Posts in the category "Mileage Programs":

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.

 

Fly much? Not as much as this 10 million mile flier

I joined United Airline’s Mileage Plus frequent flier program back in November, 1982 and since then have logged more than 1 million “butt-in-seat” miles.

Nothing to sneeze at, really, unless you consider the flying record of Tom Stuker.
He also signed up for Mileage Plus in 1982 and this weekend clocked his 10 millionth actually-flown mile.

I had a chance to chat with Stuker on Monday and swap some “those were the days” stories while putting together this article for msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin blog:

When Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney) hit the 10 million-mile mark in the 2009 film “Up in the Air,” audience members may have gasped.

Tom Stuker, who surely first watched that film on an airplane, probably laughed.

Like a fair number of other frequent fliers, Stuker had already accumulated more miles than that through various credit card purchases, hotel stays and other partnership programs. But the Chicago-based automotive sales consultant had his heart set on reaching a more elusive milestone: to be the first person to accumulate 10 million “butt-in-seat” miles.

United Airlines says Stuker is the airline’s first customer to rack up 10 million miles on its frequent flier program, which started in 1981.

“We do have several customers who are above 5 million miles,” said United/Continental spokesperson Rahsaan Johnson, “but we don’t have anyone else about to get to 10 million.”

Stuker, who said he got the mileage “bug” first with hotel and car rental points programs in the 1970s, joined the United’s Mileage Plus program in 1982. “I didn’t get really serious about frequent flier points until the very end of the 1980s,” said Stuker. “I started doing a lot of international travel and fell with love with Australia and the people there. So I kept booking trips to Australia.”

He’s since logged close to 6,000 United flights, including travels to all 50 U.S. states, 200 round-trips to Australia and nearly 30 round-trips to Asia.

Stuker reached 10 million flown miles on Saturday, somewhere over Des Moines, Iowa, on United Airlines Flight 942 from Los Angeles to Chicago.

The milestone didn’t go unnoticed. There was champagne and other festivities during the flight, and when the plane arrived at O’Hare International Airport, United CEO Jeff Smisek and other airline executives and employees were on hand with a few gifts.

In addition to the airline’s first titanium Mileage Plus membership card, the airline put Stuker’s name on the fuselage of a Boeing 747 airplane. (He already has his name on one of United’s 777s.) He also received a special shipment of his favorite wine and commemorative book listing every single United flight he has flown since he joined Mileage Plus, with personal messages from long-time United employees and executives.

Stuker, who is getting ready for another trip to Australia next week, said that unlike many other frequent business travelers, he still loves being up in the air. “I love the solace and peacefulness at 40,000 feet. That’s where I do my best creative work writing my training materials.”

During the first part of each month, Stuker says he looks forward to doing the Sudoku puzzle in the back of the in-flight magazine. And while he’s looking forward to having in-flight Internet access more widely available so he can take care of business in the air, he also admits to watching a lot of movies and TV shows on the in-flight entertainment system. “I’ll say, ‘I hate this show,’ but I watch it again anyway.”

Get airline miles for airport purchases

You’re spending that money anyway, so even if you’re not a frequent traveler, it makes sense to enroll in at least a few miles and points programs associated with airlines, car rental companies and hotels.

If you can’t cash your miles or points in for a free flight, a free rental day, or a free night’s lodging, you can at least take advantage of some of the complimentary amenities these programs provide.

So here’s one more program to join. And one more way to accumulate airline points:

The Paradies Shops – represented at 65 airports nationwide – have partnered up with Thanks Again for a program that awards airline miles for purchases made in airport stores.

Participating airlines include Alaska, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways.  The Paradies Shops include CNBC News, PGA TOUR Shops, Brooks Brothers, Brighton Collectibles, Harley-Davidson, and The New York Times Bookstores.

Sign up for the Paradies Thanks Again program - it’s free – and make at least a $10 purchase in one of the stores before June 30, 2010 and you’ll get a kick-start of 100 bonus points.

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