Big mileage switch starts. On January 1, Delta became the first of the Big Three U.S. legacy airlines to transform the basis of earnings in its loyalty plan from distance flown to money spent. Under the new regime, non-elite SkyMiles members will get five miles per dollar spent on air fare, Silver Medallions earn seven miles per dollar, Golds get eight, Platinums nine and Diamonds 11. Delta has an online comparison calculator so you can figure how much a given flight would earn in the old vs. new structures. United will put the same spending-based structure in place for MileagePlus members starting March 1. (American/US Airways for now is sticking with the traditional mileage scheme, although during 2015 it has new mileage bonuses based on fare class, elite status and distance flown.) Some observers say the change to spending-based programs is a logical development following the hotel industry’s lead, but others see it as the latest step in a class warfare where airlines disproportionately cater to big spenders at the expense everyone else. Readers: Have you run any numbers to see if you’ll be better off under the new criteria vs. the old? What did you find?
Etihad mess. Etihad, which launched San Francisco-Abu Dhabi nonstops using Jet Airways B777s in November, took a big hit over the weekend when fog struck in Abu Dhabi. SFO-bound flight 183 had started its taxi toward take off when the flight was halted due to foggy conditions. Passengers ended up stuck on the tarmac for about 12 hours with no opportunities to get off the plane– and lots of bickering between passengers and flight crews according to various reports. After that ordeal, passengers endured the 16-hour flight to SFO. Luckily, the only damage from this incident is frayed nerves on the part of travelers and a big black eye for an airline just getting started in SFO. Regrettably, an elderly passenger on a Dusseldorf-bound flight facing a similar delay died. Since US rules (or fines and compensation) for such delays do not apply foreign airlines operating overseas, it will be up to Eithad to determine how it will compensate passengers and repair its image. Stay tuned….
Alaska lifts bag fee temporarily. All members of Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan who fly on the carrier during January will get a break from the carrier’s $25 fee for a first checked bag during that month. If you booked a January flight at an earlier date and your Mileage Plan number is in the reservation, the fee waiver will kick in automatically during check-in. What’s the purpose of the month-long fee waiver? “To encourage new and existing members to experience the benefits of Alaska’s award-winning frequent flier program,” the company said. For details, go to www.alaskaair.com/FirstBagFree.
Routes: Virgin, American, Spirit. Virgin America Airlines has kicked off new seasonal daily flights between New York JFK and Ft. Lauderdale … American reportedly plans to revive American Eagle service between Cleveland and New York LaGuardia on March 29, with three ERJ-140 flights a day — the same day United plans to trim its CLE-LGA schedule from eight daily roundtrips to six … Spirit Airlines is growing in southern California; it will launch daily San Diego-Denver service January 6, Los Angeles-Cleveland flights April 16 and a daily LAX-Denver roundtrip on the same date.
Marriott explains Mi-Fi blocking. Remember a few months ago when Marriott was slapped with a $600,000 fine by the FCC after its Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville was caught blocking the personal Wi-Fi mobile hotspots (also known as Mi-Fi) that some guests were using at meetings there? Marriott and the American Hotel and Lodging Association are asking the FCC for a ruling that such blockages do not violate federal rules, and last week Marriott sought to clarify its position on the issue. Marriott said it will never block guests’ Mi-Fi signals in guestrooms or lobbies — in fact, it encourages such activity. Instead, it only wants to block “rogue and imposter Wi-Fi hotspots used in our meeting and conference spaces that pose a security threat to meeting or conference attendees or cause interference to the conference guest wireless network.” (But if you read through the AHLA/Marriott petition to the FCC, it doesn’t say anything about limiting hotels’ Mi-Fi blockage authority only to meeting rooms.) Meanwhile, Google and Microsoft, along with other respondents, have jumped into the debate, urging the FCC to continue barring hotels from imposing any restrictions on Mi-Fi hotspots. Do you ever use your own Wi-Fi hotspot in a hotel? Will this be unnecessary as the big chains roll out free standard Wi-Fi at all their hotels? Post comments below.
Hilton, Marriott cancellation policies start. Just a reminder: January 1 was the effective date for new policies and Hilton and Marriott that require guests who won’t show up to cancel their booking no later than the day before their expected arrival. Otherwise, they’ll forfeit the cost of a night’s stay. (Some say the purpose is to stop guests from looking for better rates on last-minute booking sites.) We haven’t seen other major lodging groups match the policies yet, and if too many guests book away from Hilton and Marriott in favor of more lenient cancellation rules, the new policies might not last. Do cancellation policies affect your choice of hotels? Add comments below.
Starwood adds three Alofts. Are you a tech-minded Millennial? Then you’re the target market for Starwood Hotels’ trendy Aloft brand, and the company just opened three of them in key domestic business destinations. In Detroit, the historic David Whitney Building at One Park Avenue has been converted into a 136-room Aloft Hotel; another new Aloft has opened at 16th and Stout in the heart of downtown Denver; and the third has made its debut at Buffalo, N.Y.’s airport. Here’s our take on the Aloft near San Francisco International airport.
Free Wi-Fi coming to NYC airports. By the end of the first quarter of 2015, travelers in all terminals of the three major New York City-area airports should be able to enjoy 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi with no ads. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is working with Boingo Wireless to upgrade Wi-Fi technology at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark so that free high-speed 30-minute sessions can be offered in all of them. Currently, the amenity is in EWR’s Terminal C, LGA’s Central Terminal and JFK’s Terminal 4. For more time online, the system will offer hourly, daily or monthly fees.
In Case You Missed It…
- Here’s why San Francisco’s airport is prone to lengthy flight delays.
- Delta plans to redefine cabin/seating categories as of March 1.
What are the two best all-around credit cards? Both currently offer 40,000 mile sign up bonuses!
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