What to Know Now

While a competing acquisition offer was a nice distraction, it seems that the Starwood-Marriott deal is finally in the bag. Last week, shareholders at both companies voted to move forward with the mergers, clearing the pathway for full integration. The two hospitality giants plan to close their deal in June.

Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards, the respective loyalty programs, however, won’t be integrated until 2018. According to a letter sent by Starwood’s executives, the team is taking its time to carefully integrate the programs — likely in an effort to ruffle the fewest feathers. Marriott shortly followed up with its own communique.

Hardcore Starwood (or Marriott) fans are thus getting a year-long reprieve until they need to make a decision about sticking around. After that, it’s open season for the best hotel program and the frequent flyer’s loyalty.

Social Quote of the Day

Not going to make a decision until I see the particulars. If it isn’t too bad, I’ll stay. If it sucks, there’s always Hyatt.

fezbearer @ ThePointsGuy

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Airlines

U.S. Senate Shoots Down Amendment That Would Mandate Airline Seat Size: The Senate refused Thursday to come to the aid of airline passengers squeezed by the ever-shrinking size of their seats. Read more at Skift

Air France Is Trying to Woo Young Travelers with a Discount Loyalty Program: Air France will introduce loyalty cards offering 30 percent discounts on domestic routes to passengers aged 12 to 24 as it seeks to lure young travelers away from trains, long-distance buses, and low-cost carriers. Read more at Skift

Flybe CEO on Joint Ventures: No Thanks: Flybe Group Plc, Europe’s biggest regional airline, wants to expand code-sharing agreements with long-haul carriers to boost passenger numbers after barely breaking even in its last fiscal year. Read more at Skift

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Airports

First Order of Business for IATA’s New CEO: Managing A Global Airline Emissions Tax: Winning global agreement on how the airline industry is charged for carbon emissions blamed for climate change will be the top item on Alexandre de Juniac’s agenda when he becomes director of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) this summer. Read more at Skift

Aviation committee OKs 5 new O’Hare gates for American Airlines: The Chicago City Council’s aviation committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan by American Airlines to add five new gates at O’Hare International Airport, the first major expansion to gate capacity since Terminal 5 was built in 1993. Read more at The Chicago Tribune

9 Out of 10 U.S. Business Travelers Stressed Out by International Travel: International business travel can be an ordeal when delays, language confusion and other snafus make performing on the road almost impossible. Read more at Skift

SEA Will Consider Booting TSA Screeners in Favor of Private Contractors: Faced with mounting frustration over long wait times at SEA, airport officials make a promise to consider every option, including replacing the TSA employees with private security firms. Read more at Flyertalk

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Tech

BMW Challenges Uber with its Own Luxury Ride-Booking Service: BMW plans to offer a ride-booking service in Seattle and then other U.S. cities, becoming the first luxury-car maker to go toe to toe with Uber Technologies Inc. Read more at Skift

Expedia Chair Barry Diller: Artificial Intelligence Will Be Travel’s Next Big Thing: This year won’t be the year of artificial intelligence (AI). But it’s coming and artificial intelligence will be transformational. Read more at Skift

Skift Podcast: How Business Travel Is Trying to Become More Traveler-Friendly: For the next episode of our second season of the Skift Podcast, we’re getting down to business. Read more at Skift

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Hotels

Starwood Gets an Early Start at Easing Loyalty Program Tensions: With shareholder approval now on the books and the Marriott and Starwood merger succinctly moving forward, hotel executives have returned to the course of retaining their hand-wringing loyal customers. Read more at Skift

Wynn Plans Las Vegas Strip Resort That’s ‘Just Like Disney’: Wynn Resorts Ltd. is building a lake resort behind its two Las Vegas casinos, creating a place for water-skiing and paddle-boarding just off the desert city’s famous Strip. Read more at Skift

Marriott and Starwood Shareholders Approve Merger To Become World’s Largest Hotel Company: After a dramatic last few weeks in which Marriott International nearly lost out on its quest to acquire Starwood Hotels & Resorts to Chinese insurer Anbang and its investor group, both hotel companies hosted their respective shareholder meetings April 8 to endorse their newly agreed upon merger pact. Read more at Skift

Starwood Preferred Guest Missing from Top Hotel Loyalty Programs, According to J.D. Power: The third annual J.D. Power Hotel Loyalty/Rewards Program Satisfaction Report is out and this year, Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International took top honors, tying for first place in terms of overall customer satisfaction, followed by InterContinental Hotel Group. Read more at Skift

Your Turn

Andrew Evans, the former Digital Nomad for National Geographic, has a new website called Letters from Earth that’s off to a cracking start. Chick it out here.

Tips and Comments

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

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Photo Credit: Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, speaking last week at WTTC Global Summit, two days before shareholders voted to approve his company's merger with Starwood Hotels and Resorts. WTTC / Flickr