Virgin Australia Offers Frequent Flier Points To Pets

virgin australia plane
Aero Icarus, Flickr

Air travel is getting better and better – if you’ve got four legs, that is. Just last month we told you about first class airline lounges that had been designed especially for pets – now airlines are offering award miles to furry fliers.

Virgin Australia announced this week that it will reward its frequent flier members with an extra 300 points when they book a domestic flight for their pet. For the time being, the program applies to cats and dogs only.

About 30,000 pets fly with Virgin Australia each year and the carrier’s CEO says the initiative is aimed at enhancing the airline’s image as a family-focused carrier.Virgin is the first airline in Australia to offer mileage points to pets, but the concept isn’t entirely new. In 2005, Virgin Atlantic offered various rewards through its Flying Paws program and a few years later, JetBlue began providing frequent flier miles through its JetPaws initiative.

Small town in Israel hopes to get tourism boost from mermaid sightings

The small town of Kiryat Yam, near Haifa in Israel, may have a mermaid living in its waters. At least, the town council hopes they do. They say that dozens of people, in separate incidents, have reported seeing a half-girl, half-fish creature that jumps like a dolphin and plays in the sea at sunset.

The council is now offering a $1 million reward to anyone who can prove the mermaid does exist. Capturing her is not necessary; the council will accept photographic evidence. As a ploy to boost tourism, it seems to be working. According to ABC News, visitors are packing the shores each evening, trying to catch a glimpse of Israel’s Ariel. A rep for the town council says it is not a hoax to bring in more visitors, but adds “I believe if there really is a mermaid, then so many people will come to Kiryat Yam, a lot more money will be made then $1 million.”

So, who wants to go to Israel with me? i just need to pack my Little Mermaid costume and my Nikon.

Status seekers pulling back

It’s not just the travel companies’ bank accounts getting hit in this market – loyalty programs are getting spanked, too. The management consultants, investment bankers and attorneys – now fewer in number than a year ago – who accumulate elite status quickly aren’t spending as much time on the road. With considerably less travel time being logged, the folks who used to have platinum status on multiple airlines and in multiple hotels aren’t hitting the same levels they have for the past several years.

A study by Colloquy, which conducts marketing research for loyalty programs, showed that loyalty program membership dropped 28 percent in the travel industry. In 2007, the average traveler belonged to 2.8 of these programs. Now, it’s down to merely two. Lower- and middle-income men are being cited as the source of the decline, as they’ve been hit harder by layoffs.

Additionally, active participation in loyalty programs is down almost a third. This year, the average traveler is participating actively in 1.5 programs – a year ago, it was 2.2. Among the wealthy, this type of engagement fell 13 percent – from 2.3 programs down to two.

According to Colloquy, travelers are focusing on fewer programs and looking to get as much as they can out of them, rather than spread around their travel with the knowledge that they’ll have enough to reach and maintain high statuses with several travel companies.

Got hotel points? Now is the time to use them!

Hotel award availability has long been the kind of thing that made actually getting to use your hard earned hotel points nearly impossible.

This Summer is different, and for reasons I’m not entirely sure of. I’m going to guess that hotels are seeing record low bookings, and are perfectly happy to get any guests.

Most of the large hotel chains have a ton of award availability, and a lot of it is available for dates that have historically been impossible to redeem on.

Even the upcoming memorial day weekend shows plenty of availability, and to make things even better, there are plenty of free rooms in cities that are usually filled to capacity for major events (like Indianapolis).

So, if you have any spare hotel points lying around, now is the best time ever to start using them – forget that whole “staycation” thing. Gas is still relatively cheap, and if your only expenses will be food, entertainment and gas, then you’d better have a good reason to stay home.