First Delta, now United. Several weeks ago, Delta made the big changeover in its SkyMiles program to a spending-based model, and now it’s United’s turn. March 1 is the effective date for United’s previously announced changes in MileagePlus — changes essentially the same as Delta’s. Under the new system, MileagePlus members’ earnings will be on a graduated scale, ranging from five points per dollar spent on air fare for basic program members, up to 11 points per dollar for Premier 1Ks. So basically, low-level, low fare travelers will earn less for their trips than before, while front-cabin, higher-level elites will earn more. The big unanswered question at this point: Will American do the same when it finally merges the AAdvantage program with US Airways’ Dividend Miles this year? MileagePlus members: Will you be better or worse off under the new system? Post your comments below.
Rapid Rewards devaluation? Without releasing any specific details, Southwest Airlines said on its Rapid Rewards page last week that it plans to make some changes to its award travel starting April 17. On that date, the number of points needed for award travel on some routes “will vary based on destination, time, day of travel, demand, fare class, and other factors,” the airline said, adding that “many flights…will stay at the current redemption rate.” The blog Travel Summary adopted a skeptical attitude toward the cryptic announcement, referring to it as a “devaluation” of Rapid Rewards points. “While some prices may get cheaper, you can bet they’re making this change to increase a majority of prices,” the blog said.
San Francisco Sky Club. A Delta spokesperson has confirmed to TravelSkills that the brand new Sky Club, inside security at SFO’s Terminal 1, is set to open in May. We’ll share more specifics when we get them!
Double miles at Alaska; Delta’s bag guarantee. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members who register online can earn double miles from now through May 15 on eight routes to and from Salt Lake City, and on 19 Seattle routes. There’s no limit to the amount of extra miles that can be earned with this new promotion … Delta is offering SkyMiles members a bonus of 2,500 miles if they have to wait more than 20 minutes for a checked bag on any domestic flight to reach the carousel after arrival. All you have to do is fill out an online form within three days of arrival.
Southwest adds Passbook. It took a while, but Southwest Airlines passengers who are checking in electronically for their flights can now have boarding passes sent to Passbook on Apple devices using iOS6 or later versions. Look for a new button on the bottom of the boarding pass screen that says “Add to Passbook.”
Virgin adds intra-Texas route. Southwest Airlines’ lock on the market between Dallas Love Field and Austin — where it operates 10 daily non-stops — is being challenged by Virgin America, which announced plans to begin flying the route five times a day as of April 28. Virgin already flies to AUS from San Francisco.
New China route for Silicon Valley. It’s all systems go for Hainan Airlines’ planned new non-stop service from San Jose to Beijing’s Capital International Airport. SJC officials said last week that Hainan’s new service will begin June 15, operating five days a week with a 213-seat, two-class 787 Dreamliner. Economy roundtrips are in the $1,500 range while business class is in the $3,500 range—reasonable. The only other transpacific service out of San Jose is ANA’s daily flight to Tokyo Narita — but more could be coming, as the airport expects to finish construction of two new international gates by this summer.
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