awards. I think that’s of more value than the same number in the AAdvantage program (though with much larger numbers the metrics can shift). On the status earning side of things the 540 Tier Points (Tier Points calculator here) leaves me 60 points short of Silver status. I’d have more than the 300 points required for Bronze status, though I’d still need two BA metal flights (or 4 for Silver). Sure, it would require more travel to get to the status threshold but far less than what AA would require of me and the value of that status would be much better. BA Silver includes oneworld sapphire status which includes lounge access, priority check-in and 100% bonus RDM earning on future flights. That’s pretty darn nice.
Alas, the trip was not meant to be for me (all three PointsHoarder hosts scheduled to make the hop to IPC had to cancel; maybe there is a curse). Still, going through the process of exploring where to credit the flights was a useful learning exercise for me. And spending the 20 minutes reviewing my options helped ensure I was making the best possible decision. At least I think I was.