Life is full of ups and downs, smiles and frowns. This is our look at the best and worst from frequent travel programs this year.
2012. To quote Charles Dickens, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ..." Like any year before and after, there were good days and bad days, times when everything seemed to be going your way as you got that elusive upgrade and times when you thought heading back home to veg in front of a TV would be a better option. Frequent flyers are a resilient lot and they continued to make the most of their favorite travel loyalty programs. And it's definitely a love/hate relationship. We're taking a look at the year from the point-of-view of frequent flyers, pointing out the bonuses and program changes that made us smile or frown. We also asked the opinion of two experts in the travel loyalty industry, Ric Garrido of Loyalty Traveler and Lucky of One Mile at a Time, both popular bloggers on BoardingArea.com.Good Way to Start the Year
American started the year off right for AAdvantage members by offering a systemwide double elite qualifying miles promotion, which ran through Jan. 31, 2012. This gave a lot of travelers a jump start on their elite status. American simultaneously offered double elite miles in select markets, which could be stacked with this promotion, for a total of triple elite qualifying miles.
Hilton HHonors members noticed that Point Stretcher awards, which offered a 40 percent discount on award nights at select hotels had quietly disappeared without the program making a member announcement on the HHonors website. The awards had been offered to members for more than a decade. When a member emailed HHonors to ask about the awards, he was told, "With the recent launch of Points & Money Rewards the Point Stretcher rewards have been discontinued. Our new Points & Money Rewards option lets you get away faster than ever using fewer HHonors points." InsideFlyer was told by a Hilton representative via email, "Our Point Stretcher Rewards are offered for limited periods of time, and while we are not currently offering Point Stretcher Rewards, we are offering alternatives to our members, including our new Points & Money Rewards, which are available throughout the year at participating properties." Regardless if the awards are dead or not, they did not resurface in 2012.
Million Miler Tiers (or Tears)
With the new year, United MileagePlus Million Milers saw some changes to their benefits. Lifetime Premier Executive members used to receive two free domestic upgrade coupons every year and a 100 percent bonus on miles flown. With the changes to the MileagePlus elite program, the Premier Gold level that replaced Premier Executive offers only 50 percent bonus miles, which means the 100 percent mileage bonus one million milers used to enjoy is now cut in half. Plus, the free regional upgrade coupons and three systemwide upgrades are no longer offered. To soften the blow a bit, these members can now grant their same elite status to a spouse or partner.
Irking members the most were promises from United stating, "You will continue to receive your benefits as you always have" in the combined United/Continental frequent flyer program. While it's true that some benefits will continue, such as Star Alliance Gold status and lifetime elite status, million milers now have lifetime third tier status. Prior to the introduction of the new Premier Platinum level, they were second tier for life. In response to the changes, a website was launched to bring attention to the devaluation of million miler benefits at http://millionmilersunited.com. However, to date, only 415 people have signed the online petition stating they were betrayed by United.
Bring Back Paper
For this elite year, Alaska Airlines offered electronic confirmed upgrade vouchers for MVP Gold members and added fare restrictions. Previously, the upgrades were issued on paper and valid on any fare, but as of this year, they are no longer valid for the lowest fares (G and T).
Yet Another Fee
Bank Direct started charging members who earn American AAdvantage miles with their mileage checking accounts a $12 monthly fee. The fee cannot be waived by signing up for direct deposit, maintaining a minimum balance or opening a savings account. The only way to avoid the fee was to close your account by Jan. 31. Customers earn 100 miles per month for every $1,000 in a mileage checking account, up to $200,000, and 25 miles per $1,000 on balances over $200,000.
Rollover Nights Rolled Over
Marriott extended its policy for another year of allowing elite rollover nights. Rollover nights aren't a permanent feature of the program, but Marriott Rewards has allowed members to carry over any nights they earned in excess of qualifying for an elite level to the following year now for four years in a row. For example, a member with 32 elite nights in 2012 has 22 elite nights in excess of the 10 nights needed for Silver elite. The 22 elite nights will be rolled over to jumpstart 2013 elite nights. The member already has earned 2014 Silver elite and needs only 28 more elite nights in 2013 to reach Gold status with 50 elite nights.
This would be even better if the benefit became a standing feature of the program. Club Carlson added elite rollover nights as an ongoing benefit of their program.
Hilton HHonors jumpstarted Points & Money and Premium Room awards with a 30 percent rebate on members' points for stays booked by Jan. 31 for stays through June 30. This was a good way to introduce new award options to members.
Starwood Preferred Guest offered a 30 to 50 percent rebate for North America Resort award stays from Oct. 21 to Dec. 20 including several high Category 7 hotels.
A trend continued in 2012 for allowing individual hotel properties to opt out of global hotel promotions. Hilton's first quarter promotion had over 200 U.S. hotels opt out while only 10 other hotels opted out worldwide. Starwood Preferred Guest had nearly one third of its hotels worldwide not participate in its first quarter promotion for double and triple points.
And is it really too much to ask hotel groups to always post hotel lists by geography showing country, state and city rather than by hotel name?
Where's the Love in this Relationship?
Ritz-Carlton Rewards promotions like a free night after two stays (Feb. 1 through April 15) and 30,000 points for a four-night stay (July 15 through Oct. 15) excluded all Marriott Rewards members from participation.
Ritz-Carlton had some high value promotions in 2012; however, you can only hold membership in one loyalty program, Marriott Rewards or Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
No More Earn/Burn
With the United-Continental merger, both Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways terminated their mileage reciprocity agreements with United (on Feb. 13 and Sept. 15, respectively). This impacted both the earning and burning side of things, and closed a lot of great mileage redemption opportunities.
Citibank issued 1099 tax forms to customers who earned miles for opening a checking or savings account, classifying frequent flyer miles as miscellaneous and taxable income. The forms valued a frequent flyer mile at 2.5 cents per mile, the equivalent of $625 in taxable income when the bonus offer was 25,000 miles. For a person in the 28 percent tax bracket, that would mean an additional payment of $180.60 due to the IRS.
Starwood Preferred Guest introduced new Gold and Platinum benefits and a lifetime elite program. Gold members can choose from 250 Starpoints, free in-room Internet or a complimentary beverage and Platinum members can choose from daily continental breakfast, 500 Starpoints or local amenity.
Platinum members who stay 50 nights in a calendar year receive 10 confirmed suite night upgrade awards and four Starpoints per dollar spent instead of the usual three Starpoints per dollar when staying 75 nights a year. Spend 100 nights in a calendar year and receive access to a personal travel ambassador.
The program also introduced lifetime status. Members were welcomed into Gold lifetime status at 250 nights spent since becoming a member, including five years as an elite member. Guests who stay 500 nights and have been a Platinum member for at least 10 years receive lifetime Platinum status.
All Points are Good
Starwood Preferred Guest became more lenient with its points expiration policy. Previously, members had to complete a Starwood stay, make a purchase with their SPG AMEX credit card or purchase a meal ($10 minimum) at a SPG hotel property every 12 months to keep their account active and retain their points. SPG has amended the policy so that all point earning and redeeming activity will extend the life of your account and points.
Delta Air Lines, US Airways and United Airlines all reduced the free checked bag allowance for their lowest level elite members from two bags to one. Delta made an exception to the new rule for Silver Medallions with a Reserve, Platinum or Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express credit card who can continue to check a second bag for free. Gold elite and above continue to check two bags for free on domestic flights.
Co-pay + Fee
US Airways changed their mileage upgrade policy to include co-pays, starting at 5,000 miles plus a $25 fee on flights less than 500 miles within the U.S. and Canada. The co-pay and miles required increased on longer flights and is capped at $150 plus 10,000 miles on flights within the U.S. and Canada. For international flights, members can upgrade for 15,000 miles plus $150. The co-pay is waived for elite members. Previously, mileage upgrades were 15,000 miles with no co-pay. If you are upgrading a short flight, the new policy is a better deal but for long-haul flights over 2,000 miles, instead of spending 15,000 miles, you'll now have to spend 10,000 miles plus $150 out of your pocket.
Points, Not Just Nights
Best Western Rewards has added another way for members to earn their way to elite status. Now, members can qualify for elite based on the points they earn, not just by how many nights they stay. Gold Elite can be obtained with 10 nights or 10,000 points, Platinum Elite with 15 nights or 15,000 points and Diamond Elite with 30 nights or 30,000 points. Members earn 10 points for every dollar spent on stays, so this new policy rewards those who spend more.
A Hero Welcome
Hotels for Heroes launched in March. Similar to the Hero Miles program, Hotels for Heroes was created to provide free lodging for service members and their families. The families of wounded military men and women receive free hotel rooms when the service member is undergoing treatment at a military or VA medical center. The following hotels are part of the Hotels for Heroes program: AmericInn, Best Western, Choice Hotels, Marriott, Starwood and Wyndham.
Every Airline is an LCC
In select markets Delta added "basic economy" fares to compete with low-cost carriers that don't allow for advance seat assignments or mileage accrual. While this hasn't expanded yet to other carriers, it's a bad precedent.
First and Business For Less
Several years ago Singapore Airlines introduced a new business and first class product, and they had a policy of not allowing Saver award redemptions for their KrisFlyer members. At the beginning it wasn't a big deal since it was easy to avoid the products, but now, they can be found almost fleetwide. Finally in April of this year, Singapore Airlines began allowing KrisFlyer redemptions in their new business and first class product.
More Points to Ride the Rails
Amtrak Guest Rewards made changes to its award chart and 11 award categories went up in points with increases as few as 500 points and as much as 10,000 points. At the lower end, an economy class special route ticket is now 1,500 points instead of 1,000 points. And now, if you make award reservations that include a bedroom and travel across three zones, it will cost 60,000 points, up from 50,000 points.
Miles for the Unwanted
United MileagePlus made it possible for members to convert the value of their unused gift cards to miles. The MileagePlus Gift Card Exchange allows members to convert retail gift cards with 60 major retailers into miles. Although the value per mile for this latest award offer from United is not the best at around $.037 per mile, it offers members another option to spend miles--and a use for a gift card that might otherwise go unused.
Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin Australia finally became full FFP earning and redeeming partners. Members have been able to earn miles on all three airlines since 2010 and now members can redeem across the network of Virgin carriers as well.
No More Miles
Omni Select Guest no longer gives guests the option to earn frequent flyer miles when staying at Omni properties. In the past, members could earn 500 miles/points per stay in more than a dozen frequent travel programs including American, United, British Airways and other airlines as well as Amtrak. Now, members earn credits toward a free award night only.
Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns was one of the last airlines to impose blackout dates on award travel but as of May, there are no blackout dates for members when redeeming miles for award flights. Capacity controls remain.
Level miles (elite-qualifying miles) for Air France/KLM Flying Blue members earned above the status threshold will now be rolled over after your "annual level check" for the following year so that you don't have to start from zero toward elite status. Level miles are earned with flights on Air France, KLM and partners Air Europa, Kenya Airways and TAROM as well as SkyTeam partners.
American AAdvantage and Citi introduced a new set of benefits for American AAdvantage Platinum Select cardholders, who can now check one bag for free. The free bag benefit also extends to up to four traveling companions. Cardholders also receive priority boarding, 25 percent discount on in-flight purchases, double miles on American Airlines purchases and a 10 percent rebate when redeeming for awards, up to 10,000 miles rebated per year. Upon renewal of the card, cardholders receive a $100 American Airlines flight discount.
Another Way to Get Away
Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways merged in 2011 but until this year, members were not able to transfer points between the two programs. A+ Rewards members can now convert their credits into Rapid Rewards credits (but not points with the new program) in 0.25 increments at a 1:1 ratio. Rapid Rewards members can convert their points, active credits and active awards into A+ Rewards credits and gain access to AirTran Airways international destinations in Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean. With the new transfer option, Southwest Rapid Rewards members can potentially save some points and book a roundtrip award flight anywhere Southwest flies for $320 (the award equivalent of 19,200 points for a Wanna Get Away Fare) by transferring 19,200 points into 16 AirTran A+ Rewards credits and then transferring them back into Southwest, which will automatically generate a Rapid Rewards standard award certificate.
The Force is Not with You
With a July 2012 rule change in the HHonors terms and conditions, Diamond elite-level members no longer have "Diamond Force" that allowed these top-level status holders the opportunity to score award stays using points even when rooms were unavailable at the hotel. A Diamond desk representative would contact the hotel and make special arrangements for the Diamond member's award stay.
The program terms and conditions regarding this now read: "Guaranteed reservations availability, subject to the restrictions stated herein, at hotels within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio when paid reservations are made before midnight hotel local time, two or more days (48 hours) prior to intended arrival. RESTRICTIONS: This guarantee does not apply to reservations paid for in part or in full by HHonors Points, free night certificates issued by Hilton Worldwide."
So, it seems your points are not as valuable to HHonors as cold hard cash.
Battle for Milwaukee
Milwaukee was once a hub for Midwest Airlines, which was acquired by Republic Airways Holdings and merged with Frontier Airlines in 2010. Because of the merger, Milwaukee residents watched as their departures from General Mitchell International Airport were reduced to less than half of what they were before the merger.
As a goodwill gesture, Frontier EarlyReturns offered their members with a Wisconsin address the ability to convert all of their EarlyReturns miles into Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio through Aug. 31.
Seeing an opportunity, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards offered to match, one mile for one point, all EarlyReturns miles donated through the EarlyReturns charitable donation program. But Frontier Airlines reacted by shutting down the donation program.
Not to be deterred, Southwest announced they would simply match the account balances of Frontier EarlyReturns members with an equal number of Rapid Rewards points, up to 50,000 points.
Battle for Milwaukee II
Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns shut down their charitable miles donation program in retaliation for Southwest Rapid Rewards pledging to match EarlyReturns miles donated through the program. Frontier Airlines partners with several charities, including the American Red Cross and Make-A-Wish Foundation, which clearly would have benefited from the promotion. The Frontier EarlyReturns charitable donation program has since been reinstated.
Big Night Returns
Last year, Club Carlson created a stir when they offered 50,000 points for staying just one night at a Radisson hotel and the bonus offer was repeated this year. Members of Club Carlson who were one of the first 50,000 to register and complete a qualifying one-night stay at any Radisson or Radisson Blu anywhere in the world, received 50,000 bonus Gold Points. Plus, there were additional bonus points promotions for staying one night at Park Inn by Radisson and Country Inns & Suites By Carlson hotels, both offering 44,000 bonus points. Members who took advantage of all three promotions could earn a total of 138,000 points for staying just three nights. As a couple Club Carlson members said, "... good for a great room after buying a cheap room ..." and, "No restrictions. Points--no stay certificate. Great!"
John Rainy, the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of United Airlines, and former Continental Airlines Vice President of Financial Planning and Analysis, created a stir among United MileagePlus elite-level members when at a Merrill Lynch investors conference said, "We had certain groups in this program that were over-entitled, if you will."
Up, Up and Away
Priority Club not only added new award tiers for all six of their hotel brands and increased the cost of award nights at more than 1,000 hotels worldwide this year, they failed to publish a list of the changes for members. About 25 percent of IHG properties worldwide increased in award cost by as much as 40 percent more points.
Starwood Preferred Guest reassigned 320 hotels March 1 and 56 percent went up to higher categories. Marriott reassigned 626 hotels March 15 and 84 percent went up. Hilton reassigned 447 hotels April 30 and 74 percent went up. Club Carlson reassigned 264 hotels May 31 and 52 percent went up.
Transparency and Moving Down
Marriott Rewards released the full list of hotels changing an award category in 2012 when the changes were announced. SPG repopulated Category 1 and 2 by moving more hotels into these low tiers than out this year.
What's the Point?
Marriott introduced the most insignificant rule change this year. Marriott Rewards introduced the Cash + Points award offer that saves no cash and no points. Marriott Cash + Points stays allow members to combine paid nights and redemption nights in the same reservation. The paid nights earn points and elite credit--that's nice, but all this really offers is the ability to combine paid nights with award nights for the same stay within one reservation, there are no savings or bonuses involved.
Wyndham Rewards has several international airline partners including Saudia, Turkish Airlines and four airlines from China, but more importantly has been adding countries to allow member participation in Wyndham Rewards. The program with the most hotels worldwide at over 7,000 hotels added India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines as Wyndham Rewards participants in 2012. Australia and New Zealand residents are set to be able to participate in Wyndham Rewards in 2013.
Nights Over Stays
Hyatt Gold Passport promotions favored nights over stays in 2012. The program that once regularly offered a free night anywhere after two stays offered members six months of night, not stay-based, bonuses in 2012 like 44,000 points after 16 nights (Feb. 1-April 30) and 65,000 points after 35 nights (Sept. 1-Nov. 30)--that is enough bonus points for five free nights anywhere after 51 paid nights. You could get an extra 20 percent bonus points if you had the Hyatt Visa card. This makes competitor Marriott's repetitive MegaBonus look more attractive.
Daily Getaways by U.S. Travel Association and American Express once again offered some amazing opportunities to buy hotel points and other travel packages over five weeks in April and May. An example of a sale was 100 sets of 250,000 Hilton HHonors points for $1,375 or 10 percent less if paid with an American Express Card. There was a limit of one per member. We'd like to see these offers expand in 2013 since the popularity of these travel discounts has some items selling out within seconds.
Points for Dinner
Hyatt Gold Passport members can now earn points for hotel spa and restaurant spend even when not a hotel guest. Most Hyatt hotels participate.
SPG has offered points for restaurant spend as a non-guest for years and offers Starwood Hotel dining discounts of 10 to 20 percent for members.
Sue for Points
In June, a woman sued the Texas School for the Deaf because the school has a policy of keeping the Rapid Rewards points earned on Southwest Airlines flights the school paid for so that her daughter could get back and forth from her home to the school every weekend.
However, before the suit could make its way into the courts, the attorney for the woman said regarding the suit, "There is no real reason to go forward with it. It's already been tried by the court of public opinion." Even frequent flyers had difficulty siding with the Plaintiff on this one.
Miles with No Expiration Expire
American AAdvantage announced in August that Oct. 31, 2012 would be the last day that AAdvantage members could redeem from the "Regular" awards chart dating back to 1989 and all the miles in their accounts dating back to that period, known as "Miles with No Expiration," would automatically be converted on Nov. 1 to "Miles Subject to Expiration". To help lessen the blow, AAdvantage offered members affected by these changes a 25 percent mileage bonus on all of the miles earned before July 1, 1989 when these miles are converted to miles that expire.
Many longtime members of AAdvantage saw this move from American as turning their backs on their most loyal customers and did not see a mere 25 percent bonus as adequate for what they lost. From American's point of view, it was time to streamline their award structure and do away with a relic of the 1980s that was making employee training and follow through more difficult.
Cease and Desist
Delta followed the lead of Southwest and American by pulling out of third-party websites that track miles for frequent flyer program members. In September, Delta sent out cease and desist letters to sites like AwardWallet.com, saying that sites that automatically log into and collect frequent flyer account information associated with Delta customers do so in direct violation of the terms of service for Delta's website, and that, "This activity directly affects the stability and performance of Delta's information technology systems."
What we can't help wondering, however, is when a member of Delta SkyMiles accesses their own account information, does it not cause "stability and performance" issues? Do these issues only manifest when someone else accesses the information on behalf of the member?
Debit card users have one less option to earn miles for debit card purchases after US Airways shed its mileage-earning debit card. For members who don't have a high enough credit score to qualify for a credit card or prefer debit cards, the options for earning miles with debit cards are dwindling. Bank of America continues to offer the Alaska Airlines debit card and Suntrust offers a Delta SkyMiles debit card.
Another 1 for 1
As a follow up to the Big Night Giveaway, Carlson Club members could get one free night when staying one night during the Radisson 1 for 1 offer that ran for the month of October. As in previous offers, the deal was available to the first 50,000 members to register. The free night could be redeemed at any Radisson or Radisson Blu hotel in the U.S., Canada or the Caribbean and the stay had to be completed by the end of the year. Although more restrictive than the Big Night Giveaway, it was still a good deal for members.
Share 100 Percent
While US Airways frequently offers a 100 percent bonus on the purchase of miles, the 100 percent bonus on shared miles they offered in October was much more rewarding. Through this promotion you could transfer points between accounts for roughly 1.1 cents each, which is an amazing deal. No trick, just treat.
R&R Rolling Expiration
Red Lion R&R Club announced that as of Oct. 1, members of the program will see their points expire on a rolling 24-month basis. In the past, a membership account would expire, along with the points, only if a member did not have activity within four years. Now, members will lose their points 24 months from when they were earned without a way to extend the validity of the points. And once the points have expired, there's no way to get them back.
Delta published a new award chart on Sept. 1, without advance notification to members. Members will now need to redeem an additional 5,000 miles when booking roundtrip awards from the U.S. to the Caribbean, Mexico, Southern South America and Europe at the Medium and High levels. Although the changes were relatively minor, and some awards even went down, members are unhappy when a program changes award redemptions with no prior warning so that they might redeem miles before the rates go up.
As Milepoint member gleff pointed out, "I have no beef with the changes per se. It's really just the lack of notice of the changes, and that there still hasn't been any notice given, just the award chart changed." And he followed up with, "And if we're saving up points for an award? That award may well change in price by the time we've earned enough points, without warning."
Choice Privileges introduced a Lifetime Elite Gold status for those members who have reached one million points from hotel stays. Lifetime Elite Gold is a permanent status that a member keeps regardless of their hotel stay activity. Members receive a Lifetime Elite Gold card and will have all Elite Gold benefits anytime they stay with Choice Hotels, including a 10 percent point bonus and an extended award booking window of 50 days before the award stay instead of the usual 30 days before.
As one member pointed out, "As long as I keep my (no annual fee) Barclay card, I have effective lifetime Gold, too." But it's good to see the program offer lifetime benefits for their best customers.
Third-Party, Fewer Miles
Frontier EarlyReturns changed their policy and now members who book Frontier flights through third-party websites like Expedia, Orbitz and others will not earn 100 percent of the miles flown for the flights--they will only earn 50 percent. Members must book through FLYFRONTIER.com. We don't like to see this in case it's a sign of things to come from more frequent flyer programs.
20K Domestic Award
At the same time that Frontier EarlyReturns announced that they will no longer allow flights booked through third-party websites to earn miles, they announced that roundtrip U.S. domestic tickets are now 20,000 miles, down from the industry-standard of 25,000 miles and one-way awards are 10,000 miles. If you are a Frontier MasterCard member, you can book a companion ticket at a 5,000-mile discount so that drops companion roundtrip tickets to just 15,000 miles. International flights to Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Jamaica have also been reduced--to 30,000 miles roundtrip (15,000 miles one way except for Costa Rica that can only be booked as a roundtrip award).
Frontier was once known for its domestic roundtrip awards for only 15,000 miles so this bargain is a nod to former days.
Expert Mode Disappears
United MileagePlus removed fare code information from its website, upsetting many members who used this feature to view award availability and to see how many first class seats were left on a flight.
Expert Mode Reappears
After hearing of displeasure from frequent flyers about the disappearance of the expert mode on the United MileagePlus website, United brought the feature back. Previously, the information was automatically available to all United passengers, whether they understood the fare codes or not. Now, members will need to select this setting to enable the feature. From your MileagePlus My Account page, click "Manage Profile" and "View All Flight Search Preferences" to enable the Expert Mode setting and have access to fare class availability.
Easy Free Nights
Basically there were only eight weeks of 2012 (Jan. 16-30; May 1-31; Sept. 1-14) without a Marriott MegaBonus promotion for a free night after two stays. Some members received different promotions. The first two offers were limited to two free nights and the last two offers of 2012 allowed up to three free nights, valid for Category 1-4 hotels. This lead to a potential to earn 10 free nights with as few as 20 paid nights in 2012.
Hotels Go Hollywood
A Wyndham Rewards promotion tied to The Avengers movie release (March 29-July 8), offered two tickets to the blockbuster movie after your second stay. A Hilton Garden Inn promotion offered two children's tickets to Brave for a weekend night stay (May 18-July 15).
Hilton offered a steady stream of points bonuses and miles bonuses throughout the year. HHonors' Double Dip meant that stays earn both bonus points and bonus miles in addition to the regular earning for Points & Miles earners. Typically the miles bonuses made earning Points & Miles more valuable than Points & Points. An example of a Double Dip double bonus is 1,000 bonus points per night (Nov. 1-Dec. 31) and 15,000 Virgin Atlantic bonus miles after five stays (Sept. 26-Dec. 31).
Two Kinds of Bonus Miles
Between Sept. 17 and Dec. 31, US Airways offered double redeemable miles for all travel booked on usairways.com using a MasterCard, and double preferred qualifying miles for travel booked with the US Airways MasterCard specifically. This was a great way to boost both preferred qualifying and redeemable mileage balances.
To match the practices of their European counterparts, Delta has for a long time imposed fuel surcharges on award redemptions originating in Europe. They eliminated these this year, at least for travel on Delta. They still apply on many of their partner airlines.
This year, delta.com began displaying Virgin Australia and Korean Air award space. Perhaps this sounds minor, but before this capability there was not a way to search Korean Air business class award space on any website, making it nearly impossible to book using Delta miles. However, as of a few weeks ago delta.com started displaying Korean Air award space, which makes finding the space much easier.
American AAdvantage added inventory for airberlin (including NIKI), Finnair, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Hawaiian Airlines and Qantas to its online award booking engine at AA.com.
Good Way to End the Year
American AAdvantage once again ran a systemwide double elite-qualifying promotion, this time to end the year. From Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, AAdvantage members could earn double elite-qualifying miles and points on all American Airlines, American Eagle and American Connection flights.
The bonus was offered as a thank you and apology. An online note from Suzanne L. Rubin, President, AAdvantage Loyalty program stated, "Our recent operating performance was not up to our standards. More importantly, it was not up to those of our customers. We know you faced difficult delays and cancellations which affected important events in your life. And for that, we are deeply sorry. But beyond simply apologizing, we also want to thank you for your support and patience."
As an added bonus, all AAdvantage members could earn double miles for flights during the busy Thanksgiving period, from Nov. 16 through Nov. 26, and AAdvantage elite status members received double elite-qualifying miles AND double redeemable miles until the end of the year. This was a classy way for American AAdvantage to end a very trying year for the airline and its customers.