News And Notes For Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Airline loyalty program puts a beat down on it’s members.  I don’t follow Air Canada all that closely for its loyalty program.  There was a time when they were one of the best programs, but they’ve shot themselves in the foot a few times through devaluations that have made them less popular.  But, reading this Milepoint thread the other day, I had to stop and read the first post again.

You see, one of the benefits I enjoy most about being a top-tier member of a couple airline programs are the system-wide upgrades (SWUs).  These are instruments the airlines hand out in limited quantity annually to their top fliers so they can upgrade flights to the next class of service, anywhere that the airline flies.  That means from DC to Des Moines or DC to Tokyo.  American is the most rewarding, allowing their SWUs to be used on pretty much any published fare.  United is less generous, restricting some of the cheapest fare buckets.  Delta restricts most coach fare buckets for use of its SWUs.

And now, Air Canada has introduced…..the not-so-free “free upgrade”.  For the privilege of using these upgrades, everyone except the highest tier elites will pay $500.  Each way.  That’s $1,000 round trip to Europe.  $1500 for Asia.  Yikes.

Mommy Points has a good breakdown on how to bundle points together as a family to stretch free travel further.

Wandering Aramean breaks down his recent trip to the Panama Canal which is a great reminder I need to get off my butt and finish up my own summary of our Panama Canal journey.  It truly is one of the most amazing marvels I’ve seen in my travels.

Hack My Trip provides a detailed breakdown of Hertz Gold Plus.  I love Hertz, it’s my primary rental company.  But, I usually credit my points elsewhere since airlines will frequently run very valuable special promotions.  That being said, one-way rentals is an incredible soft spot in this program.

If you missed the live chat last night on Milepoint with top executives from Hyatt and MGM, you also missed giveaways for free Las Vegas show tickets and 3 prizes of 10,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points each, along with tons of valuable insight from these programs.  Don’t miss out next time!

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  1. Worth noting that AC also restricts the fare class you can upgrade (lowest 5 not eligible) and upgrades don’t clear until 3-6 days before flight. The difference between the lowest available and an upgradable class is generally 250-500 per direction.

    So you have to pay for the privilege of having a chance of paying for the privilege of an upgrade.

    1. Ryan, I was aware about the fare class restriction but didn’t note it in my post. Thanks for that. As a bona fide Canadian, what are your thoughts on this? Are you a super elite?

      1. I’m not happy about it, but it’s the reality when there is no competition. They are aware they can do nearly anything and get away with it. I think they are trying to find the tipping point for what will lose them customers so they can set their benefits just short of that point.

        I’m lucky that most of my overseas travel is reward or Y/B fares, which won’t be impacted by this. But I’m an E50, so this change could definitely affect some vacation travel. Likely, it’ll drive more of my business to UA where 2nd hand SWUs are easily available for $200.

        Though I’ll be close to SE by year end, so it could also be the initiative required to push to that. Though I’d hate to reward them with more business for this boneheaded decision.

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