Skift Take

In the midst of ironing out the kinks in its newly merged loyalty program, Marriott was hit with news of a massive data breach last week. Revealed on Friday, the breach affects over 500 million former Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty members.

In what may be the largest hack in the travel industry to date, Marriott last week revealed that its database of Starwood customers has been compromised since 2014, exposing over 500 million user profiles to unscrupulous parties out on the web.

Though they had long been in talks, Marriott International completed its acquisition of Starwood Hotels in 2016; in only August of this year did the loyalty programs officially merge.

Marriott joins a long list of travel providers that have recently been affected by data breaches. Just earlier this month, Cathay Pacific saw the information of over nine million passengers compromised while hotel operators from Hyatt to IHG to Hilton have had their own run-ins with hackers.

What’s perhaps unique about Marriott’s breach is the scale on which it happened. When the news broke, analysts suggested that the hack may only be second in volume of affected consumers to the Equifax breach. That would make the hack the largest ever in the travel industry.

Skift’s Deanna Ting has the scoop on what the breach will ultimately mean for those 500 million travelers.

— Grant Martin, Business of Loyalty Editor

Skift Stories and More Expert Insight

Marriott Data Breach Does Little to Rattle Already Weary Loyalty Members: For many of Marriott’s loyalty members, especially those who came from the Starwood side of the merger, the hack didn’t come as too much of a surprise.

What Marriott’s Data Breach Means for the Hotel Giant and Guests: Security breaches of hotel guest data are not uncommon, but few have been quite on the scale of the most recent incident involving 500 million Starwood Hotels guests.

Alaska Airlines Hints It May Finally Join the Oneworld Alliance: Alaska Airlines is considering joining the Oneworld marketing alliance dominated by American Airlines, British Airways, and Qantas, though likely not as a full-fledged member, its chief commercial officer told investment analysts on Tuesday.

United Airlines Capitalizes on Robust Demand Amid Falling Fuel Prices: After United Airlines Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella wakes, he likes to monitor recent bookings to check if business remains strong. Increasingly, he likes what he sees, not only from corporate customers but also from leisure travelers.

How 2 U.S. Airports Are Unshackling Bureaucracy to Give New Businesses a Try: U.S. airports can be slow to innovate. Most are run by local governments, and they’re risk-averse. It’s good to see some airports trying to take chances. Let’s see if more follow.

Frontier Owner Steps In to Rescue Wow Air: Just hours after Icelandair abandoned plans to buy struggling domestic rival Wow Air, Indigo Partners, the private equity firm that controls Frontier Airlines and owns stakes in several other ultra-low-cost carriers in Europe and the Americas, agreed in principle to invest in the carrier, potentially ensuring it remains a viable enterprise.

Hyatt Launches Earning and Redemption at Small Luxury Hotels of the World: With 500 hotels in 80 countries, Small Luxury Hotels of the World holds the potential to significantly grow the World of Hyatt footprint.

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Skift Business of Loyalty Editor Grant Martin [[email protected]] curates the Skift Business of Loyalty newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Monday.

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Tags: loyalty, marriott, marriott bonvoy, starwood preferred guest

Photo credit: JW Marriott in Indianapolis, Indiana, on October 20, 2017 Sean Davis, / Flickr

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