Check out our new look! And help us celebrate! We’ve been busy working on a new look for The TICKET that we hope will be easier on your eyes, and easier to navigate. Please bear with us as we polish up the new look and let us know if there’s anything that does not make sense, or seems out of place. Also, this month marks an important milestone in the life of The TICKET– it’s TWENTY YEARS OLD! Yep, the TICKET cranked up as a paper newsletter ($37/yr) mailed via the USPS way back in February of 1993. How many of you have been reading that long?
IMPACT OF SKYMILES CHANGES. Our informal poll of TICKET readers gauged the response on the recent addition of dollars spent to miles flow to achieve SkyMiles medallion status. 42%of the poll respondents said they will easily be able to make both the spending and mileage requirements to maintain status. About 18% said it would be tough, but they would be able to make the cut. The other 40% said they will be up a creek. See the survey responses and read interesting comments regarding that post here.
MILLION MILERS CAN CHILLAX. If you earned Silver, Gold, or Platinum Medallion status based on being a One, Two, or Three+ Million Miler, you are exempt from the new revenue requirement. If you want to continue rolling over MQMs, however, then you must meet the requirement of the level from which you want to rollover. Still have questions or concerns? Delta has posted a helpful FAQ about the new program here.
DELTA + STARWOOD = NICE. Delta and Starwood have launched a unique new program called Crossover Rewards, which offers reciprocal benefits in both programs. This means that starting March 1, Delta Diamond and Platinum Medallions (who are not already elite with Starwood) will get elite level benefits in the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program, including 4 pm checkout, free internet, and one SkyMile per dollar spent on room rate in addition to Starpoints. That’s great. But it also means that elite level SPG members will have access to already crowded priority check in and boarding lines. They will also get one free check bag. What do you think? Is this a good thing, or not? If you are a Delta Diamond or Platinum beholden to another hotel brand, will this make you consider a switch to swanky Starwoood? Please leave your comments below! Details and registration here: delta.com/crossoverrewards or spg.com/crossoverrewards. Insiders tell The TICKET that a Starwood brand will team up with Delta later this spring with some trendy inflight amenities or other promotions.
HILTON HHONORS DEVALUED: Effective March 28, Hilton HHonors will play under a new set of rules. (Sound familiar?) Instead of the current seven award tiers, there will be 10. The highest tier will now require a whopping 95,000 points per night, up from just 50,000. You’ll pay more during high season, and less during low season. This is indicative of a travel industry trend I’ve been following—when paying with cash or with points, peak season prices are rising through the roof due to rising demand from travelers. The only way to get the best deals at rates that feel reasonable, is to fly or stay during low or so-called “shoulder” seasons. How do you feel about this? Angry enough to dump Hilton and move to a competitor? Well, not so fast…Today Starwood rolled out its adjusted list of hotel award categories, with more hotels moving up than down—not as severe as Hilton’s, but still. Thoughts?
GLASS-BOTTOM JET. Hey iPad users… have you tried out Delta’s cool new Glass Bottom Jet feature, which shows what’s going on beneath the plane as you are flying across the country? To use it, you must first download the Fly Delta for the iPad app. Give it a go, and let us know what you think. And if you have no idea what we are talking about, watch the video above!
AMERICAN + US AIRWAYS. The proposed merger of American Airlines and US Airways will have a minimal impact on the Atlanta market. Neither carrier has a large presence here. US Airways flights to Charlotte, Philadelphia and Phoenix will likely be folded into American’s operations out of the T-gates at ATL—that’s an improvement for US Airways customers who’ve had to trudge out to Concourse D. Plus, they will have access to American’s nice Admirals Club near the T-gate spine. Another plus: If you have some stray AAdvantange or Dividend miles lying around, you’ll be able to combine them in the new program. What do you think? Will the merger have an impact on you?
DELTA TO TOKYO. Delta has received the go-ahead from the DOT to shift its Detroit-Tokyo Haneda flight to Seattle-Haneda.The new flight will be an excellent option for Atlantans who prefer close-in Haneda– avoiding the long transfer (1-2 hours) from Narita into town. While it does involve flying to Seattle first, the Seattle-Haneda flight will be flown with Boeing 747-400 aircraft (like the Atlanta-Narita flight) with new lie-flat seats in BusinessElite and individual entertainment screens in Economy Comfort and Economy.
SPEAKING OF TOKYO. Your TICKET editor is fresh back from a business trip to Tokyo—the result of which is his latest BBC.com column. Check it out to learn about Tokyo’s recovery from the earthquake, its luxury hotel boom (one brand new hotel is inside Tokyo Station!), and where to find a decent meal.
AIRTRAN-SOUTHWEST CODESHARING BEGINS. The two carriers, which have begun the merger process, have started placing their codes on a handful of each other’s flights. While this may seem like a non-event for the average traveler, AirTran still charges bag fees ($25 for the first, $35 for the second). If you purchase your ticket via Southwest’s website under a Southwest code (even if it is operated by Air Tran), you will be spared the bag fee. Agents are certainly going to be hell bent on charging the fee, but the official policy is that your source of purchase should dominate. Note that not all AirTran flights appear on Southwest.com– only the current handful of code share flights.
ONLY 25% OF MILES FLOWN? SAY WHAT? Delta has cracked down on the SkyMiles it awards customers who book tickets as part of a package. Those hotel, car rental, and flight bundles found on Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and other travel sites can offer excellent value, but will now come at a cost. They are known as unpublished fares and fall into the same category as student airfares and consolidator bookings. While these tickets may appear to book into standard L, U, and T fare categories, if they are booked on third-party sites, only 25% of flown mileage will be awarded. Also included in this new restriction is airfare purchased through a cruise line as part of a package. This does not affect flight-only purchases on third-party sites, which continue to earn the full mileage flown. (Hat tip to TICKET reader SG for bringing this to our attention.)
NEW AMENITY KITS. Delta’s Business Elite amenity kits have seen many incarnations including the collector’s tins from the late 1990s, the zippered triangles in the early 2000’s and the more recent red cylindrical tubes. Customers will have a new one for their collection beginning this month. The new kit comes from luggage provider Tumi and features a smart, stylish design. It is packed with Malin+Goetz toiletries like neroli hand lotion, lip balm, and the standard accoutrements of socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, and eye shades. New to the kit is an antibacterial wipe. These kits are being introduced throughout the month on all long-haul international flights. The older red kits will continue to be used on domestic transcon flights between JFK and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle until the stock is depleted. Do you use the amenities airlines provide in these kits? Leave your comments below!
GOOOAAALLL! A new partnership with Gol Airlines of Brazil (an airline in which Delta recently acquired an equity stake) now offers more benefits like reciprocal lounge access and priority check-in for Delta passengers. Already in place was the ability to earn and redeem mileage with Gol, which has an immense network throughout Brazil and South America. New complimentary lounge access at Gol’s lounges in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are open to Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion members when traveling with Gol or Delta.
NEW DELTA ROUTES. Although it was expected to be eclipsed by Beijing this year, ATL held on to its title as the world’s busiest airport yet again in 2012. Delta is helping its biggest hub hold onto that title by adding nonstop flights to three U.S. destinations: Anchorage AK, Burlington VT and Green Bay, WI. The first two cities will be served with Delta mainline aircraft while the Green Bay route will be flown with a CRJ-700 featuring 9 first class seats. Delta is also starting new service between LAX and Seattle and San Jose, California and adding an extra flight between JFK and Dublin three days a week this coming summer.
AHHH. FRESH AIR. Flight delays may just be a good thing on warm spring and summer days now that Delta has announced plans to open terraces or “SkyDecks” at the concourse F Sky Club in Atlanta and the new JFK club later this year. Fresh air, patio-style seating, fabric umbrellas, and large glass walls ringing the space will be a welcome change to the often over-crowded clubs these days. Plane spotters will have excellent views of the tarmac (unless the glass is not cleaned regularly!). The outdoor areas are a collaboration between Delta, Architectural Digest, and fashion designer Thom Felicia. Your TICKET editor recently enjoyed an afternoon at the enormous public sky deck at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport…have you ever been to an airport that offered access to the great outdoors? If so, where? Please leave your comments below.
SKY CLUB RATES BUMP UP. Better renew your Sky Club membership now because in March annual rates will get a boost in price of about $50 (depending upon your elite status). Rates have not increased in the past three years, and Delta’s heads-up to customers to renew in advance is certainly appreciated.
NEW DELTA WEB SITE GLITCHES. Delta agents now freely admit the new website is problematic…several have acknowledged that phone calls are coming in “by the truckload” about buggy features. Whether it freezes halfway through a transaction or simply refuses to load on Safari or Internet Explorer, Delta flyers continue to put up with a disappointing raft of missteps. Some TICKET readers who don’t have the time or inclination to learn how to work the new site have reported that they are resorting booking travel on third-party sites or even other airlines to get away from the frustration of delta.com. Have you experienced the same website freezes or disruptions that stop you from booking a revenue or frequent flyer ticket? Keep us informed so we can investigate and let the Delta team know what’s frustrating TICKET readers.
LAX SKY CLUB CHANGES. In a reversal of what many clubs seemed to be offering, the Sky Club at Los Angeles is being redesigned again (surely you have noticed the dreadful construction over the past few months) and re-installing its staffed bar. Delta removed the bar in the last renovation in favor of a stylish, kitchen ambiance with refrigerators stocked with drinks of all types and a self-service bar. Presumably, the return to bartender service is intended to sell more drinks from the Luxury Bar. Customers wanting juice or soda must now wait in line. A similar removal of the self-service bar took place at one of Minneapolis/St. Paul’s SkyClubs and has been met with mixed reaction. What do you think? Do you prefer to make your own drink or would you rather leave that up to a bartender? Please leave your comments below.
NEW FEES AT SOUTHWEST. Southwest Airlines passengers who are used to not showing up for a flight and then requesting full credit for that flight for future use later are in for a surprise. Southwest says it will soon impose a no-show fee on cheaper restricted tickets if you don’t contact the airline and cancel your plans within 24 hours of flight time. Southwest’s “Early bird” check in fees have increased to $12.50 from $10. In addition, if you want to nab an open position in the first boarding group, Southwest now charges a $40 fee (based on availability) for that. In addition, the fee for oversized or overweight bags, or a third checked have increased from $50 to $75 each. Southwest still does not charge for the first or second checked bag…but industry scuttlebutt is that Southwest will likely join other carriers in charging bag fees starting next year.