Posts in the category "Mileage Programs":

Delta SkyMiles rewards will be tied to demand

delta plane

For a story on NBC News, I had a chance to dig into the debate over the latest changes coming to Delta Air Lines SkyMiles frequent flier program.

Here’s a rundown of some of the changes and some expert takes on the carrier’s move:

Next June, Delta Air Lines becomes the first of the “big three” U.S. airlines to ditch the classic fixed miles-for-a-free-flight system in favor of a supply-and-demand scheme that, in many case, will likely require more mileage points to fly on more popular routes or at the last minute.

JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin America already offer this type of award program.

Delta announced the change by saying that “the number of miles needed (for a free flight) will change based on destination, demand and other considerations,” beginning on June 1, 2016.

Other changes take effect immediately.

Delta spokesman Anthony Black said “most award prices will stay the same, with a greater availability of awards at the lowest prices and some new 7,500 and 10,000 mile one-way awards. Members can take advantage of lower prices immediately, while other price changes won’t take affect for travel more than 10 months from now.”

While some changes should make it easier for passengers to access award seats, others may increase the amount of miles needed to purchase upgrades or tickets.

Many frequent fliers and point watchers have taken issue with some of the changes and the amount of information shared with customers.

“Delta will now determine demand and other factors to determine how many miles are required, in the same way that it uses those factors to determine the price of a paid ticket,” said Scott Mackenzie of Travel Codex.

Delta has removed the award chart from its site and that reduction in transparency will mean Delta customers will have a hard time determining if they’re getting a good value for their frequent flier miles, said travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt of the Atmosphere Research Group.

Travelers may end up having to use more miles to fly popular routes at the last minute, but there may be times when the new plan works in favor of the consumer.

“If demand is soft to a particular destination,” said Harteveldt, “The cheapest tickets may be put on the market for less than the minimum 25,000 points that we have today.”

Travelers irritated by the change have vowed to stop by flying Delta.

But “the value of a frequent flyer mile is dependent on demand,” said Chris McGinnis of TravelSkills.com.

“Once demand falls off, Delta will use the SkyMiles program to woo us back with added value and perks. We just have to be patient.”

Airline points for donating cash to Nepal

united nepal

Lots of groups are raising money to help those affected by the earthquake in Nepal and you should donate what you can to at least one of them.

Airlines are joining the effort and United Airlines is first out of the gate to offer a mileage bonus to MileagePlus members who donate to the cause.

The airline is working with the American Red Cross, Americares, Airlink and Operation USA. MileagePlus members who give between $50-99 will receive 250 bonus miles, those who contribute $100-249 will receive 500 bonus miles, and members who donate more than $250 will receive 1,000 bonus miles.

5 million bonus miles will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis for contributions made through the airline’s fundraising page through 11:59 PM CDT, on May 15, 2015.

United is also putting up $50,000 to match donations to these partner organizations from United customers and the carrier’s employees.

Go here to participate

We’ll add other airline mileage-bonus programs as we find them and if you spot one, let us know.

Travel tune-up: re-thinking airline loyalty programs

Photo from UW Digital Collections, via The Commons on Flickr

Photo from UW Digital Collections, via The Commons on Flickr

About 25 million people had plans to travel by air this Thanksgiving weekend and, as they return from their holiday, some are already making travel plans for 2015 using the frequent flier miles they earned from airline loyalty programs this past year.

But changes in some of those programs might make some travelers rethink their allegiances now.

Alaska Airlines will begin offering increased mileage bonuses for a number of fare classes and elite Mileage Plan members. Starting January 1, the airline will be offering big mileage bonuses to first class, refundable coach and MVP Gold upgradeable travelers.

Both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are joining the fray by upping the antes for flight miles and elite programs, through a mix of cash spend and frequent flier miles.

Beginning January 1, 2015 the cash spend required for reaching various levels of Premier status on United Airlines in 2016 will be raised. And starting March, 2015, United passengers will earn award Mileage Plus frequent flier miles based on an equation that takes into consideration ticket price and frequent flier status instead of actual miles flown.

As of January 1, 2015, Delta Air Lines SkyMiles members will earn miles based on ticket price and elite program status as well and, as these charts outline, the cash spend for reaching for reaching various Medallion levels is increased as well.

Various websites (many of which earn commissions from promoting mileage-linked credit cards) parse the minutiae of the airline mileage rules but “come next February, I think a lot of people are going to drop status because of these changes,” said Brian Kelly, founder of ThePointsGuy.com. “Even though they may have flown the same amount as the year before, they most likely won’t hit the revenue requirements.”

It may be more difficult to accrue elite status, but United and Delta have still rolled out some helpful all-access perks.

In August, Delta introduced Delta Studio, which offers movies, TV episodes, music, games and other free entertainment options on all of its domestic aircraft and two-cabin regional jets.

Just this week, United expanded its free on-board wireless video streaming to Android devices, and will also offer bonus mileage incentives to smartphone app users via MileagePlus X.

And, as part of a major make-over underway at United’s hub at Newark Liberty’s Terminal C, passengers will be able to use Mileage Plus award miles to pay for purchases in restaurants and stores via the 6,000 iPads OTG Management is installing as part of the project.

In the second quarter of 2015, American Airlines’ AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles members will become part of the same frequent flyer program.

Mileage balances will be combined, elite levels will be aligned and a new upgrade policy for elite status members flying on American and US Airways will be put in place.

Do you want to check luggage with that ticket?

In the first half of 2015, JetBlue will launch a three-tiered flyer program that will allow some passengers to get up to two pieces of luggage checked for free, along with other incentives.

Meanwhile, Hawaiian Airlines will offer its travelers the option of earning travel miles “based on distance flown, not based on ticket spend and Elite status,” spokeswoman Alison Croyle told CNBC. “The airline will also not require any minimum spend to make elite status.”

Based on the host of incentives and upcoming changes, airline watchers say passengers need to decide whether certain loyalty programs are worth keeping.

Elite status is becoming harder to earn and less valuable, at least at the mid and lower tiers,” said ThePointsGuy’s Kelly.

“So you need to identify what you want out of your program,” he added. “Calculate how much extra you pay for your loyalty and see if you’re receiving more than that back in perks and the value from miles. If not, then it may be time to switch.”

(My story about airline loyalty programs first appeared on CNBC in a slightly different version.)

Travel tidbits: double miles, bonus points & more

American Airlines is sorry.

Sorry about a lot of things, no doubt, but definitely sorry about the service it’s been providing to passengers recently.

So in an effort to make nice, the airline is offering some nice bonus mile deals between now and the end of the year.

AAdvantage members will earn double miles on American Airlines, American Eagle or the American Connection carrier from November 16, 2012, through November 26, 2012 and earn double elite-qualifying miles and points for flights taken between now and the end of the year. You’ll need to register for the offer. Details here.

Want more bonuses?  Sign up for the “Thanks Again” program, which awards frequent-flier miles for parking, shopping or dining at participating merchants at the airports and at businesses in many towns. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport just joined the program and it’s a fair bet that your local airport has signed up too.  Do a search here to find out.

And here’s something fun:

This spring all Finnair airplanes will be decked out with special textiles and tableware bearing classic patterns from Marimekko, a Finnish design firm. Two of the airline’s long-haul aircraft will also be painted with a livery based on Marimekko designs. An Airbus A340 is already adorned with a floral print from 1964 and another plane will get its Marimekko marking in the spring.

 

Flight schedules reviving; relief efforts rewarded

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey tweeted this photo of Teterboro Airport and said while water is receding, “in this photo, you can see debris, and even fish, on the taxiway.”

In the New York area, JFK, Newark-Liberty and LaGuardia airports are all expected to be open on Thursday morning, although on reduced schedules, and passengers “displaced” by Sandy throughout the country – and the world – are slowly making their way to their destinations – or giving up altogether and making plans for another time. Buses in New York seem be running, Northeast train service is still suspended but, according to this Washington Post article, subway service may resume in New York City sometime on Thursday.

Meanwhile, United Airlines and American are offering bonus miles to those who donate to programs raising money to help those in need after the storm.

United Airlines Foundation is matching up to $50,000 of donations by United customers to the American Red Cross, Americares and Feeding America. The airline is also offering MileagePlus bonus award miles for cash donations of at least $50 to these organizations. MileagePlus members who give a minimum of $50 will receive 250 bonus miles; those who contribute $100 or more will receive 500 bonus miles. Find details about United’s Superstorm Sandy Relief efforts here. The airline has put aside 5 million bonus miles for this program.

American Airlines is also offering bonus miles for donations to storm relief efforts.
Through Nov. 30, 2012, AAdvantage members will earn 250 AAdvantage miles for a minimum donation of $50, or 500 AAdvantage miles for a donation of $100 or more to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Find more information here.

Boston Logan International Airport is offering a parking fee rebate for customers delayed returning to Boston Logan as a result of Hurricane Sandy. The rebates will be made for the period of time that exceeds the customer’s original ticketed date of return.

And, whenever there’s a long delay at an airport, it’s always really helpful to have complimentary access to a wireless Internet signal so you can take care of business. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, a major airport that still charges for Wi-Fi access, is now moving closer to offering free Wi-Fi access.  The day rate to access the Internet at ATL will drop to $4.95 on November 1, 2013 and be eliminated entirely by the fall of 2013.

 

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