Some give backs from the industry

After a pretty strong run of loyalty program devaluations during the past year or so (I’m looking at you, Delta) there have finally been a few small changes that are benefitting the travelers. This week’s good news comes from two of my favorite programs, Continental’s OnePass and Starwood Preferred Guest.

From Continental, it is the implementation of a change that was announced a couple weeks ago at the event they hosted in Houston and a compromise on a change that they announced last summer for reward tickets. The change was particularly severe for their gold and silver elite members, where the fees jumped 3-5x from previous levels. After having their ear chewed off enough from their frequent fliers, Continental agreed to change the policy again, and the new policy went into effect yesterday. The policy is a nice compromise. It allows free changes for everyone as long as the origin and destinations do not change and the travel dates – both old and new – are 21 days out. For changes closer in to the date of travel or changes to the cities there are still fees, but this way one can make a reservation several months out on less than ideal connections/flights and refine the details as better connections or routings become available. That is a big win, particularly for non-elites, but also a nice give back to the silver and gold elites.

On the Starwood front, they announced the results of their annual award category reassignments yesterday. This happens every year and hotels are shifted around, with some becoming more expensive to redeem for and some becoming cheaper. Over the past few years the trend has been strongly in favor of the more expensive direction. Plus they added a “peak dates” surcharge, making things even worse. Well, the 2009 changes are strongly in favor of the customer. Peak date surcharges have been removed on all but three properties worldwide. Moreover, the number of hotels going down a redemption level is actually more than the number going up. That’s great news for us. Some notable changes (courtesy of ALCO):

  • Cat 6 (20,000/night) —-> Cat 5 (12,000/night):
    • Westin St. John, U.S.V.I.
  • Cat 5 (12,000/night) —-> Cat 4 (10,000/night):
    • W Montreal
    • Westin Aruba
    • Westin Dawn Beach, St. Maarten
    • US Grant, San Diego
    • W San Diego
    • Westin Riverfront, Avon, Colorado
    • W Atlanta Buckhead
    • Sheraton Kauai
    • W Lakeshore Chicago
    • Westin Michigan Avenue, Chicago
    • Hotel Ivy, Minneapolis
    • W Minneapolis
    • Le Meridien Vienna
    • Westin Dublin
    • W Seoul Walkerhill
  • Cat 4 (10,000/night) —-> Cat 3 (7,000/night):
    • Westin Fiji
    • Westin Chosun Busan
    • Sheraton Fota Island Resort & Spa, Cork, Ireland
    • Sheraton Austin
    • Le Meridien Lingotto, Turin, Italy
    • Sheraton Bilbao
    • Four Points Darling Harbour, Sydney

So this is some happy news to head in to the weekend with. It is about time.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.