When it comes to travel, the theme of 2015 is all about shifting loyalty. Delta and United are both switching to revenue-based frequent flyer programs, meaning you’ll now earn miles based on the price of your ticket rather than based on the flight distance. Starting in February of 2015, we’ll see the elite status ‘cliff' and we will also see more people fall off because of the requirements that are going to be put in place. Here are four key trends to watch for:
This week, Starwood Preferred Guest and Emirates Skywards announced a new "joint points" partnership called Your World Rewards. The partnership provides reciprocal benefits to elites of both loyalty programs when they fly with Emirates or stay at participating Starwood properties. Registration for the new partnership begins on Wednesday, November 19, 2014.
The global economy is up and business travelers are back in airplane cabins. Most major airlines are posting healthy profits and airlines are scrambling to score lucrative premium-cabin travelers. Just look at JFK-LAX: lie-flat beds in business class are the norm and even JetBlue is getting in on the action with its new Mint service. (I'm actually writing this post from a Mint seat with blazing fast Wi-Fi!)
So with the cash rolling in, airlines are getting stingier when it comes to leisure travelers and the perks bestowed by elite status. Starting January 1, 2015 Delta and United will stop awarding miles based on how far you fly—it’s now all about how much you spend.
These days, competition is heating up in the hotel industry. The big chains are not only competing against each other, but they’re also competing against online travel agencies and startups like Rocketmiles and Hotelied for your business. When you book through the hotel directly, it’ll give you points, whereas reserving through online travel agencies generally disqualifies your stay from earning valuable hotel points and possibly even getting your elite status. So if you want those points, book directly with the hotel—especially during the busy fall travel season when many brands offer lucrative promotions.
Here are the major hotel chains and their promotion details. You should always double check and make sure that the hotel you want to book isn’t listed as an exclusion—a lot of hotels opt out of these promotions because they get charges for the extra points. You may also want to plan your stays around the days where you’ll earn the most points.
It’s pretty much indisputable that airlines are making frequent flyer miles harder to use. Across the board, we’ve seen programs increase the amount of miles needed for awards—all while restricting the amount of seats available at the lowest level and adding new fees. However, it isn’t all doomsday. Luckily, credit card bonuses are extremely lucrative and there are now more ways to earn miles than ever before. Whether from online shopping or dining out, you should be getting miles for almost every purchase.
After the recent announcement that United Airlines will shift to a revenue-based frequent flyer program in 2015, it’s important to assess the evolving landscape of loyalty programs and consider changes that may still be in store. As a consumer advocate, I want all frequent flyers to understand what a loyalty program should be, and to inspire airlines to either preserve the value of those programs or risk losing faithful customers.
Frequent flyer programs follow a simple give-and-get formula: airlines reward customers for their business, and in exchange they develop brand loyalty. However, starting in 2015, when both United and Delta will structure awards based on revenue, their passengers will earn miles not according to how far they fly, but to how much money they spend.