Skift Take

In any modern merger of travel brands it's the loyalty members who worry the most.

What to Know Now

Two acquisitions in the travel industry are racing to a close, pointing to an exciting week for investors and frequent travelers.

On the airline front, news broke this morning that Alaska Airlines will acquire Virgin America for $2.6 billion, edging out a competing bid from JetBlue and making a few frequent flyers happy in the process.

The second deal coming to a close is the acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts by Marriott International. After a furious back and forth last week, Anbang, the Chinese suitor, walked away from the deal, leaving Marriott once more as the sole bidder. Already, Marriott is in the process of getting investors and frequent travelers back on track.

High on the priority list for both buyers and consumers? Making sure they don’t screw up the Starwood Preferred Guest or Virgin Elevate loyalty programs.

Social Quote of the Day

If EWR is finally running smoother, maybe keep the slot restrictions in place rather than jamming more planes in?

@airlineflyer | Jason Rabinowitz, #AvGeek researching and writing things about airlines, airplanes, transit and travel on new congestion coming to Newark



What Virgin America’s Loyalty Members Have to Look Forward to in an Acquisition: As Virgin America mulls takeover bids between JetBlue and Alaska Airlines this week, many frequent flyers are waiting with bated breath for what may be some positive changes to the airline’s Elevate program. Read more at Skift

JetBlue to add ‘Mint’ flat-bed seats to more routes: JetBlue is expanding its recently launched “Mint” service to more routes. JetBlue’s Mint seats debuted in 2014 on its new Airbus A321 aircraft, giving the carrier premium seating for the first time. Now, the airline will add the seats to more routes beginning this fall. Read more at USA Today

American Airlines Drops Its Free 24-Hour Hold on Reservations: American Airlines is ending its policy of letting customers hold a trip reservation without paying for 24 hours. Instead, customers who buy a ticket will have 24 hours to cancel without charge, which is already the policy at other U.S. airlines. Read more at Skift

Alaska Airlines Changes Mileage Plan to Crush Loopholes for Frequent Flyers: Alaska Airlines has changed a sliver of its loyalty program, and travel bloggers responded with unilateral fury. Read more at Skift



Brussels Airport Reopens Under Tight Security: A Brussels Airlines plane heading to the Portuguese city of Faro took off from Brussels Airport on Sunday, the first passenger flight to leave the airport since suicide bombings on March 22 ripped through its check-in counters. Read more at Skift

Airlines Continue to Offer Refunds and Waivers for Brussels Flights: Travelers who booked trips through Brussels have options while the airport in the Belgian capital remains closed after last month’s bombings. Read more at Skift

Newark Airport Is About to Be Busier Than It Has Been in Years: The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday it’s easing limits on the number of hourly flights at Newark Liberty International Airport, and the airport’s operator said that should lead to greater competition and lower airfares. Read more at Skift



A Qantas Plane Races a Telsa in Cross-Promotion to Push Sustainability: Australian national carrier Qantas Airlines has partnered with Tesla for a new collaboration to promote sustainability initiatives. Read more at Skift

Gett Would Control Half of London’s Taxi Market With Proposed Acquisition: Gett, a global ride-hailing service that started in Israel and is a chief rival to Uber, has offered to buy Radio Taxis in a move that would bring Gett’s London car fleet to 11,500, a number the company says amounts to half of all licensed taxis in the city. Read more at Skift

State Department Deletes Tweet Suggesting You’re Not a ‘10’: It was just one message among many sent out in a social media campaign by an arm of the State Department, meant to warn people on spring break about the pitfalls of overseas travel. If grabbing people’s attention was its sole goal, it succeeded tremendously. Read more at The New York Times

Microsoft Wants to Bring Travel Bots to Skype Messaging: First came Slack, then came Skype — at least to the messaging app bot game. Read more at Skift



What Anbang’s Failure to Close Starwood Deal Says About China’s M&A Ambitions: Anbang Insurance Group Co’s unexpected withdrawal this week of its $14 billion offer to buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc is a wider blow to the unprecedented drive by Chinese companies to acquire North American and European assets. Read more at Skift

Marriott CEO: Most Important Thing for Us Is the Loyalty Program: Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson appeared on CNBC this morning for a wide-ranging interview to discuss the departure of Anbang Insurance Group from the bidding process for Starwood Hotels and Resorts. In addition to talking about the benefits of Marriott’s deal over Anbang’s he also discussed loyalty, brand distinction, and the moves by some U.S. states to provide religious shields for discriminatory behavior. Read more at Skift

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Can be sent to gm[at]skift[dot]com or to @grantkmartin

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Photo credit: Virgin America's brand will soon be absorbed into that of its buyer, Alaska Airlines. Virgin America

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