We’ll start with America West/US Airways. By now you know that the proposed deal rolled out exactly the way we said it would — right down to the name of the frequent flyer program that will survive. While the questions have started to arrive, I can tell you that right now these two programs have far more questions than answers as to what will happen with your miles. I have scheduled a trip to US Airways in late July to see how things are progressing, and am also planning a trip to Tempe. As soon as anything looks promising, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, do exactly as I noted in my prior advice — play both programs as best you can right now, because the two will certainly be merged together later on. On a side note, I fully expect the new program to continue to be part of the American Express Membership Rewards program — something new to members of FlightFund. And while Bank of America is the common credit card issuer for both programs, I suspect (after reading very carefully the proposed financial advances to this new airline) that there will likely to be another financial partner issuing plastic. Just a guess.
Next in the alphabet is Delta — not necessarily Delta SkyMiles. I highly recommend that you read about the new Delta Air Lines and American Express credit card just now being issued. Called the SkyPoints card (see p. 10), it could be the perfect answer to those of you who continue to ask me about the CapitalOne Go Miles credit card. And, since it also allows members to transfer the SkyPoints points into their SkyMiles account, some of you will end up with the best of two different types of cards. I can see both Chase and Citibank following up on this with similar cards issued to prospective members of AAdvantage and Mileage Plus. Overall, the new product gets a plus rating from us, but it does have its caveats, so make sure you fully understand its limits: SkyPoints are only awarded on purchases up to $60,000 per year (leaves out you big spenders) and they can only be applied to the first $500 of an eligible ticket purchase. Still, considering these are options you don’t currently have with any other frequent flyer program, SkyPoints are worth keeping an eye on.
Now on to Delta SkyMiles. Surfing around its Web site, I came across this notice posted in its award redemption area: “As a result of high Award Travel requests during the peak summer travel season, we are no longer accepting award reservation requests for travel on Air France and KLM for the travel period June 1 through August 31, 2005.” This is as sad a day as I’ve seen for any program in a long while. The major media just loves to beat up on these programs with the perception that no one can get free seats, and now we see this. What gives? I’m well aware that KLM is blending some of their operations into Air France, but both airlines promised no interruptions with the introduction of the new Flying Blue frequent flyer program. And what makes this summer any different than any other summer? If Delta SkyMiles and the entire SkyTeam membership want to earn any respect at all from frequent flyers, this type of restriction is simply unacceptable. Delta SkyMiles, this reflects badly on you. Sure, this will save you money since you don’t have to pay these airlines to handle some of your award requests, but frankly, if I were you, I’d pay any price required to make this right for your members. Either have an alliance that works, or resign SkyTeam and join the Star Alliance. I’d recommend oneworld, but then you might have to argue about earning and burning miles across the Atlantic. Very disappointing.
After “D” comes “F.” As in Frontier Airlines. On page 17, you’ll see a lauding of an effort by this airline to add a benefit for elite members of EarlyReturns that shames many other programs with similar intentions. We are talking about miles to merchandise. EarlyReturn’s new “More Store” benefit for Ascent and Summit members makes it all too easy to want to be an elite member with that airline. Read about it to see what I mean.
And finally, we’ll visit our sister station, WebFlyer.com, and mention their tool to help frequent flyers. Referred to as the Mileage Mall, this new tool links all of the frequent flyer and other shopping malls together and allows you to cross-reference those merchants that are participating, and those that are giving away the most miles for your shopping purchases. I’ve used it numerous times already and love it.
Account inquiry and mileage earning now via mobile phone? That’s right, the Freddie Award-winning frequent flyer programs of SN Brussels Airlines, Swiss and TAP Air Portugal can now find out how many miles they currently have in their mileage account over their mobile phone — and earn miles when they do so. The new service means that members no longer have to wait for their next mileage summary or go online for their current mileage balance. If they want to know if they have enough miles for an upgrade or a free ticket, they can find out immediately via their mobile phone. In addition to the latest mileage balance, the new service also provides details of miles that may soon expire. This is exciting.