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What to Know Now
Flyertalk’s awards for the best loyalty programs were just released and highlighted on CNN. The annual awards are particularly interesting because they’re voted on by the world’s most uptight and anal-retentive travelers on the planet, so you can be sure that the results are well vetted.
Winning this year’s best mileage program once more is American Airlines, no doubt because they’re the only legacy carrier that hasn’t ravaged their mileage program. In Europe, the best program went to British Airways while Jet took the prize in the Middle East. Common thread: AA and BA both belong to Oneworld — with Jet as a partner.
On the hotel side of the equation, Starwood won the best hotel program, while Hertz came out on top for the best car rentals.
This lousy weather has markedly affected the on-time performance and the bottom line of air carriers across the board, but lets not overlook other forms of transportation. Amtrak’s on time performance has been tanking this winter, on one route in Illinois down to 26%. As a frequently delayed passenger between Ann Arbor and Chicago, I’ve experienced the delays first hand — and they’re no less than infuriating. Amtrak and our rail infrastructure is broken. And their customer service, which is on par with Comcast, isn’t helping.
Social Quote of the Day
Calling all writers! Criss-cross the country for free on one of @Amtrak’s long-haul train routes. http://bit.ly/NzMxgb
Airline Baggage Stats: More Checked Bags Mishandled More Often: Even as some airlines hike bag fees, passengers almost counter-intuitively checked more bags per person in 2013. And right on cue, airlines mishandled more bags per passenger on domestic flights in 2013 compared with 2012. Read more at Skift
Qatar Airways Debuts A380 First Class: Qatar Airways announced that it will deploy its first A380 onto its London Heathrow route this summer. It will contain eight seats/beds, which will be the widest and largest in the air once the aircraft is launched. Read more at Business Traveller
United Is Obsessed With the Winglets That Save It $200 Million a Year: Boeing calls the odd-looking upturned wingtips on aircraft “blended winglets,” Airbus calls them “sharklets” and Southwest Airlines, in ads, simply calls them “little DooHickeys.” Read more at Skift
Lufthansa Premium Economy to Take off in November: Lufthansa unveiled its new premium economy class on Wednesday, part of a strategy to reinforce its position as a top-class airline against fast-growing rivals from the Middle East. Read more at Reuters
TSA Opens Pre-Check Enrollment Center at Salt Lake City Airport: The Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday a new enrollment center for the agency’s Pre-Check program at Salt Lake City International Airport’s Terminal 1. Read more at Skift
Airport Executives Want Obama to Raise Flyer Fee: The American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) is calling for Congress to increase in the airport user fees that are paid by airline passengers to higher levels than President Obama is calling for in his fiscal year 2015 budget. Read more at Skift
Virgin America Eyes Dallas Love Field Slots: Virgin America Inc., the discount carrier partly owned by U.K. billionaire Richard Branson, wants to step up competition with American Airlines Group Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. on their home turf in Texas. Read more at Skift
5 Ways Airlines Can Improve User Experience on Their Apps: While some third-party travel apps get it right, airlines have an advantage those other app developers do not: limitless data and up-to-date information. Airlines need to incorporate the wealth of back-end information in their systems. Read more at Skift
China Deploying Drones to Rid Airports of Smog: China will be using a new type of anti-pollution drone to clear smog from the skies of selected airports and ports later this month. The plan will see unmanned aerial vehicles taking to the air on flexible parasails, before spraying chemicals that freeze atmospheric pollutants and cause them to fall to the ground. Read more at The Verge
Hotel Chains and Casinos Align Loyalty Programs: Casino corporations MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp. have both announced loyalty program partnerships with major hotel chains (Hyatt and Starwood, respectively). The independent Strip casino the Cosmopolitan is also partnering with a hotel company, striking a deal with Marriott. Read more at Skift
The Top-10 Hotels for Fast WiFi: There may come a day when hotels will compete on the basis of their WiFi offerings, boasting free, blazing-fast Internet access as a way of differentiating themselves from other hotels in their categories. The top ten hotel brands, in terms of their WiFi speed, are as follows: Read more at Frequentflier.com
Park Hyatt Flagship Is Set for New York: Park Hyatt New York, the flagship property of the Park Hyatt brand, is opening this summer in the One57 skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan near Carnegie Hall. Read more at The New York Times
There’s an interesting article from Airchive over on Forbes defending Delta’s latest changes to its SkyMiles program. In it they make the point that the changes are best for the future of SkyMiles — and they’re right. But loyalty programs are about the traveler as much as the airline, and these changes are nothing less than a money grab by the airline. I can’t call that a rewards program any longer. I call that greed.