News and Views

By Neil McPherson
6 November 2019

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

Summarised with our views and interpretations.

Airlines & Miles


Only one more week until the Qantas points devaluation takes effect.The changes that were announced in June take effect from September 14. If you haven't locked in a points-paid trip yet, you are running out of time ! We detailed how the Qantas frequent flyer program overhaul will affect you when the announcements were made in mid-July.


Surprising news amongst the Australian airlines was that BP will switch allegiance from Virgin Velocity to Qantas Frequent Flyer in Q1 2020.

Announcing the new BP Rewards program, due to commence in early 2020, Qantas was revealed as the service station partner to the program. This will end the current arrangement between BP and Virgin Velocity.

BP Rewards will be based on its existing program in the US and UK - BPme Rewards, where members can earn points when spending on petrol or "in-store" purchases. Earning rates are yet to be announced, but members will be able to elect to either earn BP Rewards points for cash discounts, or directly earn Qantas Points.

BP will also be the exclusive service station partner of Qantas Business Rewards.

This follows an earlier announcement regarding the alliance between BP and David Jones, where the retailer will bring high-end food products to its store network, such as ready to eat and packaged meals along with long-life groceries.

This could be a good deal for Qantas FF members, who will be able to fill up the car, collect some items for dinner and stack Qantas points when using BP Rewards and paying with (say) a David Jones Amex card.


Thai Airways announced change to its program - Royal Orchid Plus.Effective from 1 October, there will be changes made to both earning and redeeming rates for members.The changes to Royal Orchid Plus earning rates for only some fare classes have changed:

  • Economy (Y and B only): +10%
  • Premium Economy: no change
  • Royal Silk Class (C and D only): +20%
  • Royal First Class: (F class) +66% or (A and P): + 33%


Additionally, tier bonuses for Royal Orchid Plus have been introduced: Platinum 20%, Gold 10% and Silver 10%.The award chart for redemptions will also change. Thai Airlines says "in certain zones there are increases in all Award Charts. With the ability to earn more class of service bonus miles and tier bonus miles, this will help to offset Award increases for many members." Its updated award chart is zone based. The impact of these changes is less clear.Unlike most "enhancements" announced by airline loyalty programs, these changes appear to be genuine enhancements for at least some Royal Orchid members. The combination of changes earning and redeeming rates may open up new opportunities, so I will write a more detailed review of Royal Orchid Plus, incoprorting the latest announcement - stay tuned!


Other brands that rated sufficiently to be short-listed and monitored throughout the year included (in alphabetical order) Alila, Banyan Tree, Dorchester Collection, Fairmont, Jumeirah, Oberoi, Park Hyatt, Peninsula, Raffles, Ritz Carlton, Shangri-La and The Luxury Collection.

Brands that currently have less than ten properties (LTI's minimum requirement) but rate highly under LTI's process included (in alphabetical order) – Bulgari, Capella, Cheval Blanc, Maybourne, Montage and Soneva.


Observations:

  • Belmond, Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental have leap-frogged last years leaders.
  • Six Senses has dropped 5 spots - hopefully only a temporary change while the IHG integration completes this year.
  • Anantara and COMO break into the list.
  • Rosewood also an "improver".
  • St Regis, One&Only and Auberge are quite consistent