News And Notes For Wednesday, December 12th

What’s happening in the world of travel?

View From the Wing has a detailed lowdown on new fare choices at American Airlines.  Gary has done an awesome job laying out a ton of detail on the new fares, so I won’t re-cover everything, but I will weigh in on a few key areas.  Essentially, American is betting you’ll buy more ancillary services from them if they bundle them.  I tend to think they’re right.

There are 3 categories. Choice, the bottom tier, is essentially what AA offers today.  A la carte pricing for any add-on services.

Choice Essential is the second level.  For $68, you get no change fees, a free checked bag and early boarding.  I don’t see a lot of value here unless you’re the type of traveler that changes flights frequently after booking AND you’re not an elite with AA.  The change fee is normally $150, so you’d have to take advantage of this essentially every other itinerary to make it worth it.  The first checked bag on AA is $25, so you wouldn’t pay for this option just for the checked bag.  And, most people either need early boarding OR a free checked bag.  While there are times you need both, if you’re checking a bag you’re probably not as pressed to board early and grab overhead bin space.

Choice Plus, IMO, offers a really good value, even for elites.  For $88, this option comes with all the same benefits of Choice Essential but also includes 50% more redeemable miles, free same-day confirmed changes, free same-day standby and a premium beverage.  Now, all levels of elites get free same-day standby and free checked bags.  One of the benefits/quirks of the AA system that I’ve always liked as an EXP is that AA holds a bunch of seats in First Class for sale, which also generally means that an EXP changing flights at the last-minute can usually get an upgrade.  However, since AA clears the upgrade list before the standby list, you generally have to pay $75 for a same-day change to get that F seat.

I change flights quite a bit, so I generally pay this fee a reasonable number of times throughout the year, which generally comes with the added bonus of securing an F seat.  Couple that with 50% more miles and I see this as a great value for a decent number elites on a wide variety of US itineraries.  If you just look at the miles and value them at somewhere between 1 and 2 cents (I’ll use 1.5 cents for this example), then a transcon where you might earn about 5,000 base miles would yield 2,500 bonus miles, or approximately $37 in value.  If you find any value in the other benefits here, then this package is a steal compared to Choice Essential.

We’ll see how things shake out, but I can see Choice Plus being a great value for me in 2013.

Wandering Aramean talks about Delta’s acquisition of 49% of Virgin Atlantic.  This doesn’t excite me a ton, but it is fairly significant news for members of both programs.  There were rumors that Delta might get a few more percent and have control of Virgin instead of Richard Branson, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Mommy Points notes two new Hyatts coming to Manhattan, and the value for redeeming points at both.  And, while she’s unhappy to see a new Hyatt pop up as a category 5, I see good value here.  A brand new property, and most likely done up well as Hyatt 48 Lex and Andaz 5th are.  Sounds good to me.  And, they’re also adding a Hyatt Place as a category 4 to go along with 48Lex at the same level.  Starwood has exactly ZERO properties at the cat 4 level and a few category 5s.


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