Opening Remarks – Of Midway, Eastern, Southwest and Hotel Babylon

Opening Remarks – Of Midway, Eastern, Southwest and Hotel Babylon

The main topic: Northwest Airlines WorldPerks.

With the ongoing strike, I’ve been swamped by questions about what to do with the miles, and what this means for Northwest Airlines. If you are a longtime reader of InsideFlyer, you know that I do a lot of research and have tried hard to serve up the best advice for you as this industry flies through its darkest days. I’ve lived through them all, but this one feels just a little different. First of all, Northwest Airlines was involved in the final peril of the original Midway Airlines back in 1991. Could the bad karma from that experience come back to haunt Northwest?

While I remain positive about WorldPerks miles given the partnerships with Continental and Delta, this one has me a bit more concerned than normal. As for what to do now. I never give out advice that I don’t personally follow: I’m playing the “Fly Free Faster 2005” game with WorldPerks and continuing to add and earn miles into my account. I have no current fear or worry about the longevity of my miles with WorldPerks and certainly feel comfortable adding to my account balance. As for redemption, I’ll redeem my miles for any occasion that I might normally consider, but I would not advise you to rush to burn any miles because of the current labor and financial issues at NWA. And while I along with all others here at InsideFlyer hope that a resolve can be reached for the best interest of both employees and NWA, as far as our miles are concerned, it’s business as usual.

I stopped in Washington D.C, recently to check in on the progress of Dividend Miles in the upcoming merger with America West/FlightFund. I remain convinced that members of Dividend Miles are going to see increased value to their miles, and we really won’t see much if any action involving the two programs until after the merger is official, and that might be later this month. I’d like to see some positive reciprocal program relationship heading into the holiday season as a Christmas bonus for all those who have remained loyal with miles in these two programs. The word seems to be that such a thing won’t happen until a new year greets us but I have made my thoughts clear to both programs. I am a bit concerned with several recent changes in the FlightFund program as they move toward integration with US Airways and Dividend Miles. What I’m seeing looks to be a trade off to merge/match the program of Dividend Miles, and while some of the changes in awards levels with FlightFund will leave a few members gasping, it’s hard to imagine access to a much larger award network to not have some pain. This is not the time for that cutesy “I feel your pain” sermon, but until we see the complete give (and hopefully “take”) package, I’m forced to live with it as much as any reader. If you like to read what goes on behind the scenes with programs in general, you’ll want to read the details of the new renegotiated credit card partner agreement between these two frequent flyer programs which is in the InsideEdition of this issue. You’ll read how the credit card partner is forking forward $455 million toward making this deal work.

And on to other news in the industry: Southwest Airlines has announced remarkable changes to its Rapid Rewards program. The program will now allow members 24 months (instead of the current 12 months) to earn credits toward free travel. As of Feb. 10, 2006, the program will remove system-wide blackout dates (I think there are 16 of them in 2005, mostly on Nov/Dec) and implement seat restrictions for award travel. The capacity controls aren’t likely to be a big deal to begin with, and we think they will only be imposed on single day non-stops and for flights generally leaving around 5 p.m. on weekdays when these flights are generally sold out. We’ll reserve any other comments on this until the program is well underway and then survey members as to the experiences they have in trying to redeem award seats.

Members’ existing credits will be extended for an additional 12 months, giving current members two years to earn award travel on Southwest. For awards issued Feb. 10, 2006, or after, seat restrictions will apply. Unexpired awards issued before Feb. 10, 2006, are unrestricted, even if redeemed after that date. Awards will continue to be valid for travel 12 months from the date of issue.

Also, Southwest says it is exploring ways to provide an award “seat finder” on its Web site to help members locate dates and flights when award seats will be available.

I refuse to believe that summer in the Northern Hemisphere is soon to give way to a different season. With that in mind, I’ve ratcheted up the reading and just finished a rather interesting book that reminds me of the hit Fox TV show “24” (each chapter represents an hour at the hotel). The book title is Hotel Babylon, and the author is an anonymous manager of a five-star hotel. If you’ve ever wondered what really goes on in a five-star hotel, then get this book and see this industry in a whole new (and true) light. Here’s a book review from Publisher’s Weekly:

The anonymous author, who now manages an unnamed five-star hotel, has spent the past 15 years working in London’s top lodgings. With British journalist Edwards-Jones, the author compresses these years into a 24-hour period (divided into one chapter for every hour) and places the events at a fictitious Hotel Babylon (to protect the guilty who may include the author). The result is an irreverent expose of the often unimaginable debauchery and dishonesty of the luxury hotel industry. The insider’s perspective affords honest assessments of the guests, workers and the hotel itself, revealing that “the scams are endless…. The suppliers do the hotel, the staff do the hotel and the hotel tries to do everyone.” The man who can afford a $250 -per-night room but refuses to pay his 850-quid worth of calls to porn lines is despicable, but so is the hotel when it appends corkage fees for bottles never opened to unknowing wedding parties. In addition to including details of the rich and famous (Margaret Thatcher was “a great whiskey drinker”; Madonna complained “about the color of the curtains in her room”), the book shares odd “day-in-the-life of a front-desk receptionist” anecdotes (e.g., a naked lady singing in the lobby, a false fire alarm and the natural death of an old woman who lived at the hotel).

Readers can purchase the book from Amazon through the FlyerTalk Book Club ( ).

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