What to Know Now

Happy new year.

In a year full of bad news for frequent flyers, Alaska appears to be stepping up, bucking the trend, and doubling down on Mileage Plan, its loyalty program.

What’s so special about Mileage Plan? It’s the only remaining airline loyalty program that doesn’t have a revenue component attached to it — so if you can fly 100,000 miles for $500, you can still earn top elite status on the carrier. Other legacy carriers now require frequent flyers to spend between $3,000 and $15,000 annually to earn status.

Skift’s Brian Sumers chatted with Alaska’s team about its approach and in a nutshell, the airline sees distance-based loyalty programs now as a valuable differentiator. And if frequent flyers agree, Alaska may be in for some big business.

Social Quote of the Day

Look at those mileage bonuses! Well done, @AlaskaAir on breaking up with @Delta and improving #MileagePlan…now, on to #IFE Improvements?

@ndlstrong | Nate Strong, Strategic accounts at @socedo

Airlines

Delta Doesn’t Want the Dreamliners Northwest Ordered Before It Bought the Airline: Delta Air Lines Inc. scrapped an order for 18 Boeing Co. widebody Dreamliner jets valued at $4 billion at list prices, a commitment that was inherited with the company’s 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines. Read more at Skift

Here’s Why Alaska Airlines Is Keeping Its Generous Frequent Flyer Program: Just after closing its acquisition of Virgin America, Alaska Airlines surprised travelers — and some loyalty experts — by making a simple announcement about its frequent flyer program: Passengers will continue to earn one mile for every mile they fly. Read more at Skift

5 Things That Frequent Flyers Have to Look Forward to in 2017: 2016 was not a good year for frequent flyers, but for those committed to the road, not all was lost. Read more at Skift

Airports

United Denies Rumor It Will Cut Hot Food From Lounges: A rumor sprang up on Flyertalk this afternoon that hot food would be cut from the United Clubs in Chicago O’Hare and not expanded to additional airports. Read more at Live and Let’s Fly

American Airlines is shrinking at its Phoenix hub: The economy is humming, new flights are taking off, and airfares are down. That trio of positives should have Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton calls the economic engine of Arizona, on track for its third consecutive record year. Instead, shrinking business from American Airlines has the city-owned airport experiencing its first decline in annual passengers since 2013, and that decline is likely to continue in 2017. Read more at USA Today

Yes, Japan Has Special Toilet Paper for Your Phone: A second, smaller roll of “toilet paper” has appeared alongside the regular kind in restroom stalls at an airport in Japan, so that travelers can wipe down their phones. Read more at Fortune

Tech

China To Spend $125 Billion Per Year to Expand Rail Network by 2020: The Chinese government plans to expand the country’s high-speed rail network to 30,000 kilometers (18,600 miles) by 2020, part of public infrastructure spending aimed at shoring up economic growth. Read more at Skift

Google Home Helps You Leave the House, Too: In recent months, Google has further insinuated itself into the travel world. The company’s latest innovations include flight price alerts pinged to your inbox, and the Google Home personal assistant, a voice-activated speaker that can translate languages and tell you when your flight is departing. Read more at The New York Times

Best Travel Television Shows to Stream This Holiday Season: We already know you’re going to spend most of this holiday season streaming travel shows. How else will you spend your delay at the airport, dodge political fights at the family table, and generally recuperate from a horrific 2016? Since it’s inevitable, here are the travel shows we think are worth bingeing. Read more at Skift

Hotels

A Celebration of the Brands That Cared in Airlines and Hospitality: As we close out 2016, it is worth highlighting the elements of inspiration from the travel and hospitality sphere. Read more at Skift

WhyHotel Experiments With a Pop-Up Luxury Hotel During Trump Inauguration: Finding a place to stay in the Washington area during the presidential inauguration — or any other time — usually means crashing at a friend’s or relative’s place, finding a seemingly trustworthy homeowner willing to rent online, or shelling out for a traditional hotel room. A major developer wants to pioneer another way, which it is describing as a “luxury pop-up hotel”: Visitors can rent a furnished apartment for one night or several, combining the amenities of home and the benefits of a hotel staff. Read more at Skift

The Hotel of the Future Will Be More Customer-Centric and Experience-Driven: What should the hotel of the future look like? That’s what Deloitte attempted to answer recently when it conducted an ethnographic research study with Doblin. Read more at Skift

Airbnb’s CEO Asks Twitter Users What Airbnb Should Launch in 2017: It all started with a simple Tweet on Christmas night. Read more at Skift

Your Turn

Team Skift’s favorite stories of the year were rounded up last week during the quiet holiday lull. Take a peruse through some of our finest writing here.

Tips and Comments

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

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