News

Written by Ravindra Bhagwanani on . Posted in Archives

Frequent travellers are sensitive to any issue around peace in the world as it is seen as basis to freedom. As such, it is not surprising that many Frequent Traveller Programs have started donation initiatives to support Ukraine by encouraging members to redeem their loyalty currency. While each such initiative is welcome, it is nevertheless a good idea to look at how your points are used. Unfortunately, many programs see such donations even in the current context primarily as mean to reduce their liabilities at a low cost – what is not really what Ukraine needs now. One of the best initiatives comes though from Ukrainian hotel chain Premier Hotels, which has launched its campaign “Visit Ukraine in Future”: Customers (not limited to members of their loyalty program Premier Club) are invited to purchase a non-refundable fare, which they can use for a hotel stay once Ukraine opens again for visitors. The reservation needs to be paid immediately and 50% of the money received are donated to a national military-medical clinical center. This initiative is in practice not available to Russians wishing to express their support by such gestures as a credit card payment is required, but other points-based initiatives certainly are.

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Coming across a promotion promising you 60% more miles for a car rental might not attire your full attention. But if this happens for one of the most rewarding base offer in the market, this should be a different story. That is the bonus Avis grants to British Airways’ Executive Club members for reservations at their special rate placed until April 30 for rentals between April 20 and June 30. To qualify for the offer, rentals must be at least for Group C cars and at least for three days. If you meet all these conditions, 8 miles per GBP spent await you, what easily translates into more than 2,000 miles for a 3-day rental.

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You can be forgiven if you don’t understand anymore what is going on in Italy. Alitalia’s successor ITA, a formal SkyTeam member, still doesn’t get its grips together and has not yet added any SkyTeam partner to its Volare program. But it was running a wide status match campaign including all major SkyTeam programs until they were told off by the alliance… In the meantime, Alitalia’s former program MilleMiglia is no longer operated by a company called Alitalia Loyalty, but by Italia Loyalty. And it keeps on adding – SkyTeam partners! Air Europa is the latest airline to join the program, though as accrual partner only. However, the website states that all airline partnerships run until June 30 only, with no indication what will happen afterwards. But recently MilleMiglia shared the “great news” that the validity of its program as such was extended until December 31, 2022.

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Even if Flying Blue‘s version is rather flexible, Air France KLM won’t win any innovation prize for the introduction of a family account as this in the meantime (almost) a standard in programs, at least outside of the Americas. In the version of Flying Blue, up to eight family members can now combine their miles. However, what deserves being mentioned with Flying Blue is their launch campaign with a nicely done video!

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The PR of the travel industry is full of optimism for the coming summer season, but reading between the lines (at the mileage level) sometimes shows a different picture. As such, Air Canada Vacations, the tour operator of Air Canada and a permanent Aeroplan partner, runs a large promotion covering the whole summer season. Booking a package anywhere to the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico or Hawaii (hence virtually to anywhere Canadians could have the idea to go!) by April 24 is sweetened with 2,500 bonus miles per person.

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As of late March, Qatar Airways will adopt the Avios currency for its Privilege Club loyalty program. This will have several (positive) implications for members. First, this is likely to offer a range of new non-air partnerships since Qatar Airways will get access to deals done at IAG level. Secondly and more importantly, it is expected that Qatar points will become fully exchangeable and combinable with points of the IAG programs using the Avios currency, hence the programs of British Airways, Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus. As such, points can be moved around in order to shop award flights in the program, where they cost less – and this might actually often be Qatar’s Privilege Club. Registering for the Privilege Club by March 31 also lets you earn a free 2,500 miles, which are increased to 7,500 miles if you take a Qatar Airways flight by September 30. Qatar Airways is a minority shareholder of IAG, which issues the Avios currency.

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Australians suffered more than people from many other nations from the Covid-related travel restrictions. As the country is now slowly opening up for international travel again – while though still lagging far behind others as restrictions such as mandatory vaccination or masks on planes remain in place -, Etihad is celebrating this with a big campaign for its Australian Etihad Guest members: A special flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi reserved for Etihad Guest members will take place on 02 April. But no need to redeem any miles for it, you just need to explain to Etihad why you and your companion should be part of it – and a seat on the plane might be yours. In addition to the flight, a 4-night package including accommodation and on-site activities are part of the gift.

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ITA has now launched “Phase II” of its loyalty program Volare, introducing a dynamic redemption system for award flights and details about the tier program. The more interesting change occurred though on the accrual side: Rather than the previous earn rate of 1 point per EUR spent, the base accrual rate is now 10 points per EUR spent – but apparently no adjustment of the previously earned points took place, which means that they have become basically worthless since the redemption structure is clearly aligned to the new higher accrual rate. Tier members receive an additional bonus of up to 30%, but – and that is probably the best thing we’ve heard from AliITAlia over the past 20+ years – all members can also achieve an additional bonus of up to 100% as cumulative bonuses are awarded in function of the network, the cabin and the fare type. As such, flying for instance in Premium Economy on a long-haul flight at a Classic fare earns a bonus of 60%, while an Economy Class flight at a Light fare within Europe would earn a bonus of 10%. Oh yes, SkyTeam partners are still not integrated. Let’s see when/whether this will ever happen.

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Members of any Russian Frequent Flyer Program are collateral victims of Russia’s war against Ukraine. While the programs continue to operate on paper, they are de facto worthless at that point. And although Aeroflot and S7 continue to be formally part of the SkyTeam and oneworld alliance respectively, it is impossible to use miles of their programs for award flights on partner airlines as the related payments can’t take place anymore. All you can do here is to hope that Russia will get a new President before your miles will have expired.

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Six Nigerian airlines have teamed up to form a new alliance, called Spring Alliance. While they got inspired from the global alliances, frequent flyers should not set their expectations too high. The primary focus of the alliance is indeed to improve operational reliability and passenger satisfaction. Not a single word is mentioned about loyalty programs etc. – for one very straight forward reason: Out of the six airlines, only two, Arik Air and Air Peace, have a loyalty program at all. There is hence still some potential in this endeavour. The alliance is open to expand to other African markets and to accept additional members beyond Nigeria.