News and Views 30 August 2019

By Neil McPherson
30 August 2019

Our regular round-up items relevant for travellers’ loyalty programs.

Summarised with our views and interpretations.

Airlines & Miles

United Airlines announced that miles earned on its MileagePlus program would now longer expire. Previously they expired after 18 months of inactivity.

This leaves the major US airlines retaining expiry dates on their mileage programs as Southwest Airlines (24 months without activity), American Airlines (18 months without activity) and Alaska Airlines (24 months without activity).

Other programs’ expiry policies include:

In some cases, miles can be reinstated for a fee.

This is good to the extent that there will be more time to save miles for longer flights. But combined with the increases expected later in 2019 following the move to demand pricing , fewer members with miles forfeited will mean more competition for the limited number of award seats available.

United Airlines also announced that their online shopping portal is now accessible in Australia. This provides a way for Australians to build their miles balances. Prior to the announcement, the only practical ways available to them were earning miles from flying (UA or partners) or buying them.With MileagePlus Shopping Australia, you can earn up to 4 United miles per dollar (most awarding either 0.5, 1 or 2 United MileagePlus miles per AUD spent) spent with approx. 200 participating Australian online retailers, including . Bonds, Rebel Sport, Priceline Pharmacy, Kathmandu, Dymocks, Spotlight, Bing Lee, InterFlora, Groupon.

Virgin Australia announced a reduction in routes, as a result of a loss in the latest financial year. “Virgin's seventh annual loss this week was accompanied by plans to cut 750 jobs and reorganising and cleaning out the senior management team.” (source:AFR 29 August)
The flight routes most likely to be axed by Virgin Australia after the airline was rocked by $350million losses have been revealed, (source: Daily Mail Australia 29 August). In this article, Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas of Airline Ratings told Daily Mail Australia the routes most likely to be under threat were Sydney to Perth and Sydney to Melbourne. But Mr Thomas said it is more likely Virgin Australia will analyse flight routes and cut them back rather than scrapping them altogether.On the other hand, the same article quoted Aviation expert Neil Hansford, from Strategic Aviation Solutions as saying there will be cuts across many cities with some expected to lose flights altogether. His thoughts were that 'You'll start looking very heavily at the leisure routes, and the leisure routes maybe will have a reduction in daily frequency…'Some leisure routes, say the Tasmanian routes, where they get Sydney and Melbourne, they may lose their directs from Perth or their directs from Adelaide….International cities will also see some cuts due to their source of being less profitable…Some of the Pacific Islands and Hong Kong flights will be looked at closely. “

Hotels & Points

Marriott confirmed their peak/off-peak pricing will take effect from September 14th. A couple of “adjustments” to the original announcement were included in the release. After looking at the changes in detail, I think:

  • Points Advance is now less attractive.
  • The periods assigned as peak and off peak will vary by property, but will also be assessed (and potentially adjusted) on a montlhy basis.
  • Category 5 properties in peak periods and category 6 properties in off-peak periods offer best value.

Marriott alsoannouncedonAugust28ththatitwill eliminatesingle-useshowertoiletrybottlesfrompropertiesworldwidebytheendof2020.Moredetailsareinthecompanysuppliedvideobelow.

Marriott says that when fully implemented, this will prevent about 500 million bottles per year from going into landfills, which equates to about 1.7 million pounds of plastic.