Skift

Skift Business Traveler: The Changing Face of Loyalty Programs

@grantkmartin

Feb 20, 2014 2:30 pm

Eduardo Munoz  / Reuters

Customers of United wait in line to check in at Newark International airport in New Jersey, November 15, 2012. Eduardo Munoz / Reuters


What to Know Now

Loyalty programs have taken a beating over the last year with huge devaluations at United, Delta and Hilton. With this week comes news that Club Carlson, the parent company of Radisson and a handful of other large hotel chains is gutting their program as well.

Loyalty programs seem to be turning into more of a liability than an incentive to travel providers, which we all expected in this ultra-competitive cost-cutting industry. So what’s a business traveler to do? Reduce your liability by spending your points. Book tickets for your friends and family. Snag that hotel in Tuvalu that you’ve been watching. The more points you have rotting in your account the more you have to lose, so keep your balances low.

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Top Story

If you’re a business traveler in Seattle or Washington DC Reagen, it’s going to be an interesting year. With change at each airport in the works, airlines are battling for frequent passengers with heavy incentives and aggressive bidding over landing slots.

On Seattle’s side, the choice falls between Delta and Alaska. Both are offering strong incentives to frequent travelers, but Delta’s latest offer for double elite and earned miles may take the cake. Hopefully Alaska responds to the pressure and cozies up with American for support.

Reagan’s battle comes after US Airways lost over a hundred slots after its successful merger with American Airlines. Both Virgin America and Spirit had been fighting over the last remaining slots and it looks like Virgin just won. Combined with their new slots out of LaGuardia, they may soon have a strong east coast presence.

SOCIAL QUOTE OF THE DAY

 I’m working on a Buzzfeed list of the top 50 states in no particular order.

@StephenAtHome: Stephen Colbert

 

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Airlines

The Best Time to Book a Flight Depends on the Destination:  The average fare for a flight from the US to Europe will vary by $256 from when a ticket is first offered to the day the plane takes off. A flight from the US to South America will fluctuate in a $262 range over the same period. Read more at Skift

Homeland Security Alerts Airlines of Potential Security Threats on Overseas Flights to U.S.: The Homeland Security has warned airlines that terrorists could try to hide explosives in shoes. It’s the second time in less than three weeks that the government has issued a warning about possible attempts to smuggle explosives on a commercial jetliner. Read more at Skift

Southwest to Retire AirTran Brand by the End of 2014: Doing away with the AirTran brand has always been part of the plan for Southwest, which announced plans to acquire its one-time rival in 2010. The merger closed in 2011, but Southwest has been notoriously cautious on its public timeline for how long it would take to completely fold AirTran’s operations into its own. Read more at Skift

Qatar Launches All-Business-Class Flight Linking London and Doha: Qatar Airways will introduce a daily flight linking Doha and London with an all-business-class cabin as the Middle Eastern carrier focused on luxury travel expands one of its most popular routes. Read more at Skift

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Airports

Virgin America Wins Rights to 8 Remaing Slots at Reagan National: Virgin America airline said on Wednesday it had won the last eight takeoff and landing slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Read more at Skift

Newark Airport’s New High-Tech Lights Are Also There to Watch Travelers: Visitors to Terminal B at Newark Liberty International Airport may notice the bright, clean lighting that now blankets the cavernous interior, courtesy of 171 recently installed LED fixtures.  But they probably will not realize that the light fixtures are the backbone of a system that is watching them. Read more at Skift

New $35 Pay Lounge Opens at Newark Airport’s Terminal B : A new upscale pay-in lounge opened at Newark in Terminal B. It’s currently also available to El Al passengers as their premium pre-departure offering. Read more at View from the Wing

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Tech

7 Ways the New Google Maps Can Make Your Travels Easier: Google is making seven super-helpful changes to its Maps tool today, refinements that are particularly useful for travelers. Here are some of the most helpful changes and how to use them while planning and taking a trip. Read more at Conde Nast Traveler

Silvercar’s Audi A4s Now Available Through Travel Agents for Business Travelers: Business travelers who want to avoid rental-car lines and are looking for a relatively high-end vehicle can now rent Silvercar’s Audi A4s through certain travel agencies. Read more at Skift

Grand Central and 39 NYC Subway Stations to Offer Free Wi-Fi by June : After rolling out Wi-Fi and cell service to dozens of New York City subway stations last year, Transit Wireless is ramping up its efforts with phase two of the project. The expansion includes 29 new stations in Queens and 11 in Manhattan, with Grand Central Terminal among them.Read more at Skift

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Hotels

Starwood Changing Award Prices on 20% of Its Hotels: Starwood has announced its annual changes in award categories.  The increases are centered in North America, the decreases in Asia, with more hotels going down than up but more hotels entering the upper redemption tiers than leaving those tiers. Ultimately changes we can live with. Read more at View from the Wing

Starwood’s Luxury Collection Signs Up Supermodel as Spokeswoman: The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, has announced supermodel Helena Christensen as the brand’s new global ambassador. Read more at Skift

Latest Hotel-Program Devaluation: Club Carlson:   “An important update from Club Carlson.”  That was the subject line in today’s mass email from Carlson. It likely sent chills up the spines of many loyalty-program aficionados, who know all too well that “update” is all too often code for devaluation. Read more at Frequent Flier

YOUR TURN

My friend Doug Lansky who runs Destination Development Watch is going to take over the Skift Business Newsletter next week as I’ll be in Beijing and Chiang Mai on holiday.  Take good care of him while I’m gone.

TIPS AND COMMENTS

Can be sent to gm@skift.com and @grantkmartin. We publish the Business Newsletter twice a week on Monday and Thursday.

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