Starwood And Delta Air Lines Announce ‘Crossover Rewards,’ Joint Loyalty Program Benefits

There’s news this morning of a new partnership called Crossover Rewards that’s forming between two juggernauts in the travel industry. Starting March 1, Delta Air Lines and Starwood will be sharing some benefits from their loyalty programs, meaning members of SkyMiles and Starwood Preferred Guest will soon be able to enjoy perks extended to their partner program without earning status on the other side.

Shared benefits vary by the level of elite status but will not include the entire spectrum of perks. Delta Platinum and Diamond members, for example, will be allowed a late checkout and free Wi-i, but will not get complimentary room upgrades. Similarly, SPG members will enjoy a free checked bag, priority boarding and priority seating, but will not get upgrades. In both programs, booked travel will earn points for each loyalty account.

The move aims to target loyalty members from a different market sector and hopefully entice them to bring loyalty to another program. Simply put, this is an easy way for each brand to target highly profitable and highly loyal customers at low risk, so it’s an easy partnership to forge.

This isn’t the first time that loyalty programs have teamed up for earnings. Hilton Hotels has been using a double dip program in HHonors for several years where loyal travelers can allocate a part of their earnings to an airline mileage account.

Unique to Crossover Rewards though is the elite benefits that are being shared. Under this program, even if the Delta Platinum has never set foot in the same city as an SPG property there are still benefits to be collected. It’s a great incentive to loyal travelers and a savvy move by Delta and SPG. Hopefully the other carriers and hotels catch on.

[Flickr photo via Ed Yourdon]

Delta Air Lines Changes Mileage Program, Budget Travelers Lose

The announcement came quietly last week, amid bigger, louder clamor over another airline’s new branding. Delta Air Lines will be changing its mileage program for the 2015 status year, and in a very big way. Coming up, passengers will soon be required to spend a minimum amount of money on the airline per year in order to reach elite status. So, for example, for one to reach Platinum status, it will soon be required to earn either 75,000 miles or 100 segments and spend a minimum of $7,500 on the airline per year. The full qualification table pulled from Delta’s announcement is below





























This change shouldn’t be a surprise for regular travelers. Skymiles has been eroding for several years now, and this is the next step in completely trivializing the program. Options for low-cost mileage redemptions have nearly evaporated, and many passengers are holding onto stockpiles with nothing to buy. One disgusted passenger on the forum Flyertalk puts it this way:

“[Delta]… rarely has the seats to begin with. It’s of such limited utility to me that anytime I see even the most mundane 25,000-mile award within the U.S., I’m tempted to grab it.”

Delta’s spin on the change, for their part, is that they need to make room for their most valuable customers. From their release last week, they state:

“These changes are a result of considerable research that we’ve conducted including conversations with hundreds of customers, many of whom expressed a desire to see the Medallion program truly target our best customers”

Delta would never release data on the ranks of their Skymiles program, but this suggests that their stables may be bloated with elite (and thereby costly) travelers and that they need to be thinned. It makes reasonable business sense: reward the travelers who spend the most money on the airline.

But what about the budget traveler? Delta is effectively moving its focus to high-paying passengers with this change, and budget travelers – some of whom are the biggest fans of the airline – will be left in the cold.

Proof will come when the budget travelers shift their business away from Delta and the costs of running their elite program drop over the next two years. If elite ranks stagnate and the frequent fliers keep coming, the airline can move forward with a smaller, more robust and profitable mileage program. And if membership spirals down to a handful of deranged loyal fliers, they’ll know that their mileage program is officially dead. In the end, that may have been part of the plan.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user redlegs21]

Salvation Army Bell Ringers Just One Way To Give

Salvation Army bell ringers located at shopping malls, grocery stores, airports and other locations, not just in the United States but around the world, are a sure sign that the holidays are upon us. The red kettles fill with donations that provide millions to help the Salvation Army continue its mission year-round. But holiday giving does not have to stop with a quick donation while passing by a Salvation Army bell-ringer.

The Salvation Army needs to have the ability to move their personnel quickly in time of disaster. They provide travel for those in need of emergency medical care outside of their area too. To help with those transportation needs and reduce administrative costs by providing travel for Salvation Army staff members, airlines are helping with programs of their own.

United Airlines Charity Miles Program has partnered with the Salvation Army since 1999, allowing frequent fliers to donate miles from their United Airlines Mileage Plus account to any of their nonprofit partner organizations. To make a minimum donation of 1,000 miles to the Salvation Army, call United at 800-421-4655 and request that your Mileage Plus miles be transferred into the Salvation Army’s account.

Annually, United Airline customers donate more than 268 million miles through the program.Delta Airlines’ Sky Wish program works in a similar way. Any Delta frequent flier can email with their name, SkyMiles number, SkyWish charity name, donation amount and telephone number.

Delta makes it easy too, enabling us to choose from a variety of charities including Canine Assistants, a non-profit organization, which trains and provides service dogs for children and adults with physical disabilities or other special needs.

Public contributions to Salvation Army kettles enable the organization to continue its year-round efforts at helping those who would otherwise be forgotten. In the UK, the Salvation Army has made a big effort to help the homeless, as we see in this video:

[Photo Credit- Flickr User dananthony11]

Announcing Gadling’s Facebook + Delta SkyMiles + Unicef Challenge

There are too many “like our Facebook feeds and win a prize” challenges out there, so today I’d like to try to change tack: instead of rewarding ourselves let’s empower others. Today, let’s raise Facebook likes for UNICEF.

Instead of asking AOL (our bosses) to step up to the plate, however, I’d like to lead by example. So as editor of this fine site I’ll dig into my personal SkyMiles account and donate one mile for every FB Like that Gadling gets today, May 10th 2012 (Update: We’ve extended the campaign until 11:59PM on Sunday, May 13th!).

Didn’t know about the SkyWish charities? It’s a program created by Delta Air Lines to empower frequent fliers to donate their miles to charitable organizations. Here’s more about UNICEF:

For more than 60 years, UNICEF has been the world’s leading international children’s organization, working in over 150 countries to address the ongoing issues that affect why kids are dying. UNICEF provides lifesaving nutrition, clean water, education, protection and emergency response saving more young lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. While millions of children die every year of preventable causes like dehydration, upper respiratory infections and measles, UNICEF, with the support of partnering organizations and donors alike, has the global experience, resources and reach to give children the best hope of survival.

There are a variety of different organizations to choose and benefactors can give as many miles as they can afford. In this case, I’ll give up to as many as I have remaining in my account, which is just under 9500 miles.

Other airlines also have similar programs such as Operation Hero Miles at American Airlines or the program at United.

Delta, for their part, has no knowledge of this transaction at this point, but if this picks up steam maybe we’ll ask them to match our contribution.

Head on over to Gadling’s Facebook Page to share your likes. We’ll post an updated tally at the end of the campaign.

Update: 2:08PM May 10th: Delta Air Lines just reached out to tell us that they’ll be matching our contributions to UNICEF mile for mile up to 100,000 miles! We’ll extend the promotion to 11:59 PM on Sunday, May 13th to take full advantage. Thanks for all of the likes!

Update 10:09AM May 11th: Arianna Huffington has agreed to match the donations by Delta Airlines and our team! Thanks Arianna!

Update: 11:29AM May 11th: Travel writing legend Nomadic Matt will be matching our donations with American Airlines miles. Follow him on twitter at @nomadicmatt.

Like Gadling’s Facebook Page Here >>

Buy elite miles on Delta, cheat your way to elite status

The trump card when going toe to toe with the airline industry has always been elite status. Once you’re silver or gold or whatever color is associated with frequent travel, many of the airline fees go away, upgrades start to sneak out of the woodwork and travel becomes slightly less miserable. That’s why many people carefully plan their annual travel to make sure that they reach a special status, sometimes even going as far as taking a mileage run to earn the right volume.

The problem with earning elite miles at the last minute, though, was that it was usually a waste of time, space and carbon. But airlines wouldn’t sell elite miles because then non-frequent travelers could game the system.

This week, Delta has partially fixed that conundrum by actually selling elite miles. They won’t sell you many, but if you need a few extra miles to make it to the next tier then it can be actually worth your time.

2,500 points, for example, will cost a traveler $295. But once that tier has been reached, a traveler can expect a whole host of fees waived plus free upgrades, preferred seats and priority checkin. For that price, it may be worth the investment.

You can learn more about Delta’s plan to sell miles over at their site. You can buy up to 10,000 miles.

[flickr image via sacra-moneta]