WHAT TO KNOW NOW

When Marriott announced the acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts last year, many in the business travel community wrinkled their noses, concerned about the future of Starwood’s loyalty program. Though Marriott Rewards runs a pretty tight ship, Starwood’s loyalty members are fiercely devoted to Preferred Guest — and many in the program worried about the future of their benefits.

Since the beginning of the merger, Marriott has defended a position that it plans to retain the loyalty of Preferred Guests members — and last week it seemed to follow that path by putting David Flueck, a 13-year Starwood Hotels veteran, in charge of the upcoming, merged program.

Plenty of terrible things can still happen as the joint program takes shape later this year, but in the short term, Marriott seems to be following a path more toward Preferred Guest than Rewards with its new program. And for now, the business travel community seems to be happy.

SOCIAL QUOTE OF THE DAY

Excited for the future of loyalty. http://spg.to/2lt1xxi

@spg | Starwood Preferred Guest

hawaiian airlines

AIRLINES

Malaysia Airlines Focuses on Fuel Costs as Brand Recovers: Malaysia Airlines projects oil prices will increase to about $70 a barrel toward the end of this year and has aggressive fuel hedging in place as the money-losing national carrier seeks to return to profitable operations. Read more at Skift

Hawaiian Airlines Is First U.S. Airliner to Help Monitor Climate Change: Hawaiian Airlines says it has become the first U.S. airline to join an international research project on climate change and air quality. Read more at Skift

Norwegian Air Has Cheap Flights to Europe. But Not as Cheap as You’ve Heard: Norwegian Air, a budget carrier hoping to make a name for itself in the American market, began promoting dirt-cheap, no-frills tickets from the U.S. to Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland last week. One eye-catching promotion even offered one-way tickets to Ireland for $65. Are there any catches? Well, a few. Read more at The New York Times

Why Some Airlines Are Investing Big in Food for Their Best Passengers: During a recent focus group, Delta Air Lines shared several meals with prospective customers, asking which they thought might taste best. All were the same, but the presentation was different — from trays, to plate styles, to silverware. It’s probably no surprise customers thought food that looked best would be tastiest, so this spring, Delta will overhaul most of its service-ware in premium classes, adding new china and Alessi silverware. Read more at Skift

AIRPORTS

Three Ways to Make the Most of a Dubai Airport Layover: Dubai International Airport recently surpassed London’s Heathrow as the world’s busiest international air travel hub. If you can arrange it, Dubai is a great place for long layovers between long-haul flights. Read more at Skift

TSA’s Aggressive New Pat-Down Screenings Have Airports and Airlines Concerned: While few have noticed, U.S. airport security workers long had the option of using five different types of physical pat-downs at the screening line. Now those options have been eliminated and replaced with a single universal approach. This time, you will notice. Read more at Skift

Norwegian Shifts Focus at London Gatwick to Focus on Long Haul: Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA plans to scale back short-haul operations at London Gatwick airport as competition weighs on prices, freeing up scarce operating slots for new trans-Atlantic routes. Read more at Skift

Attorneys at Airports Preparing for Next Trump Travel Ban: Airport officials and civil rights lawyers around the country are getting ready for President Donald Trump’s new travel ban — mindful of the chaos that accompanied his initial executive order but hopeful the forthcoming version will be rolled out in a more orderly way. Read more at Skift

uber CEO Travis Kalanick

TECH

Facebook Launches City Guides With Booking for Hotels and Restaurants: Facebook quietly launched a City Guides feature in the Facebook app that enables users to book some hotels and restaurants, and message or tap to call other hotels, restaurants, and tours and attractions. Read more at Skift

Why Uber May Have Outgrown Its Founding CEO: “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it,” wrote Travis Kalanick, the chief executive of Uber, in an email to his staff the other day. In that same email, which he sent out after Bloomberg published a video showing him berating an Uber driver, the 40-year-old CEO also said that the incident reminded him that he “must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.” Read more at Skift

Air passengers rail against allowing mobile-phone calls on planes: One by one, airline passengers’ privileges have been taken away: free checked bags, free carry-ons, complimentary food and drink, on-board entertainment. Now, with the advent of “basic economy” class, some flyers are even losing the ability to choose their seats, sit with family members, and accrue qualifying miles toward elite status. So it is rather interesting that when passengers are offered the chance of a new privilege, their response seems to be an overwhelming “no thank you.” Read more at The Economist

Gogo Has More In-Flight Internet Bandwidth Than It Knows What to Do With (Sometimes): “Bandwidth abundance.” Those are two words many North American airline passengers have been waiting to hear for years. Read more at Skift

 

HOTELS

CitizenM Hotels Tries to Strike Just the Right Tune as It Expands in Asia: Since the first citizenM hotel debuted in 2008 in Amsterdam, growth has been at a comfortable pace of one property per year, with all 10 hotels except for one in New York being on familiar European home ground. Read more at Skift

Anbang Closes Iconic Waldorf Astoria in New York for Condo Makeover: The word “grand” matched few hotels in the world better than New York City’s Waldorf Astoria, but this bastion of gilded splendor is now closing for two to three years for a transformative makeover. Read more at Skift

Hotel CEOs Aren’t Slowing Down Their Push for Direct Bookings: It’s been a little over a year since the major hotel companies initiated their direct booking offensive in an attempt to take away share from online travel agencies (OTAs) and other third-party distribution parties. Read more at Skift

YOUR TURN

Andrew Evans, one of the best travel writers of this generation, has a new book called The Black Penguin available for preorder now. Find it on Amazon here.

TIPS AND COMMENTS

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

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Photo Credit: Starwood posted this photo on its Facebook page on September 23, 2016, the day its merger closed with Marriott International. So far so good as far as the integration goes of the two (or three, actually) loyalty programs. Starwood Hotels and Resorts