If all airlines got the government support as carriers in Latin America during the Covid crisis (i.e. virtually none), Alitalia wouldn’t be the only airline out of business by now. In spite of these huge challenges, LATAM is poised to get stronger and increase its market share. Not only did it implement its new partnership with Delta at the beginning of the crisis (and subsequently left oneworld), but has also introduced new FFP partnerships in its LatamPass program with fellow Brazilian carrier Azul and with AeroMexico, the latter being partially owned by Delta, like LATAM itself. It is safe to assume that the driving strategic force behind all this is visionary Delta, building a small empire on the axe Atlanta-Mexico-São Paulo-Santiago de Chile – without hardly getting noticed by anybody.
Against the earlier predictions, only a sharp minority of airlines (23%) has so far opted to move to a revenue basis for their Frequent Flyer Programs – for different, but many good considerations. As of recently, there were hardly any such moves anymore either (with the notable exception of late comer Air Canada), meaning that that movement has somewhat stalled. One of the last airlines, where such a shift was to be expected, is Spirit Airlines, which has now announced a revamp of its Free Spirit program, under which it will transform to a full revenue basis both on the accrual and redemption side on January 21 – making redemption prices hence less predictable. Another big change in the program – and clearly a net improvement – will be the ability to pool miles between up to eight members, whereby only elite members or holders of a co-branded credit card can initiate such pooling.
Air Canada has now finally relaunched the Aeroplan program, but there were no additional changes beyond what has already been announced. While the program definitely remains a robust and even slightly improved choice when travelling frequently on Air Canada, it remains of little relevance to anybody else. The increased award levels were not compensated by any significant enhancements: Earning rates on most partner airlines remain fairly low (for instance, all intra-European flights of Lufthansa earn only 50% of miles flown) and qualification for the elite program continues to require minimum spend on Air Canada, what will often prove to be prohibitive for international members. The date when accrual on Air Canada will move to a revenue-basis – representing a downgrade for many customers due to the applied low base accrual rate of 3 miles per CAD – has not yet been confirmed, other than that it will happen “later in 2021”.
It is indeed a bit tricky to keep track of all the promotions in order to make most of them – and sometimes even within the same program. Hilton is offering three promotions in its Hilton Honors program you can (and should) combine in a smart manner. 1) Double elite nights are awarded until the end of the year. 2) All 2020 elite nights are carried over to 2021. 3) In 2021, the tier qualification requirements will be cut by 50% (and all status earned in 2021 will be valid until March 2023 in line with the normal program conditions). The last promotion means that you can achieve top tier Diamond status with only 30 nights instead of 60 nights. But if you earn these nights still in 2020, you can actually achieve it with 15 nights only (or less if ever you have already some elite nights accrued this year). Except for some status matches, it will be difficult to make it to Hilton Diamond status easier for the rest of your life. Independently of above, one can accrue 10,000 points for the use of a dayroom (as office) in North America and the UK until March 31.
It is definitely an achievement by itself to launch a loyalty program for the first time in these challenging times. But Palladium Hotel Group, which includes more than a dozen brands such as Palladium Hotels, Fiesta Hotels and Hard Rock Hotels, has not only managed that, but its Palladium Rewards program is also rather refreshing. It offers a savings of around 5% for base members (up to 7% for elite members) and credits can be used flexibly for payments at properties. Stays booked through third-party channels, traditionally excluded from most hotel programs, earn at least tier points. And the launch campaign is highly attractive and basically within reach for anybody: Ten members referring most people to the program by December 01 will each win 250,000 points and be elevated to top tier level. Those points correspond to a redemption value of 1,000 EUR/USD – enough for a 1-week stay at many properties. No hotel activity whatsoever is required for this. Reward points can though only be burnt in-house; no conversion to other (airline) loyalty programs is offered.