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Airport throwdown underway

A full-fledged, photo-rich #AirportThrowdown is taking place in the Twittersphere – and it all started, innocently enough, with this image posted by Salt Lake City International Airport:

Someone at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which helps promote McCarran International Airport, saw that tweet and asked McCarran officials if they could beat that.

They thought they could. With this:

mccarran throwdown

The Airports Council International noticed too and started tweeting and retweeting these images with an #AirportThrowdown hashtag. Soon airports around the country -and the world – were joining in with pictures and tweets trying to one-up each other, in a fun way that has gone viral.

Here’s a sampling:

Get the picture? Want to see more? Search Twitter for the tweets with the hashtag #AirportThrowdown.

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.)

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving postcard turkey

Free lift ticket with your boarding pass

Courtesy UW Digital Collections

Courtesy UW Digital Collections

Ski season is just about here and a variety of ski resorts will give you a free day of skiing if you show your airline boarding pass.

Fly in to Vail/Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE) in Colorado and bring your boarding pass and Vail Valley lodging confirmation to any Vail or Beaver Creek ticket window and get a complimentary same-day lift ticket as part of the Fly in ski free program.

Squaw Valley|Alpine Meadows -about 42 miles from Reno-Tahoe International Airport – is offering a “Fly & Ski Free” deal for skiers and snowboarders. Guests arriving by airplane can ski or ride for free on the arrival afternoon between 12:30 and 4 pm (and evenings during night operations) by presenting a same-day commercial airline boarding pass with a matching photo ID at the Guest Services & Sales Center at Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows.

Steamboat Ski Resort, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, offers free night skiing and riding on the day of arrival when you fly into a Colorado Airport. Just show your boarding pass at the ticket window to receive this offer. If you have a boarding pass for Tuesday or Wednesday arrival, you can ski free on Thursday.

In addition, several ski resorts participating in the Alaska Airlines Ski the West promotion are also offering a free day of skiing for those who book packages and show their paper Alaska Airlines boarding pass.

 

Snack Saturday: Armadillo eggs & Texas Taffy

It’s Snack Saturday – when Stuck at The Airport shares snaps of some of the yummy and/or unusual snacks we’ve spotted at airports.

Here are some armadillo eggs and Texas Taffy sold at Dallas Love Field:

TEXAS SNACKS

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