There have been many recent changes to some of the most popular airline loyalty programs. Here’s the rundown: American Airlines – If you haven’t heard yet, AA will be making some long awaited changes to the redemption of upgrade awards. The highlight being that now even tickets booked in the lowest O, Q (discount coach) and I (discount business) classes are eligible for upgrades. The downside is that the US/Canada and Hawaii co-pays just went up to $75 and $175 respectively. Now if American would allow the use of additional miles to pay the co-pays with, that would be really something. Get all the details here.
United Airlines – In order to stay competitive with its peers, United just announced new perks for their Mileage Plus program elite members including Unlimited Domestic Upgrades starting in the second quarter of 2010 (first announced on FlyerTalk). However this change isn’t necessarily good for all United elites. Mark Ashley of Upgrade: Better Travel recently said it best:
If you’re an entry-level elite (Premier) you’re not going to upgrade much. Previously, a Premier Executive or 1K would have to request an upgrade and offer up some certificates, but now those elites will automatically jump ahead of the Premiers. If you live in a city with a lot of United elites (Chicago, San Francisco, DC, Denver, for starters…) and you’re “just” a Premier, say adios to hot nuts.
Jet Blue – The TrueBlue frequent flyer program is about to get a relaunch on November 9th. The announcement highlights new features that will put JetBlue on par with most major programs including no blackout dates, points that don’t expire, and the ability to earn more bonus points the more you fly.
Not to be out done, Virgin America just announced free WiFi on all flights between November 10, 2009 and January 15, 2010, courtesy of Google. It’s a smart move on Google’s part and we hope the beginning of a trend towards free/sponsored WiFi year round.
Speaking of free vs free, Joe Brancatelli wrote a thought provoking article about The Truth About Airline Bag Fees. He explores a valid question: while fee income is rising for airlines, are they doing more harm then good to their bottom lines by turning off otherwise loyal customers? The bean counters can’t count everything it seems.