Opening Remarks – July, 30 2002

Opening Remarks – July, 30 2002

This month I’m commenting on something I like — a real start to the personalization of my membership in a frequent traveler program. So far, none of the airlines have determined what it is that I want from their (my?) program. I’ve changed over my past 20 plus years of membership in various programs, but my offerings have remained similar to every other guy in line. For a while there, it seemed like some of my programs were attempting a modicum of customization, allowing me to return my unused upgrade vouchers for bonus miles — the idea being that I didn’t want upgrades (or I would have used them) but wanted more miles. But even that now seems to be changing, as my recent bunch of unused upgrades were returned to me with a note advising that returning them was no longer an option. Oh well, so much for the programs trying to get to know me.

Recently, however, I received something in an email from Hilton that could be one of the best moves I’ve seen yet from a hotel program (other than a recent promotion Starwood put together for its elite members — more on that later). This email informs me that, as a valued Diamond VIP member of the Hilton HHonors program, I can decide how I want to be rewarded for my future HHonors stays. At first I was skeptical, thinking that Hilton might be discontinuing its highly prized Double Dipping. But upon a second read it became clear — Hilton is allowing me to decide whether I want to earn double HHonors base points instead of Points & Miles for my stays through the balance of the year.

What a great idea. While I am partial to the HHonors program because I get more value out of every stay (Double Dipping), I actually find the HHonors points to be of great value. Essentially, I’d be getting double credit the rest of the year — something I’m not likely to be getting from other hotel programs — and this is in addition to any other bonuses I may qualify for. I’m sure hotel points are less expensive (to Hilton HHonors) than the frequent flyer miles I might earn when Double Dipping and it now makes me feel I am unique, since the HHonors program still remains the same to other members.

While only continuing through the end of the year, this offer is nonetheless an interesting change from the norm.

Now, back to the Starwood Preferred Guest program. They were quite proud of the number of Starwood hotels that made Conde Nast Traveler’s annual Gold List of the best hotels in the world. So proud, in fact, that they made a special offer to their Platinum members — book an award stay at any of those Starwood hotels that made the Gold List by June 30th and complete your stay by August 31st and you’ll only have to redeem 50% of the normal number of points required. Now, I know of no other program in the world that would put its best hotels on sale at half the number of required points right in the middle of the popular summer vacation time — all with no blackout dates. That, my readers, is a tough act to follow and, while I wasn’t qualified to take advantage of the promotion, I have to say it ranks as one of the most generous benefits I’ve ever seen. I read where one person camped out for 10 days at the Royal Hawaiian because the deal was so good.

Well, as summer winds down and we return to our duties to fly for the work of it, I hope you all took advantage of the warm weather and used your miles and points (average award redemption was up about 9% this summer). Soon we will introduce a new Web site just for readers of this magazine as well as a new full-redesign of the magazine itself. That and the return of ‘Programs & Partners’ coming soon to this magazine near you.