The biggest news in travel at the moment is the merger between Marriott and Starwood. Travelers are asking what it means to them. Here’s how to take advantage of the best benefits with the two programs plus the latest in other travel news for the week.
Link Marriott and SPG accounts
If you are a member of both Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), now is the time to link your accounts so that you can transfer points between the two programs. According to Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, nearly 100,000 people per day are merging their Marriott Rewards (or Ritz-Carlton Rewards) and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) accounts at members.marriott.com. Once accounts are linked, points can be redeemed for awards with either Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, or Starwood. Three Marriott or Ritz-Carlton Rewards points are equal to one SPG point, but you will have to choose between linking your SPG account with either Marriott’s or Ritz-Carlton’s program. For most, Marriott Rewards is a better choice since it has more properties. By linking accounts, elite members with one program will earn reciprocal status within the other program.
Leverage hotel status with airlines
By linking your Marriott and SPG accounts, there are even more benefits to take advantage of that many may not realize. For example, Marriott Rewards partners with United Airlines giving Marriott Platinum members instant elite status as United Premier Silver. United Premier Gold, Platinum, and 1K members automatically receive Marriott Gold status. This means lounge access and free breakfast when staying in hotels and the chance for first class upgrades and priority boarding when flying. There’s nothing better than earning instant status with another travel provider just for being loyal to one of its partners. Plus, now that Marriott and Starwood have tied the knot, SPG members have direct access to free United elite status, as well. Starwood tied up with Delta in similar fashion with a program known as Crossover Rewards. Members can rack up one Starpoint for every dollar spent on Delta flights and one SkyMile for every dollar spent with Starwood.
Hotels and airlines offer benefits for ground transportation
Hotel and airline partners also look to ground transportation to earn travel business. United and Hertz launched a unique partnership so that United Premier Silver and Gold members receive Five Star service when renting a car while United Premier Platinum and 1K automatically receive President’s Circle membership from Hertz. There is also a unique partnership between Starwood and Uber allowing members to bring in one Starpoint for every dollar spent using Uber although the restriction to have stayed at a Starwood property during the course of the year is now imposed. Bonus points are earned for elite members when they are actually staying at a Starwood property during their Uber ride experience.
Air Canada grows international network
Star Alliance fans have new options for redemptions now that Air Canada has launched a multitude of new routes across the globe. Unfortunately, many of the new routes are on Air Canada Rouge, which is the airline’s low-fare airline that offers only the most basic of premium products. Still, those looking for new redemption space, there are new routes between: Toronto and Mumbai; Montreal and Algiers, Berlin, Marseille, and Shanghai; and Vancouver and Nagoya and Taipei. When these routes begin next summer, they represent a significant increase in long-haul capacity for the airline and many more redemption opportunities for fliers.
British Airways to charge for food and drinks on some flights
As if transiting through Heathrow’s notoriously unfriendly security lines were not bad enough, customers on British Airways short-haul flights will now be charged for everything on board from sandwiches to water and coffee beginning January 11 from Gatwick and Heathrow (flights from other London airports will switch over at a later date). In an effort to compete with the low-fare competition, BA decided to become one of them and nickel and dime customers further. Flyers can use Avios points (at one cent per point) to pay for things, but this represents a rather poor value since a short-haul flight costs only 4,500 points in economy.
Earn 250 free Avios points
Join Aer Lingus’ frequent flier program and earn 250 free Avios points. Soon, the AerClub program from Aer Lingus will merge into Avios as Aer Lingus becomes part of International Airlines Group (IAG), which includes British Airways and Iberia. Once it does, you can add those free points to your existing stash. And those 250 points could buy you the equivalent of $2.50 in snacks once BA implements its buy on board service next year!
Hyatt credit card offers cash back
If you have the Hyatt co-branded Visa credit card, be sure to register for the $50 cash back offer for spending more than $500 at Hyatt Regency properties in the U.S. between now and the end of the year. Registration for the promotion must happen before October 31.
Alaska Airlines restricts companion upgrade process
If you are an MVP member in Alaska’s Mileage Plan program, you may know that the airline allows flyers to upgrade a companion for free traveling on the same flight. New restrictions beginning October 15, however, state that the flyer must be on the same record locater to be eligible.