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Issue #538 — Jan. 14, 2009

CONTENTS

Up Front

  • “Up Front” Blog Entries

On Site

  • FrequentFlier Forum Topics

Reader Rants & Raves

  • Feedback from the Frontlines of Travel

Sweeps & Freebies

  • Win 1 Million American Miles

Steals & Deals

  • Deal Alert from SmarterTravel.com

Miles & Points

  • More American Miles-for-Dining
  • Continental to Restore Elite Bonuses, for Some
  • Delta, Northwest Will Rescind Fee Waiver for Elites
  • Earn More Priority Club Points for Stays

Up Front

Tweet, Tweet

Use this link to follow us on Twitter and stay abreast of the latest in frequent flyer program news, opinion, and advice.

“Up Front” Blog Entries

Following are some of Tim’s recent blog posts:

On Site

The FrequentFlier Forum – Hot Topics

As always, there’s plenty of activity on the FrequentFlier Forum.

In the “Airline Programs” Forum, Flying Texan adds the following to the “How Savvy Fliers Make the Most of Their Miles” thread: “I always look at the cash price of a seat to compare; usually domestic and offseason fares, especially to Europe, warrant paying cash + racking up more miles. My experience has been Asian routes are always cheaper with miles. I did go business class this summer paid entirely with miles; unfortunately, other than extra personal space, there wasn’t much of anything ‘special’ anymore that makes me want to spend 50% more to get out of the cattle car. The key is to compare and weigh your preferences…”

And in the “Rental Car Programs” Forum, Justin7525 provides a heads up on changes to Avis’s program: “In the past, on all rentals you could earn airline miles, etc. on qualifying rentals. Also if you are Avis first these rental accumulations could be used to qualify you for a free weekend rental. NOW, if you choose to earn airline miles for your rentals that rental will not qualify for a free weekend. Slap in the face if you ask me!”

Questions, answers, opinions? Post them to the Forum!

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Reader Rants & Raves

Feedback from the Frontlines of Travel

We welcome reader feedback on issues related to travel generally and frequent flyer programs in particular. Please use this link to submit comments.


More Foreign Programs, Please

“I’ve been a reader for several years and aside from the person who mentioned that you do not go into Amtraks reward travel program, which I have used numerous times and have found it to be one of the better ones, you basically stick to only the American brand Airlines and don’t go into any of the foreign airline programs.

“In my opinion one of the best foreign airline programs is that of Virgin Atlantic. Not only is their program good, but the airline is and the crew on board are pretty terrific, friendly, helpful and having flown them about 3 times a year for the past 14 years, I can safely say that I have found them consistent in their demeanor toward passengers and this is one airline where one can enjoy the flight overseas.

“I have flown its counterpart British Air one time and will not do it again. The difference in service, attitude and care for the passenger is so significant they can’t hold a candle to Virgin Atlantic.

“Sir Richard Branson runs a wonderful organization and caters to its customers even in the class of economy. In today’s world of flying that is saying something. They are also very helpful with those of us who are disabled and they make sure you are comfortable.

“So if you could, would it be possible to look into their program and add them to your weekly list.” [Tania M.]

[FrequentFlier.com replies - In a word: Yes. Our goal is to keep our readers abreast of any offers relevant to U.S.-based travelers. Whenever Virgin (or British Airways, Lufthansa, etc.) have such offers, we report them. But I'm sure we could do better. Thanks for the reminder.]

Open Note to Delta About My Northwest Flight

“On December 29th the flight from Midway to MSP was scheduled to depart at 6:25 AM, we had to wait around for de-icing that never happened. Thanks to the common sense of the Pilots, we boarded after an hour and a half and they taxied out into the sunshine and let the sun melt the frost off the wings so we could take off three hours late, I missed my connection. They said the contractor’s truck broke down and the crew did not show up. I work with contractors all the time and I have learned that money talks and things happen, I wonder if it was a communication problem?

“Two days later, when we got on at MSP, someone loaded an extra 4,000 pounds of fuel on the plane so we could not take off. Again, thanks to the common sense of the pilots, they filed the paper work and we taxied around burning up just enough fuel so we could take off at maximum allowed weight.

“So Delta, now that you have taken over and when you need to make some personnel cuts, will you open your eyes and ears and fire the people who are not doing their job instead of going by seniority. Also please remember the flight crews are not the problem, they are the best thing going at Northwest now part of Delta!” [Steve S.]

Gypsy Cabs at JFK

“One further comment regarding gypsy cabs at JFK (and other places too):

“More importantly than their attitude, these cabs may not necessarily have the appropriate insurance coverage for the service that they are offering. A good friend – now wheelchair-bound due to an accident while he was in a gypsy cab – learned about this the hard way.” [GSB]

Marriott Promotion Confusion

“Marriott is listed in the ‘highlights’ as offering double points. What they are offering is 2,500 points for each second stay.” [Dick D.]

[FrequentFlier.com replies - Marriott has two offers set to launch on February 1. One awards double airline miles, the other offers bonus Rewards points. It would have been less confusing if Marriott had followed the example of Priority Club, which has a single promotion that gives participants a choice of miles or points.]


Until next week…

Sweeps & Freebies

Win 1 Million American Miles

Enter American’s “Imagine The Miles Giveaway” sweepstakes by March 5 for a chance to win 1 million AAdvantage miles. Enter either by booking a flight on AA.com, or by filling out an online form, without making a purchase.

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[Visit FrequentFlier.com for more travel sweepstakes.]

Steals & Deals

Deal Alert from SmarterTravel.com

1) Buy One Ticket and Get One Free From Spirit

Spirit has announced a new “buy one, get one free” ticket offer. Members of Spirit’s Free Spirit frequent flyer club can take advantage of the free ticket. If you’re not already a member, you can sign up on Spirit’s registration page.

You have until Thursday, January 15, at 12:59 p.m. ET, to register for the “BOGO” offer and book a qualifying round-trip flight on Spirit. Qualifying flights include any of Spirit’s destinations for travel between January 14 and June 17.

Note that when booking, you must include your Free Spirit account number on the registration, or you won’t be eligible for the free ticket. There is a limit of one free ticket per account.

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2) New Year’s Sale Fares on American From $78

American is offering New Year’s sale fares starting at $78 round-trip. Destinations include New York City, Orlando, and Tampa.

Travel is valid from January 14 through March 4. American has not listed a booking deadline. A three-day minimum stay is required. Travel must be booked at least 14 days in advance.

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Miles & Points

More American Miles-for-Dining

Through February 28, AAdvantage Dining participants can earn 500 bonus miles for every month during which they spend $150 or more on eligible dines.

For those who have not qualified as dining VIPs (earning five miles per $1 spent, rather than three miles for non-VIPs), there’s a separate offer to reach VIP status after four dines of at least $25 each completed by February 28.

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Continental to Restore Elite Bonuses, for Some

In September, Continental announced that, effective March 1, 2009, Silver elite bonuses would decrease from 50% to 25%, and Platinum bonuses would be cut from 125% to 100%. The Gold bonus, 100%, would remain the same.

While the change will still take effect as scheduled, there is now a way to retain the higher bonuses beyond March 1. Holders of the very pricey Presidential Plus World MasterCard ($375 annual fee) will continue earning the current elite bonuses.

Is it worth it? Perhaps, since the card also includes benefits such as Presidents Club membership, elite status in Hyatt’s program, and 2,000 elite-qualifying miles for every $25,000 charged to the card. But OnePass members will understandably feel they are being extorted by Continental and Chase (the card issuer), who have an obvious financial interest that runs counter to the best interest of the airline’s best customers.

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Delta, Northwest Will Rescind Fee Waiver for Elites

As we’ve reported, many of the changes announced in the run-up to the merger of the Delta and Northwest programs later this year have been either neutral or positive for consumers.

The latest, however, is decidedly negative, at least for Platinum elites.

Effective March 1, 2009, the redeposit and reissue fee for award travel will no longer be waived for Delta Platinum Medallion and Northwest Platinum Elite members “in an effort to preserve award seat availability for all SkyMiles members.”

It’s all very well “to preserve award seat availability” for members of the two programs. Should that be at the expense of an elite perk? There’s a simpler way: Just make more award seats available.

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Earn More Priority Club Points for Stays

Between January 12 and April 30, Priority Club Rewards members can earn 3,000 bonus points or 1,000 bonus miles for every third night at InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites hotels. There’s a maximum of 30,000 bonus points or 10,000 bonus miles that can be earned during the promotion period.

Registration is required.

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