Hilton HHonors Is Now Sending Emails Regarding The Enhanced Diamond Benefits

It took some time for Hilton to start sending emails about the new Diamond member benefits that started on January 18th. Emails are just going out so no need to worry if you haven’t received yours. You can visit the Hilton’s page devoted to these changes following this link.

hilton-hhonors-diamond-benefits-february-2012

Here is the recap of the changes for Diamond members:

1. There are no changes for Diamond members staying at Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn’s, Hampton Inn & Suites, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites, and Hilton Grand Vacation Locations.

2. Previously Diamond member had to choose between the MyWay 1000 extra bonus points in lieu for breakfast/upgrade. This is no longer the case. You will automatically receive the upgrade + breakfast + 1000 bonus points at Waldorf Astoria (no breakfast benefit), Conrad, DoubleTree, and Hilton hotels.

3. Now the upgrade pool also includes SUITES that before were excluded. This applies for Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, DoubleTree and Hilton properties. At the same time the upgraded rooms are no longer just executive rooms but view and other lower category rooms as well.

4. Executive Lounge access is no a guaranteed benefit of Diamond status.

We’ll need to see how these changes work through all the hotels. Personally I am most excited about the possible suite upgrades. At least it is now explicitly stated that suites are fair game for Diamond members.

hh-diamond-level-member-benefits

Diamond benefits by the Hilton hotel brand:

Bloomberg Businessweek Article About United & Continental Merger

When I first saw the cover all I could say was wow! For sure it won’t let anybody cold. But, the actual article about the everyday things that these two merging airlines need to get right from the size of the coffee packet to combined flight management system is actually rather well written.

bloomberg-businessweek-united-continental

If you can get the cover out of your mind, I would suggest spending five to ten minutes of your time to read it online. The full article “Let’s Get It On” is available at http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/united-continental-making-the-worlds-largest-airline-fly-02022012.html.

Air Berlin To Join Oneworld Alliance On March 20th & Kingfisher Implementation Put On Hold

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It hasn’t been a great week for Oneworld alliance. Friday the Hungarian carrier Malev ceased operations when planes where held at various airports for unpaid debts. And now Kingfisher’s joining to Oneworld is put on hold.

kingfisher-oneworld

Kingfisher was set to join the alliance on February 10th, but now the implementation has been put on hold as the carrier tries to resolve its financial difficulties. Earlier in the week Kingfisher failed to pay its dues to IATA’s Geneva based ICH clearing house, which airlines use to settle payments with each other, and its clearing house membership was then suspended.

It remains to be seen, whether Kingfisher is able to resolve the financial difficulties. The airline would need a significant capital boos/debt reduction in order to survive. Air India was set to join competing Star Alliance, but its pending membership was suspended August last year. There are currently no Indian carriers in any of the three global alliances.

airberlin-oneworld-ab

One the positive side for the Oneworld alliance is the confirmed joining date of March 20th for Air Berlin. From that date onwards you can earn both elite qualifying status miles as well as redeemable miles on flights operated by Air Berlin but credited to Oneworld Alliance partners.

Be sure to check whether the ticketed fare class qualifies for a credit as it often varies between the alliance carriers. On American Airlines’ AAdvantage program the cheaper fares only earn 25%. Not sure if American Airlines will implement a new earnings chat from March 20th onwards.

I haven’t flown Air Berlin yet, but they have come across on fare searches quire frequently. It is just difficult to book on a non-alliance carrier when you will miss all the benefits associated with the status i.e. lounge access and higher luggage allowance.

Malev Ceases Operations as Planes Held Overseas

Malev, Oneworld alliance carrier, has ceased operations as of Friday morning. I wrote on Tuesday that the airline had filed for bankruptcy protection but planned to continue operating as they were searching for partners.

malev-oneword

This morning the decision was done to ground the airline when planes were held at overseas stations in Dublin and Tel Aviv due to unpaid debts.

Malev has the following announcement on their website

malev-announcement

Not sure how they are going to provide assistance to those that are already on their trips.

 The Call Centre informs the Airline’s passengers about the way how they can get to their destinations and the possibilities of compensation.

Malév Call Centre available at:

phone from Hungary: +36 40 21 21 21

phone from abroad: +36 1 802 11 11

e-mail: malev@malev.com

According to the government regulation which entered into force on 31st January 2012, assistance can be provided to those passengers who purchased their valid tickets before Malév cease and whose travel dates are on the suspension day or on the following three calendar days. In addition, to those who already travelled to their destination on the suspension day or before and posses valid return tickets on Malév flights on a date not later than 29th February 2012.

Do you have flights on Malev coming up? Do you have tickets issued on Malev’s 182 ticket stock?

If your Malev flights are issued on other airlines’ ticket stock, you need to contact the issuing airline or agent to find alternate options.

If your ticket is issued on Malev’s ticket stock and involves other carriers, contact the operating carrier to find out if they are going to honor the tickets.

Oneworld has issued the following statement:

Two other oneworld members serve its Hungary home, with British Airways and Finnair both operating to Budapest, from their London Heathrow and Helsinki hubs respectively, with airberlin launching flights to the Hungarian capital from its Berlin base from Monday (6 February).

Passengers booked before today on code-share flights carrying the BA, AY (Finnair), JL (Japan Airlines) or AB (member elect airberlin) codes but which were to be operated by Malév are being offered alternative travel arrangements, or refunds in line with their regular fare rules.

Passengers booked before today to fly on Malév code-share flights (ie, with an MA code) operated by British Airways, Finnair or airberlin to Budapest are being offered assistance for travel on British Airways, Finnair or airberlin, subject to availability.

British Airways is also offering Malév passengers stranded away from home by the airline’s suspension of services special repatriation fares.  airberlin is also offering Malév passengers special fares on its new Berlin-Budapest route.

For details, see ba.com, finnair.com and airberlin.com

Most oneworld member airlines are also offering to rebook customers with a connecting sector on Malév onto alternative carriers for that connecting sector, where possible.  For details, see each individual airline’s website or contact their reservations centres.

Starwood Preferred Guest Spices Up SPG Gold Member Benefits

Much of the discussion on the past few days have been about the SPG Platinum benefits update. Much less has been devoted to the new benefit of the SPG Gold status.

spg-more-power

Starting March 1st the Gold members will be eligible for Welcome Gift much like PLT members. Gold members can choose from:

•Bonus Starpoints. Get to the points. Receive 250 bonus Starpoints® per eligible stay at St. Regis®, Luxury Collection®, W®, Le Méridien®, Westin® and Sheraton® and 125 Starpoints per stay at AloftSM, ElementSM and Four Points® by Sheraton.
•In-Room Internet Access. Online. On us. Surf, stream and stay connected in the convenience of your guest room with free in-room Internet access for your entire stay.
•Complimentary Beverage. Cheers. Sit back and relax with your favorite cocktail in the hotel’s restaurant or bar.

Internet access is free for all guests at Aloft and Element hotels. There your choice is basically the bonus Starpoints or a complimentary cocktail. Some other hotels are offering free internet access to all hotels so you might want to check before choosing the amenity.

Still, my favorite golf member benefit is the guaranteed 4PM check out at non-conference and resort locations. You just need to let the front desk know that you require late checkout and it is yours.

Gold status normally requires 10 stays or 25 nights in a calendar year. There are often airline related campaigns where airline elite status holders are comped SPG Gold status.

SPG Gold status after one stay paid using a MasterCard in the Asia-Pacific region

Right now SPG and MasterCard are running a promotion for getting Gold status after one stay paid with a MasterCard in the Asia-Pacific regions. You can read more about the promotion on the Starwood’s website at www.spg.com/WorldMasterCardGoldUpgrade.

February Hotel Promotions Update: Carlson, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott/Ritz-Carlton, and Starwood

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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.

hyatt-spring-promo-2012

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

Lifetime SPG Platinum Status, Free Continental Breakfast, Suite Night Awards & Your24 – New Starwood Preferred Guest Benefits

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When I wrote earlier today about the enhancements that were coming to SPG Platinum program starting March 1st, I only missed the Your24.  The breakfast and suite night awards were as exactly as I described them.

The threshold for lifetime Platinum status is surprisingly low compared to Hyatt or Marriott. With SPG you only need 10 years as a Platinum member and minimum of 500 nights.

Starwood has now introduced another benefit for those that spend more than 75 nights at Starwood properties per year. You will earn 4 Starpoints instead of 3, and you can check in at any time for 24 hours.

This is quite interesting development considering that Starwood is clearly starting to distinguish between Platinum members that stay 25, 50, and 75 nights. There are some additional benefits at 100 level as well.

Here are the new benefits in a nutshell

  • Lifetime SPG Platinum status for 500 Nights and 10 years of Platinum membership
  • Free continental breakfast as welcome gift option
  • Suite Night Awards (10) after 50 nights
  • Your24™ – Checkin at any time for 24 hours + 4 SPG points per dollar (used to be 3) after 75 nights

Now Malev Hits Turbulent Skies and Files for Bankruptcy Protection

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It hasn’t been a great week in European aviation. Spanair, a Star Alliance carrier based in Barcelona, suddenly collapsed and ceased operations last Sunday leaving many passengers seeking for alternate transportation options. Today, the Hungarian airline Malev, member of the Oneworld alliance, has filed for bankruptcy protection. Unlike the Spanair, the airline continues to fly its scheduled flights, at least for now.

malev-oneword

Hungary had paid illegal subsidies to keep Malev solvent, and European Union ruled on January 9th that the airline needs to pay back this unlawful state aid. The amount that the airline was supposed to pay back equaled to its total revenue of 2010.  According to the airline, they have adequate resources to keep flying for the next 30 days under normal circumstances. If suppliers are starting to require cash payments or guarantees, the cash on hand might be gone much sooner.

I have flown Malev couple of times as a part of Oneworld ticket issued by American Airlines. Last time I flew with them out of Beirut and on to Helsinki via few days in Budapest. The business class was typical for European airlines, but what was fascinating were the sausage based dishes that I had on both of the fights. They were bit unusual.

Do you have flights on Malev coming up? Do you have tickets issued on Malev’s 182 ticket stock?

For the time being, things are as normal as they can be when an airline is under bankruptcy protection. It is highly unlikely that government would pony up more money after Malev just got an order from the European Union to pay back the illegal state aid that the airline had received.

If your Malev flights are issued on other airlines ticket stock, you may need to contact the issuing airline to find alternate options in a case that the flights are not operating, or the carrier is suddenly shut down. Your money is safe, however.

If your ticket is issued on Malev’s ticket stock and involves other carriers, the business is as usual for now. US carriers United Airlines and US Airways just confirmed that they are honoring all Spanair tickets that involve flying on these two airlines. Same might hold true to Malev’s Oneworld alliance and other partners, if the carrier goes down.

For the time being, I would only continue buying flights involving Malev for  a week or two out. And if you do, make sure that you are paying using a credit card, that will protect you in a case that the airline stop operating.

Suite Night Awards, SPG Lifetime Status, and Breakfast Coming SPG Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum Members

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There has been lot of chatter about the upcoming enhancements to the Starwood Preferred Guest program at the Platinum level. When you deal with close to 1000 properties and need to keep them informed, there are always going to be some leaks even when the corporate tries to control the release of the information. I have already written about the breakfast and the Suite Night Awards. Now I have more clarity of these benefits. I believe that Starwood is releasing the info officially in the next 24 to 48 hours.

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Website being partially “refreshed”

1. Breakfast

Now properties like Westin’s, W’s, St Regis’, Luxury Collection, aLoft’s and other brands without lounges don’t have to offer a complimentary breakfast for Platinum members. This has become a competitive disadvantage for Starwood when all the Hyatt’s and Hilton properties (excluding the one in Maldives) are offering this to their Diamond members, and Hilton even for Gold ones.

Apparently the breakfast is going to be an amenity choice in some of the brands/hotels. It is a no brainer to choose the breakfast every day over 500 SPG points per stay, especially if this would also apply for award stays.  Some might say that most of the hotels are already offering a free breakfast for Platinum members. This is really country specific. Good luck getting a breakfast in Bali just for being a Platinum member at W, Westin, Luxury Collection Laguna, or St. Regis.

2. Suite Night Awards

You would get ten Suite Night Awards per year that you could apply for paid, cash + points, or pure award stays. Confirmable 5 days to 1 day before arrival. If the upgrade doesn’t clear in advance, it will be put back into your account. You would be then eligible for space available suite upgrades as of today.

spg-suite-nights-awards

The terms and conditions indicate that this would be benefit of those that stay more than 50 nights yearly. Not sure if this just an oversight, or if Starwood is starting to distinguish between Platinum members that just make it by having 25 stays and those that spend considerably more nights than that.

Overall, I don’t think that this benefit is make or break. I would be eligible for it as I spent more than 110 paid stays with Starwood last year. Ten confirmable suite upgrades would allow me to confirm in advance about 9% of my stays.

Probably the hotels that are already good at upgrading Platinum members would continue to do so under this program. Hotels are already provided a list of incoming Platinum members on a daily basis and preferable upgrade order.

Hyatt has already had complimentary suite upgrade awards for their Diamond members for couple of years. You will get four upgrade certificates per year that are valid up to 7 days each. These are valid on all points eligible paid stays and can be confirmed in advance. Some Park Hyatt’s have unannounced discontinued their participation to this program. These suite night awards are not valid on award stays.

3. SPG Lifetime

Now they are also bringing a more long-term incentive to credit stays to SPG program once you have passed the requalification requirement.

spg-lifetime

Hyatt requires $200000 spent that is credited to Hyatt Gold Passport points to get a lifetime Diamond status. You can call Hyatt and ask how many BASE points you have earned. You need a million base points to qualify. The lifetime points earned on Hyatt.com only shows the points earned with all possible promotions. These are not paid points.

Marriott also has a lifetime Platinum, Gold, or Platinum status up for grabs. It requires 1000 (Platinum), 800 (Gold), and 600 (Silver) nights, and 2000000 (Platinum), 1600000 (Gold), and 1200000 (Silver) Marriott Rewards points earned from ALL sources i.e. hotel stays, credit card, buying points etc. You also need to be a member for 12+ years and have qualified for the status at least once at the lifetime level.

What is going to be the criteria for the lifetime Platinum status with Starwood? I don’t have the answer before this is announced. But, considering what Hyatt and Marriott is requiring, I would imagine it to be in the 1000 nights range. Last year SPG already introduced a lifetime night counter on Starwood’s website. Not sure how closely the have measured the spending aspect, but it would be easy to calculate from the number of points earned before any bonuses.

Earning Alaska Airlines Elite Status on Partners and Emirates

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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.

How to Write a Hotel Feedback (Complaint) Letter?

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My friends always think that I would complain a lot about hotels, but that is really not the case. Last year I had more than 300 hotel stays at Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental, Marriott, and Starwood hotels. Of these 300 stays only three were “disastrous” enough to warrant a written complaint; St Regis, W, and Ritz-Carlton hotel.

ritz-carlton-singapore

I have thought about it few times – the higher the perceived quality of the hotel, the more chances they have not to meet your expectations. Not sure if I have ever complained about the physical condition of the hotel. You can always fix/update the rooms, but getting the soft product (service) right is more complicated than that. Especially, when you are staying at “affordable” luxury hotels, they shouldn’t promise you more than what they can deliver. This is usually the reason for discontent.

Normally, I try to resolve any issues I have on the spot. Calling the operator and asking them to connect you to the Manager on Duty, is most of the time enough to get any stay related issues corrected while you are still at the property.  But, when you have many issues going wrong with your stay, then it might be worthwhile to write-up a letter to let the property and possible the franchisor know about the issues you have had. This is also another chance for them to make it right i.e. offer you compensation (read points).

If I have had a bad stay, I never write the letter immediately. It is better to let the things settle and not to write anything when you are “emotional”. I just write down the issues I have had on a notepad and revisit them a week or two later.

The structure of the complaint

– Your name and address

– The confirmation number

– Your account number with the hotels loyalty program

– The date(s) of your stay

First paragraph: I normally include some information about the number of hotel stays I have had and statuses, if any, I have with the hotel loyalty programs.

Second paragraph: There is always something positive about the stay as well. I always start with the things that I liked about the hotel.

And then the complaint part. I always try to be as short as possible and straight to the facts. I tend to use points to make it clearer. One or maximum two lines per issue or problem.

Third paragraph: If you know what would be your preferred resolution for the complaint, don’t hesitate to communicate it. I normally request points in the hotels loyalty program.

Fourth paragraph: Just closing the letter and thanking them.

Where to send the complaint?

With the chain hotels, like the ones I listed above, there are always two ways. You can send it to the attention of the General Manager of the property in question, or you can send it to the corporate who will delegate it to the property. I tend to send it to the corporate because then it gets to the attention of the person at the property who deals with issues like this.

How to send it?

With Starwood, InterContinental Hotels Group, Hilton, and Marriott you can just send it by email. I don’t like using web forms for issues like these that Hyatt requires, so I just fax it to the Hyatt customer service department.

How long to wait for a reply?

I would say that hotels are typically very fast at resolving any issues raised post stay. You should hear back from the property itself, or the guest relations department of the loyalty program, in just a few days.

Conclusion

I really don’t like the word “complaint” at all. Think of it as giving feedback to the property about the issues that they should be looking more into. Business are generally happy when you give them the opportunity to make things right. Also, there must be quite a few guests that have come across the same issues, but who have never taken the time to give feedback.

Confirmed Suite Night Awards Coming to Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum Members

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Couple of weeks ago I wrote about a supposedly coming benefit for SPG Platinum members – a breakfast. Now, website update has revealed a confirmed Suite Night Awards. Not sure if this was part of bigger Starwood announcement that was to take a place in New York on 31st of this Month. We should learn more in just a few days.

How these Suite Night Awards should work?

– You need to be a Platinum member and stay 50 nights in a year. Starwood may offer these as a promotional incentives as well.

– You can request the upgrade at the time of booking and the system will start checking availability five days prior to your arrival. You will receive email updates if your upgrade clears or doesn’t.

– If the upgrade using suite night award cannot be confirmed day prior to the arrival, it gets returned to the account.

– You can cancel the suite night award request up until 2PM before the day of arrival, if it hasn’t cleared, and the award will be deposited back to your account.

– Confirmed suite award can be canceled if your cancel your reservation. The deadline is 3PM day before your arrival. If you cancel your stay after that, you will lose the award.

My Opinion

Not sure whether I would consider this a positive move based on my own stay patterns. Last year I had more than 110 paid stays with the Starwood alone. These new Suite Night Awards would allow me to confirm less than 10% of my stays in advance.

Unlike some others, my actual suite upgrade success has been close to 100% at international properties that have suites.

These suite awards will probably work best for those that are mainly looking for suite upgrades for their vacation stays, or for those who mainly stay at limited service properties like aLoft and Element that don’t offer suite upgrades for SPG members at all. It remains to be seen, how these will work at the most popular vacation spots like Hawaii that already have Platinum heavy clientele. It may well be that complimentary space available upgrades for Platinum members might be thing in the past, unless they are willing to confirm the upgrade using these newly minted upgrade instruments, in places like Hawaii.

Overall, I think that in this case Starwood is reacting to Hyatt that introduced their suite awards the other year. You would get four per year and they would be valid up to seven nights each, but they would only be valid for paid stays. You cannot upgrade Hyatt award stays using suite upgrade certificates.

Marriott, Hilton, and Continental Email Customer Service Turnaround Times

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Two days ago I wrote about my experience with Etihad and US Airways when it came to retrocrediting some flights that I had taken.  In the past month I have had a need to contact Marriott, Hilton, and Continental by email to fix few things.

If I don’t have an urgent thing to solve, I prefer sending an email. This way I have proof and the company can also better manage their workflows. Also, if the reply is by email and you have competent people replying to them, it doesn’t really matter where the function is located.

With Continental I had canceled one award flight, but the miles or the taxes/fees hadn’t been credited back to my account. I wrote an email/replied on their web form on December 20th to find what was going on.  The reply from Continental was received on January 26th. That is 37 days later after the inquiry was initiated. I happen to be a Platinum member with Continental. I was wondering how long it would take for a general member to get a reply out of this airline?

Please accept our apology for the delay in responding to your email; the busy travel season has led to an increase in the number of incoming e-mails and our response time is longer than average.

There had been few issues with Marriott.  Couple of properties that I had had problems with, and some points that hadn’t posted correctly. I try not to do a laundry list, but these issues were from the past seven months, and I hadn’t had time to fix them earlier. Sent an email with some attachment to Marriott Concierge on 21st and received a reply on 24th that they were looking what they could do. My email to them was sent on Saturday, and apparently the whole Marriott Rewards center is closed on Sunday so getting back on Tuesday was understandable.

But, I am still amazed how fast Hilton manages to reply to their Diamond members. I had a question regarding a promotion that they run with Emirates. I sent an email to Diamond desk at 11:57PM on 20th and the reply came on 21st at 3:25AM. The turnaround time was less than three and a half hours.

Continental should really look into how they manage the replies to email/web form inquiries. 37 days is nowhere near being acceptable. United has always been rather good at replying to complaints/comments sent to them as 1K. The reply is almost always received within a day or two. The Hilton example above is not an anomaly. Hilton has always been very good at replying to email inquiries and doing that fast. I am not as satisfied, however, with the quality of their Diamond phone line. It doesn’t really matter if the issues can be solved lightning fast by email. Marriott as a global hotel chain really should adopt better opening hours of their corporate customer care.

Star Alliance Carrier Spanair Collapses and Ceases Operations

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Spanair, a regional Star Alliance carrier based in Barcelona, is ceasing operations tonight due to collapse in talks with Qatar Airways buying a minority share of the airline. Spanair used to be majority owned by Scandinavian Airlines Systems (SAS), but the airline sold 80.1% of the airline to an investor group in 2009, and later capital injections decreased it share from the original 94% ownership to 11%. SAS had tried to unload the airline for years, and was finally able to do it once the regional government got involved.

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Qatar Airways had been in talk to acquire a minority stake of 49% of the airline, but the talks collapsed earlier today.  The regional government of northeastern Catalonia is no longer supplying further funds to Spanair.

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Spanair’s website has already gone dark

I have flown Spanair quite a few times over the years. The last flight was in July from Barcelona to Nice. It was nice regional airline offering direct connection to many European cities from their hub. Most likely the frequent flyers that had points in their system are now toasted. It is good reminder to burn the points especially on those carriers, which are not on the financially sound standing.

Spanair also had a worst crash in Spanish aviation history for 25 years in 2008 that killed 154 people

What should you do if you have flights ticketed on Spanairs 680 ticket stock, or flights ticketed on other carriers ticketed stock that involves flights on Spanair operated flights?

1. Tickets issued on Spanair’s ticket stock starting with 680 are most likely worthless. These are the first three numbers of your eticket.

If you have flights ticketed on Spanair’s ticket stock that involve other carriers operating under their own flight numbers or as Spanair codeshares, it is up to the other airline to decide whether they will accept the electronic flight coupons or not.

For flights paid with a credit card, you should start the dispute process at your earliest convenience. If you paid with cash through a travel agent they should be your point of contact.

2. Tickets issued on other than Spanair’s ticket stock of 680 but involving flights operated by Spanair

You need to contact the travel agent who sold the ticket, or the ticketing carrier. You can find the ticketing carrier by using the first three digits of the eticket number. The ticketing carrier is responsible for any possible reroutings.

Award tickets issued on Spanair flights by other Star Alliance carriers. You need to contact the issuing carrier. Star Alliance has a comprehensive European network even without the Spanair, although getting to some Spanish destinations is going to get difficult.

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