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One way to save few bucks on Marriott family of hotel stays is to use gift cards that you buy prior to your stay from Marriott. There is typically an offer during the end of the year for discounts and extra miles for gift cards purchases.

You can use Marriott gift cards to settle your bill at all Marriott family of hotels locations. You cannot use them, however, to guarantee your stay or for authorization purposes. You can pay your stay when you check in and then leave a smaller hold by a credit card, and settle your incidentals again using the gift card when checking out.

Right now there are two ways to save if you need to purchase Marriott Gift Cards

1. TopCashBack is offering 5% cashback for Marriott gift card purchases. You need to sign up for the service and make the purchase using the link from TopCashBack. Then couple of months later you will receive the rebate by PayPal. (For full disclosure purposes I will get a $10 referral credit if you sign up using the embedded link)

marriott-topcashback

2. You can currently buy Marriott gift cards and earn TWO Delta SkyMiles per dollar for up to $5K in gift card purchases.

marriott-delta

Personally, I would rake 5% cashback over 2 SkyMiles per dollar loaded, but individual circumstances may vary of course. You could have recently purchases Marriott gift cards up to 21% discount during the Daily Getaways. I don’t think that we are going to see a very good offer before the holiday period at the end of the year.

Here are the terms and conditions of the Delta SkyMiles offer:

Delta SkyMiles Promotion Terms & Conditions

Marriott GiftCards, purchased in $250 increments earn 500 bonus SkyMiles, $500 increments earn 1,000 bonus SkyMiles or $1,000 increments earn 2,000 bonus SkyMiles allowing a maximum of 10,000 bonus SkyMiles to be awarded per Delta SkyMiles member during promotional period. Delta SkyMiles will be awarded to the account number specified during purchase. Cannot be combined with any other offer or promotion. This is an online promotion only and not valid on Marriott GiftCards purchased on property, via 3rd parties or 1 800 813 GIFT. Shipping and handling fees apply. Promotion is valid June 3, 2012 through September 2, 2012 only.

The Marriott GiftCard can be used for all purchases and services charged to a Marriott guest room folio. If you are not a registered hotel guest and are planning to use this card at a spa, restaurant, retail store, or other outlet, please confirm in advance that the Marriott GiftCard is accepted. The Marriott Gift Card cannot be used to guarantee a room reservation or pay in advance, but may be used as payment at check-out. Gift Card purchases earning Delta SkyMiles are not eligible for return or refund. Marriott Rewards points will not be earned with the purchase of the GiftCards. While supplies last.

Please allow four to six weeks after date of purchase for points to post to your Delta SkyMiles account. Terms and Conditions are subject to change without notice. All Delta SkyMiles Program Rules apply. All Marriott Rewards rules and regulations apply.

See full Marriott Rewards Terms and Conditions

See full Marriott GiftCard Terms and Conditions

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The latest member of SkyTeam Saudia should be a SkyMiles partner at the moment, but is entirely missing on Delta.com. The future member of SkyTeam Aerolineas Argentinas, however, is a SkyMiles partner already. The two Indian airlines that are SkyMiles partners; Kingfisher and Jet Airways are both going away as partners on this coming October.

Saudia

Saudia joined the SkyTeam on May 29th, 2012. Delta SkyMiles SkyTeam wide status benefits, when it comes to priority check in and lounge access, should now apply for flights taken on Saudia. Also, earning and burning of SkyMiles should be possible, but Delta’s website doesn’t have any mentions of Saudia on its partner page.

delta-airlines-skyteam-partners-saudia-missing

Saudia has a very good coverage in the Middle East and on the Indian Subcontinent. There are quite a few restrictions on transfers and whether you need a visa or not. This makes Saudia more complicated partner for transfer purposes. Always check Timatic first.

skyteam-saudia-route-map

Aerolineas Argentinas

Aerolineas Argentinas became Delta’s partner for earning and redeeming SkyMiles in May. Aerolineas Argentinas is also set to join the SkyTeam alliance later in the year, when all the benefits associated with the SkyTeam status would apply for Aerolineas Argentinas flights.

delta-aerolineas-air-plane

There is a list of eligible fare classes for mileage accrual on AR that is divided between Domestic, Regional, and International. Lower fare classes earn very little on domestic and regional flights, but you might have better luck on international flights.

delta-aerolineas-eligible-fare-classes-inernational

Aerolineas Argentinas was renationalized back in 2008 and is till bleeding money. According to an Associated Press article the airline received $200 million in subsidies in the first quarter of 2012 alone.

delta-aerolineas-route-map

The airline flies to Miami and Mexico City in the North America, and Madrid, Barcelona, and Rome in Europe. This will help with using SkyMiles for travel to/from South America. The only drawback is that you need to call to make an award reservation if it involves AR.

Kingfisher & Jet Airways

Delta is terminating its partnership with Kingfisher on October 1st and with Jet Airways on October 15th. Normally you can make redemptions until the partnership ends as far in the future as the schedule is open.

delta-kingfisher

It is really not a surprise that Delta is ending the partnership with the Kingfisher. The airline has been in huge financial turmoil this year and has ceased all the international operations. They had few planes repoed at airports. Not nice. Right now they only operate in domestically in India using less than 20 airplanes.

delta-jet-airways

It is sad, however, to see that the partnership with Jet Airways is ending. It is one of the better Indian airlines and, although it is going through some financial difficulties, they are nowhere as bad as Kingfisher’s.

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There seems to be a flash fare war brewing over the Atlantic. AA and BA were advertising Queen’s Jubilee two day sale and soon other carriers were matching as well. The last day to book these is today 17th of May.

fare-war-atlantic

You can now find airfares to London on Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, United Airlines, Delta, Air France, American Airlines, Iberia, and British Airways and probably on few others as well for less than $2K return in business class.

Most of these fares have relatively tight outbound window from North America to Europe, but the return can happen within the ticket validity/fare rules.

These $2K fares out from the eastern seaboard are not that common during holiday periods. They are, however, rare from the west coast.

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Hyatt has teamed up with number of airlines; Air China, Air France-KLM, ANA, American Airlines, British Airways, China Eastern, Delta Air Lines, Etihad, Lufthansa, Qatar, Southwest, and United to offer up to five times the miles or points.

hyatt-summer-promo

This promotion starts on May 1st and end of August 30th, 2012. You will receive the normal number of miles or points for the first stay, triple bonus for stays 2 and 3, and quadruple miles or points for the stays 4 to 11.

hyatt-united

Please note that this promotion is NOT based on nights but rather on stays. You will receive the same number of miles or points regardless how many nights you stay. The promotion is capped at 11 stays.

The cumulative maximum number of points that you would earn by having 11 stays on Air China’s and China Eastern’s programs would be 39200. By crediting 11 stays to Southwest’s Rapid Rewards would earn you 29400 points. In all other programs the cumulative number of points after 11 stays would be the grand total of 24500 miles/points.

This promotion quite frankly works for me. Most of my stays are for one night. Getting 2500 miles for a one night stay is a rather good deal. Maybe I will finally set my foot to Hyatt property this year.

Air China – Phoenix Miles

hyatt-air-china

Air France-KLM Flying Blue

hyatt-air-france-klm

 

ANA Mileage Club

hyatt-nh

 

American Airlines AAdvantage

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British Airways Executive Club

hyatt-ba

 

China Eastern

hyatt-china-eastern

 

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

hyatt-delta

 

Etihad Guest

hyatt-etihad

 

Lufthansa Miles & More

hyatt-lufthansa

 

Qatar Airways – Privilege Club

hyatt-qatar

 

Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards

hyatt-southwest

 

United Airlines – Mileage Plus

hyatt-united

Here are the promotional terms and conditions of the United offer, but they are basically identical for each of these airlines.

More stays means 5X more miles and even more rewards

ELIGIBILITY: To be eligible to participate in the Hyatt Summer Airline Promotion (“Promotion”), you must be a member of Hyatt Gold Passport and a member of United MileagePlus.

HOW TO REGISTER: Between April 1, 2012 and August 31, 2012 (“Promotion Period”), you can register for Promotion via hyatt.com/UNITEDSUM12A or by calling 1-800-228-3360 and requesting enrollment code UA12S. You must register in advance for stays to qualify. Stays completed before registration are not eligible. You only need to register once.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: After registering for the Promotion, complete two (2) or more stays at any participating Park Hyatt®, Andaz®, Grand Hyatt®, Hyatt Regency®, Hyatt®, Hyatt Place® , Hyatt House™ or Hyatt Residence Club™ hotel and resort worldwide between May 1, 2012 and August 31, 2012 (“Stay Period”) and request United MileagePlus miles for each Eligible Stay. You must provide your United MileagePlus member number at check-in for each Eligible Stay. For each Eligible Stay during the Stay Period, you will earn the award miles as summarized in the chart below. A Eligible Stay is a stay at a participating hotel during the Stay Period with at least one (1) Eligible Night during the stay and request United MileagePlus miles for each stay. For the purpose of this Promotion, an “Eligible Night” is defined as one (1) night at any participating hotel or resort at an Eligible Rate when choosing United MileagePlus miles as the method of loyalty reward upon check-in at a participating Hyatt property and paying an Eligible Rate (as defined below). Award nights do not constitute an Eligible Night. Hyatt Gold Passport members will only receive eligible night credit for the room they physically occupy, regardless of the number of paid rooms. Only stays that occur after registration for Promotion will be counted as Eligible Stays.

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Note that this promotion has been extended until March 31, 2014.

Just received an email from Delta about an offer from Starwood for 1000 extra miles for booking Sheraton Club accommodations in select Sheraton hotels in the United States and Canada. This offer is valid for US Airways Dividend Miles as well. In order to get the bonus miles, your Starwood Preferred Guest account must be set for airline direct deposit and you need to book the rate code SHMILES. This offer is valid from April 16th to December 31st, 2012. You can earn the bonus miles only once per stay. There is a separate offer of 1000 bonus Starpoints per stay until the end of May for Sheraton Club bookings.

delta-sheraton-email

I was borderline laughing when I was reading about the description of Sheraton Club from Delta’s email. According to Delta & Starwood the club offers:

Unlimited access to our private Club Lounge

Complimentary deluxe continental breakfast in the Club Lounge daily

Complimentary evening hors d’oeuvres in the Club Lounge daily

High speed internet access in your guestroom and in the Club Lounge

Complimentary, unlimited local phone calls

Enjoy bottled water, upgraded bath amenities, newspapers and plush bathrobes in our Club guestrooms

sheraton-club-1000-us-airways

Domestic Sheraton lounges in the United States and Canada are rarely worth my time. International ones outside of the North America are entirely different animal, however. Some of them are actually nice and offer food & beverage amenities to look for, but not the one at the Sheraton Heathrow.

sheraton-club-offering

Here’s an example from Sheraton Garden Grove last year. This was their evening hors d’oeuvres. The deluxe continental breakfast was about same quality. Would you actually pay more if they are offering crap like this?

Of course, I paid the lowest rate for the night, which was probably around $100, and got an upgrade as a SPG PLT member.

Out of curiosity I run the different rate codes for the Sheraton Garden Grove for the night of April 27.

The Advance Purchase rate is $101

sheraton-advance-purchase-rate

The AAA rate is $111

sheraton-aaa

The Prepaid rate is $119

sheraton-prepaid

The AAA Breakfast rate is $121

sheraton-aaa-breakfast

The Prepaid Club rate is $135 + 1000 bonus Starpoints

sheraton-club-prepaid

The Best Available rate is $139

sheraton-bar

The AAA Club rate is $143

sheraton-aaa-club

The Sheraton Club Airline offer rate is $179

sheraton-airline-offer

The Sheraton Club rate is $179 + 1000 bonus Starpoints

sheraton-club-room-lounge-rate

Conclusion

As is often the case with special rate plans that offer some extra points or miles, the rate is widely inflated. The only reason why hotels keep offering these rates are business travelers that can book inflated rates, and earn some extra points along the way.

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Delta has made Aeromexico award space bookable now on Delta.com as well. Previously you needed to call Delta reservations and have them to search for the award space. Whenever possible, I try to make my travel bookings online without having to pick up the phone, although this is not always possible, if the routing is complicated.

gcm-delta

Quite frankly, I was really surprised that Delta.com was able to price the itinerary above  correctly. It includes an open jaw Sao Paulo to Santiago and a stopover in Mexico City on the way back. This all for 100K SkyMiles and about $160 in actual taxes.

delta-yvr-lax-mex-gru-scl-mex-lax-yvr-price-2

Here’s how I did and you can do it too.

Sign up for Air France-KLM Flying Blue account. You can do it online and have instant access to award search tool. The Flying Blue award search engine shows a month at a time. It is easy to find the dates when there is availability.

Los Angeles to Mexico City

air-france-klm-flying-blue-lax-mex-2

Availability almost every day.

Mexico City to Sao Paulo

air-france-klm-flying-blue-mex-gru-2

Business class available in only four days during 30 day period.

Santiago to Mexico City

air-france-klm-flying-blue-scl-mex-2

Business class widely available

Mexico City to Los Angeles

air-france-klm-flying-blue-mex-lax-2

Wide open

After I chose the dates that has availability both ways, I just inputted the airport codes and dates to the multi-city form and requested the availability by schedule and chose direct flights only.

delta-yvr-lax-mex-gru-scl-mex-lax-yvr-screen

Then I just chose one of the presented flights for each of the legs.

delta-yvr-lax-mex-gru

The online was able to price this correctly at 100K SkyMiles level. First, I mistakenly chose flights that made the first transfer in Los Angeles a stopover. The engine priced the whole trip then at 160K mile level. After choosing and timing the connections to be less than 24 hours, the website was able to price it at 100K level, and I was able to put it on hold for a week.

delta-yvr-lax-mex-gru-scl-mex-lax-yvr-held_0

The seat selection functions works for Alaska flights, but shows all Aeromexico flights unavailable for online seat selection. Delta might be able to request the seats over the phone, but the safest way is to call Aeromexico that can do it for sure.

delta-yvr-lax-mex-gru-scl-mex-lax-yvr-seats

The good thing about Delta’s engine is that it can show the actual tax breakdown, but is unable to show the award fare rules.

delta-yvr-lax-mex-gru-scl-mex-lax-yvr-price-breakdown

On an itinerary like this you can always drop the last segment LAX-YVR. The leg needs to be there in order for the trip to price at 100K level.

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Earlier in the week, I wrote about offer from City & Accorhotels for instant Platinum status for the Le Club. This offer was discontinued few days later. There is another offer of 500 bonus points for playing Facebook game (doesn’t require Facebook account) and triple points until June 10th, 2012.

le-club-accorhotels-delta-aeroplan

Now Accor also has a promotion with Delta and Air Canada for 1000 bonus miles for a stay until the end of May. The terms and conditions would indicate that this offer is valid only ONCE, but then the same terms also refer to STAYS. To be on the safe side, I would assume that this offer is only valid once.

Here are the terms of the Delta SkyMiles offer:

1. This offer is valid every day for stays with check-in between 04/01/12 and 05/31/12 at participating Accor hotels.
2. In order to benefit from this bonus, the member must have activated Delta Air Lines and SkyMiles as the preferred conversion option ahead of the stay.
3. You must provide your Le Club Accorhotels loyalty card or member number when making your reservation, and present your card at the reception desk of your hotel when you check-in for your stay.
4.The bonus will be credited in Le Club Accorhotels points and converted ino SkyMiles according to the applicable conversion rule.
5. Reservations that include several rooms covered by the same member during his or her stay are only counted as one stay.
6. This offer may not be combined with other current offers or advantages and does not apply to groups.
7. This offer is subject to availability. General sales terms and conditions apply for reserved public rates specific to each hotel.
8. General A|Club terms and conditions apply to this offer.
9. A member can only benefit once from this offer between 04/01/12 and 05/31/12.
8. All SkyMiles program rules apply. To review the rules, visit delta.com/memberguide. Offers void where prohibited by law. Other restrictions may apply. Offers subject to change without notice.

Here are the terms of the Air Canada Aeroplan offer:

1. Between April 1st and May 31st, 2012 new and current A|Club members can earn 1,000 Aeroplan® Miles by staying at any eligible Accor hotel.
2. General A|Club terms and conditions apply to the “Earn 1,000 Bonus Miles with Aeroplan®” offer.
3. In order to benefit from this bonus, the member must have activated Aeroplan as the preferred conversion option ahead of the stay.
4. A member can only benefit once from this offer from 4/1/12 to 5/31/12.
5. The bonus will be credited in Le Club Accorhotels points and converted into Aeroplan miles according to applicable conversion rule.
6. ®Aeroplan is a registered trademark of Aeroplan Canada Inc.

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There has been lot of chatter this past week on both FlyerTalk and Airliners.net about possible changes coming to Delta’s SkyMiles program. Delta that has sizeable social media presence hasn’t uttered a word.

Change is coming and I believe that we will hear about these coming changes sooner rather than later, possibly even this coming week. I don’t normally write about rumors, but in this case there is plenty of solid evidence based i.e. job postings what is the direction of these changes.

I am vested in Delta’s SkyMiles program as I have close to 800K miles sitting on my account. Whenever I have been using miles it has always been easier to use miles on Oneworld or Star Alliance programs. Maybe I should finally go ahead and ticket couple of RTW trips before Delta has another chance to devalue them?

There are going to be two changes. How the future SkyMiles are awarded and at least partially moving to a fare based awards system i.e. the number of miles required for the award ticket will be essentially linked to the price of such a ticket.

There was a post on FlyertTalk by a member LedgeT that looked like a leaked internal Delta memo:

The Loyalty Program is comprised of two projects that seek to increase revenue and customer loyalty along with decreasing liability related to unused award miles. Coordinated communication to the general public regarding the intentions of these changes is paramount to acceptance.

Revenue Based Mileage Accrual (RBMA) project shifts the basis for awarding miles to a revenue based accrual approach

Release 0: Support the communication/announcement of upcoming SkyMiles program changes (targeted 1Q12).
Will no longer display distance flown miles for departures after new miles accrual effective date (targeted for 3Q12)
Release 0.5: Provide Mileage Calculator to calculate approximate revenue based mileage accrual based on travel  after launch ((targeted 2Q12)
Release 1: Convert SkyMiles System from flown miles to revenue based mileage accrual (3Q12)
Release 2: Reward SkyMiles members with miles for all non-air purchases (i.e. SkyClub, Seats) (currently On Hold)

Fare Based Award Ticket Redemption (FBATR) project

Fast Track Release – Provides limited base functionality to align with the Polaris Chicago release timing

Phase I at Launch introduces Fare Based Award Redemption Model, Single Shopping Experience for Customer, New Award Inventory Controls, Cash + Miles Award Redemption Product, Award Redemption for OA, Modifications to the automated Award Refund, Redeposit, and Reissue and Exchange Process

Phase II – After Launch includes Bid for Price Award Redemption Product, Buy It Now Award Redemption Product, Volume Discount Award Redemption Product, Modifications to SkyMiles Branded Mileage Upgrade Products, and Modifications to SkyMiles System-Wide Upgrade Certificates

1. The Loyalty Program is comprised of two projects that seek to increase revenue and customer loyalty along with decreasing liability related to unused award miles. Coordinated communication to the general public regarding the intentions of these changes is paramount to acceptance.

In reality it is Impossible to achieve both the increase in revenue and customer loyalty while at the same time “decreasing” liability. The latter basically means higher number of miles required for award redemptions, or making redeeming SkyMiles even more cumbersome than it is today, so that more of them would go unused (breakage).

The deferred revenue that Delta assigns to all unused SkyMiles was $4.5 billion as of December 31st, 2011 same as at the end of 2010 fiscal year (according to filed 10K)’s. Now, they want to bring this liability down by changing the future usage parameters.  In 2010 they brought down the frequent flier liability by $345 million.

Communication is essential as Delta found out when they tried to lower the number Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM’s) earned on the lowest fares from 100% to 50%. There was a huge public backslash and people donated money to run print ads on publications like USAToday. The website from the era SaveSkymiles is still up.

Revenue Based Mileage Accrual (RBMA) project shifts the basis for awarding miles to a revenue based accrual approach
Release 0: Support the communication/announcement of upcoming SkyMiles program changes (targeted 1Q12).
Will no longer display distance flown miles for departures after new miles accrual effective date (targeted for 3Q12)
Release 0.5: Provide Mileage Calculator to calculate approximate revenue based mileage accrual based on travel  after launch ((targeted 2Q12)
Release 1: Convert SkyMiles System from flown miles to revenue based mileage accrual (3Q12)
Release 2: Reward SkyMiles members with miles for all non-air purchases (i.e. SkyClub, Seats) (currently On Hold)

Revenue Based Mileage Accrual (RBMA) project shifts the basis for awarding miles to a revenue based accrual approach

There are quite a few different approaches that various airlines use for awarding miles based on the revenue. Delta already does this as well by giving redeemable and MQM bonuses for high economy and business/first class fares.

Here are examples from number of US and foreign airlines:

lufthansa-miles-earned

Lufthansa does this by giving a set number of miles for flights within Europe. There is a clear distinction between the lowest economy fares that only earn 125 miles compared to business class fares that earn up to 2000 miles. Worldwide destinations earn from 50% to 300% of the miles flown depending on the fare class.

air-new-zealand-points-earned

Air New Zealand has a more novel approach by using Airpoints. Difficult to compare the miles earned and how much it would actually cost to get a free ticket.  Apparently, you can use Airpoints Dollars as payment towards any fare on Air New Zealand. You need to pay the taxes/fees separately, however. For partner flights they have a separate partner reward chart.

jetblue

JetBlue has a similar approach. They award 3 TrueBlue points per dollar spend and double it for bookings made on their website. There are some threshold bonuses, but about the maximum you can do is 12 TrueBlue points per dollar. You can buy any fare that is shown on JetBlue’s website using TrueBlue points that are worth around 1.4 cents per point when exchanged for a ticket. You can get around 17% rebate in the form of TrueBlue points if you fly JetBlue a lot.

virgin-america-elevate

Virgin America has a pretty straight dollar based approach for earning their Elevate points. You will earn 5 Elevate points per dollar spent. You can spend them on all Virgin America flights by using your points at around 2.14 cents each.  So, if you fly a lot on Virgin America, you can get around 10% rebate in the form of Elevate points.

southwest

Southwest has a tiered system for awarding points. You get 6 to 12 points per dollar depending of the fare purchased. If someone is doing a serious flying on Southwest, they can also earn up to 100% bonus on the points earned. When you redeem, the number of points needed depends of the fare and is from from 60 to 120 points per dollar. Sounds complicated? The best case scenario would be to buy Business Select fares that earn 12 points per dollar and earn the 100% bonus, and then use them for Wanna Get Away fares at 60 points per dollar. You would get 40% rebate on the fare this way. On the other hand, if you are earning at 6 points and need to buy the “business” fare using points, your rebate is only 5%.

ek-skyward-zones

But maybe they are thinking inline what the Emirates has been doing? Emirates doesn’t show any “real” mileage base distances during their booking process, and the miles earned are dependent of the zones and not the actual flight routes i.e. you won’t earn any more miles if you backtrack via Dubai.

Here’s an example how many Skywards miles one would earn flying Los Angeles to Dubai return.

ek-lax-dxb-y

Economy (low)  7000 & Economy (high) 14000

ek-lax-dxb-c

Business (low) 17500 & Business (high) 24500

ek-lax-dxb-f

First (low) 28000 & First (high) 35000

The actual return distance between Los Angeles and Dubai is around 16700 miles. You need to fly business or higher to earn the actual distance flown in Skyward miles.

ek-sin-akl-rt-f

Here’s one actual example about booking a Singapore to Auckland in First class on Emirates. You will be shown during the booking process number of different options and how many miles each of them would earn. After you choose one of the proposed itineraries, you can choose to have a look at the mileage breakdown. This Singapore to Auckland would earn enough tier qualifying miles to earn a Gold status. The actual distance between Singapore and Auckland is 5200 miles.

Fare Based Award Ticket Redemption (FBATR) project

Fast Track Release – Provides limited base functionality to align with the Polaris Chicago release timing

Phase I at Launch introduces Fare Based Award Redemption Model, Single Shopping Experience for Customer, New Award Inventory Controls, Cash + Miles Award Redemption Product, Award Redemption for OA, Modifications to the automated Award Refund, Redeposit, and Reissue and Exchange Process

Phase II – After Launch includes Bid for Price Award Redemption Product, Buy It Now Award Redemption Product, Volume Discount Award Redemption Product, Modifications to SkyMiles Branded Mileage Upgrade Products, and Modifications to SkyMiles System-Wide Upgrade Certificates

This is staring to get interesting. Legacy US carrier trying to transform from zone based fixed awards to a one based on the price.

Fare Based Award Redemption Model

Using fares to price awards is not a novel concept, although it would be among the legacy network carriers in the United States. Already JetBlue, Virgin America, and Southwest have tied the number of miles/points needed for an award directly to the available fares. Off the examples above Air New Zealand does exactly the same for their own flights, although they have a different fixed Airpoints schedule for partner flights. Also, American Airlines has their dynamic air rewards alongside the usual award chart.

“Launch introduces Fare Based Award Redemption”

The only positive side to this is that they are not using the word replaces.

“Single Shopping Experience for Customer”

Although none of the airlines that I frequently use does this yet, it is very common among the hotels. Starwood, Hilton, and InterContinental Hotels Group all show the price, points price, and price using cash & points (if available).

“New Award Inventory Controls”

This is where Delta has gone completely wrong with their domestic and international award pricing. You have high, medium, and low awards, and all have somehow tied to the underlying inventory controls. But, if all you do is to use SkyMiles as a form of payment then there wouldn’t be need to award inventory control at all. The dynamic feature of fare bucket availability would take care of it.

“Cash + Miles Award Redemption Product”

Delta already partially does this by allowing some members to redeem a set number of SkyMiles for $100 discount certificates. You can then use them for paying any fare.

There is already number of airlines where you can partially pay using points and rest using cash.

“Award Redemption for OA”

This would be truly revolutionary if they would decide to introduce a fare based award pricing for partner airlines as well. Expect to basic international business awards to cost 500K to 1000K miles.

“Modifications to the automated Award Refund, Redeposit, and Reissue and Exchange Process”

Technicalities

Then on the second launch phase in 2013 maybe?

Bid for Price Award Redemption Product, Buy It Now Award Redemption Product, Volume Discount Award Redemption Product, Modifications to SkyMiles Branded Mileage Upgrade Products, and Modifications to SkyMiles System-Wide Upgrade Certificates

“Bid for Price Award Redemption Product”

There are already products available for airlines to handle business/first class upgrade bidding process. Shouldn’t be too difficult to introduce this for regular award flights as well.

“Buy It Now Award Redemption Product”

Not sure if eBay has trademarked Buy It Now and what exactly would it mean on Delta’s case. To sell the number of miles required for award redemption if short?

“Volume Discount Award Redemption Product”

Airlines are already offering targeted discounts for redemptions. Not sure if anyone has done a volume base discount yet.

“Modifications to SkyMiles Branded Mileage Upgrade Products, and Modifications to SkyMiles System-Wide Upgrade Certificates”

Not sure about these.

Conclusion:

I think that it is somewhat inevitable that the US based airlines will eventually give higher multipliers for business and first class fares, and at the same time lower the number of miles earned on the cheapest fares to less than 100% of the flown miles.

Why Delta hasn’t launched a product that would compete with United’s Global Services or American’s Concierge Key? If Delta is truly interested in attracting the high spenders, they need to offer more timely and personal service. There are not set qualifications for either United’s or AA’s invitation only status, but the revenue requirement is in excess of $30K to $50K and is dependent of the market.

Delta has to be really careful in their approach to this issue. Pretending that nothing is happening when a memo has leaked out doesn’t help. They should come out and tell what changes are coming and when. Then the customers could make an informed choice whether to continue patronising Delta or not.

My prediction is that if Delta will move entirely to a fare based award system the rebate that an elite flier will get for dollar spent is going to be 5% to 20% depending of the fares purchased and how the points/miles are used. This will make redeeming for those inspirational international business class awards very difficult.

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This is the first day for many of us that didn’t hit the requalification requirements last year, and thus were dropped a notch or two (or three on my Delta case) in frequent flyer programs. Last year and 2010 were quite exceptional for me flying wise. I was at some point United 1K, Continental Platinum, BMI Gold, American Airlines Executive Platinum, Delta Diamond, and Emirates Gold. All these were earned in actual flying and none of them were comped.

delta-diamond-aa-exp

In 2011, I moved out from the United States, and as a result my flying on US carriers was down dramatically. I was very close requalifying to 1K and decided to make my way to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo from Asia the long way and earn the EQM’s needed. I am not planning to requalify for the United top tier status this year.

I am in a somewhat lucky situation. I am a 2.6 million miler (not a coiner) with American Airlines, and thus have a lifetime Platinum status with American that translates to Oneworld Sapphire status. That guarantees a business class check in and lounge access if I find myself in economy.

With Star Alliance I am covered through United. After United and Continental merge their frequent flyer accounts, I am somewhere around 1.5 million lifetime flown miles. This will guarantee me lifetime Gold level status in United’s program, and more importantly with Star Alliance. Like with Oneworld this will give me a business class check in and lounge access if ticketed in economy.

SkyTeam? Forget about it. I think that Delta is a fine domestic US airline and I did enjoy flying within the United States, but the alliance is second/third rate. It is way behind both Star Alliance and Oneworld when it comes to quality of the airlines and implementation of the alliance wide benefits. To be frank, it would be nice to have some sort of status with SkyTeam as well, but I think that I have to learn to live without it.

Overall, I think that I will survive.

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It is time for February hotel promotion update. All the hotels have their promotions up and running again and some like Hilton and InterContinental Hotels Group have several concurrent promotions that you can take advantage of.

Carlson Hotels – Club Carlson

Club Carlson is offering triple points for all stays. Note that you will receive 2000 bonus points for online bookings.

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Club Carlson “Triple Points – Faster Nights” Promotion – Triple Gold Points Worldwide

Hilton HHonors

Hilton has the most promotions running that you can combine together. You should sign up for the two promos below. Even if you are Diamond with Hilton, you can still get 40K HH for four Hilton stays.

Register Your Visa and Get 1000 Hilton HHonors Points + 4000 Bonus for Spending $100

Instant Hilton HHonors Gold Status for Visa Infinite Card Holders + 40K HHonors Points After Four Stays (For All?

You can choose one of these airline promotions as your double dip earnings partner. My personal favorite still is BMI that would earn 1k per night and up to three nights regardless of the Hilton brand.

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Triple ANA and Double Emirates Miles for Hilton Stays Until March 31st

Airline Promotions for Air Canada Aeroplan, US Airways Dividend Miles, Lufthansa Miles & More and American Airlines AAdvantage

Earn 2012 Bonus Delta SkyMiles per Two Night Hilton Stay

These are the two main promotions for the time. More Points promotion for extra points for each nights and more for weekend stays, and free night certificates for longer resort stays.

Hilton HHonors 1st Quarter 2012 “More Points” Promotion

‘Resort Escapes’ Promotion – Free Night Certificate After Five Nights and Two After Ten Nights

Hyatt Gold Passport

Last month Hyatt didn’t have any promotions running besides the AA one that ended in the middle of the month. Hyatt’s latest promotion just started today. You can earn up to 44K extra points for 16 stays during the promotional period. That is extra 2750 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night.

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Hyatt Announced Spring 2012 Promo – Earn up to 44000 Bonus Points

InterContinental Hotels Group – Priority Club

The first promotion for double points starting from your second stay and the 5/7/15 stays for 5K/10K/15K bonus points are combinable. The first one runs until the end of April and the second until the end of March. Note that you need to choose the bonus after 5, 7, or 15 stays. If you don’t meet the threshold, you won’t get the associate bonus.

Priority Club 1st Quarter 2012 Promotion Announced – Double Points or Miles – 2X More

Priority Club Bonus Points Promo for 1st Quarter 2012

There is Anniversary bonus that you can combine with these two promotion. It is extra 1000 Priority Club points for every stay for 90 days after you register. Do not register before the date of your first stay to maximize the promotional period. The promotion code is 6102 and you need to register at http://www.priorityclub.com/register. Please note that I cannot guarantee if this specific promotion will work for your Priority Club account. It never hurts to try, right?

Marriott Rewards / Ritz-Carton Rewards

Remember that you can have only Marriott or Ritz-Carlton Rewards account. You cannot have both. You can, however, switch between accounts as often as you wish just by calling the rewards customer service.

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Ritz-Carlton Rewards – Earn Free Night Certificate After Two Stays Promotion

Note that you can only register for the MegaBonus or MegaMiles promotion. There are number of different MegaBonus thresholds. Pick up the ones that fits you best, and call the Marriott Rewards customer service if you need to switch your targeted promotion to something else.

Marriott Rewards Spring 2012 MegaBonus Announced – Few Variations of the Offer

Earn Up To 50000 Virgin America Elevate Bonus Points During Marriott’s MegaMiles Promotion

Marriott Rewards MegaMiles Promotion – Earn Up to 50K Bonus Miles

Starwood Preferred Guest

Starwood has two different promotions that are both exclusive. The Better By the Night is valid in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. The list of non-participating properties is rather long. Note that this is NOT valid in the Asia-Pacific region that has their own promotion.

Starwood Preferred Guest 1st Quarter 2012 “Better by the Night”–promotion

Starwood Preferred Guest Asia Pacific Promotion

The following promotion is valid in the Asia-Pacific region for two free night certificates after 9 stays. Must use MasterCard to pay.

‘Two Days of Happy’ – Stay 5 Nights Get One Free Night Certificate – Stay 9 Nights Get Two Free Night Certificates – 4MCFN

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Last week I wrote about the promotion that Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan was having for their newest partner Emirates starting March 1stdouble redeemable miles, and then there was the big news of ditching the prayer cards from first class (finally).

Alaska Airline is alliance independent, which is rather rare these days. The airline has an agreement with number of airlines i.e. American, Delta, British, KLM, LAN, Air France, and Emirates where crediting Alaska’s Mileage Plan will not only earn you redeemable miles but also elite qualifying miles as well. You can redeem miles on these partners as well (Emirates starting later point this year), but the only drawback is that you cannot mix and match carriers to have multi carrier itineraries. You can have Alaska feeder flights for partner awards though. There are airline partners that only earn redeemable miles as well

alaska-airlines-partners

Alaska Airlines was thought of changing the accrual elite qualifying miles so that the class of service bonus for business and first class wouldn’t count. This, however, turned out to be just a glitch on their website over the weekend that has now been corrected.

Why would I care? I have 32707 miles coming in Emirates paid first class travel starting in the beginning of March (Emirates had a great business and first class sale back in January). I haven’t made up my mind where I should credit these flights. Had a few EK F flights the other year that made me Gold in their program, then I was demoted silver, and finally I will be base level member before these flights will take place. Quite frankly the EK Gold status is fairly useless if you are flying in paid business or first class. It does have some benefits especially for those flights in economy like business class check in, lounge access, extra luggage allowance, more miles etc.

These Emirates flights alone would give me 49K elite qualifying miles on Alaska’s Mileage Plan. Due to the double miles promotion and Mileage Plan Gold status (I could get status match based on my United status) redeemable miles bonus, which also applies to partners, the number of miles earned from these two tickets would be around 115K. It would be a nice enough number for partner redemption in business class

There are some nice status benefits for Alaska’s elites on Delta and American:

Priority Boarding on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines

Checked Baggage Fee Waiver for first two bags on Alaska Airlines and American Airlines, and for the first checked bag on Delta Air Lines for MVP® member and persons traveling in the same reservation. Companion waiver does not apply to group bookings

Priority AAccess™ Check-In and Security Lines at select airports when traveling on American Airlines

Preferred Seating on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines

If I would credit another 41K on Alaska’s plan, it would not only make me Alaska’s MVP Gold 75K but also give a bonus of 50K redeemable miles. The benefits on AA wouldn’t matter for me personally as I made the lifetime Platinum status with that program the other year.

Not sure where I should credit these Emirates flights? The Emirate’s Skyward miles are not that useful for anything else than upgrades from economy to business, or from business to first. The proposition of crediting to Alaska’s Mileage Plan is tempting because I value their miles more, and I would be close to making the Gold status on these couple of tickets. But, I might have Emirates flights coming later this year in economy, so the Emirates Gold status might come handy as well. Luckily, I have another month time to contemplate on this issue as my flights are not before beginning of March.

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Hilton HHonors severed the relationship they had had with the Southwest and discontinued the ability to earn Rapid Rewards points from Hilton stays at the end of last year. To counter this change Hilton is having several promotions going on for double or triple miles with five airline partners. I have already written about the promotion with Delta for 2012 bonus SkyMiles for stays or two days or longer. The beauty of this promotion with Delta is that all the Hilton family of hotels are participating.

There are three other ongoing promotions that you can combine with these. The other promotions are Resort Escapes for free night certificates, More Points for extra points, and Visa Infinite promotion for instant Gold status and 40K HH after four stays.

hilton-hhonors-airline-promotions-first-q-2012

You can earn triple miles with US Airways Dividend miles, and double miles with Air Canada’s Aeroplan and American’s AAdvantage.  You need to designate the airline as the double dip partner and choose the variable or fixed miles.  With these airlines you really need to check the participating properties. The list is rather short.

hilton-hhonors-lufthansa-2012-1st-q [click to continue…]

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Last quarter Delta and Hilton run a promotion for Medallion Qualifying miles. This time they have teamed up to offer 2012 bonus Delta SkyMiles per two night or longer Hilton stay. These points are addition to the variable miles or fixed miles that you can earn if you choose the double dip option.

hilton-hhonors-delta-2012-skymiles-bonus-for-two-night-stays

This promotion is valid from January 2nd to March 31st, 2012. You need to register for this promotion before check out at www.HHonors.com/delta2012. The terms and conditions indicate that this offer is not combinable with other offers. [click to continue…]

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Three weeks ago I wrote about a similar transfer offer that appeared to be targeted. Now Delta has an offer that is available for everyone. Essentially you can “buy” miles for 1.1 cents per mile when you transfer them in the chunks of 30K at a time. The maximum number of miles one can transfer in a calendar year is 150K, and the number of miles that can received from any number of SkyMiles accounts is 300K. This offer is valid until December 16th, 2011.

Delta Air Lines Transfer Miles Promotion December 2011

Had United or American Airlines made an offer like this, I would say that anybody should buy/transfer the maximum number of miles allowed. In a case of Delta, however, it is not as clear cut. This can be a very good deal if used correctly. [click to continue…]