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Travel Management Travel News

The United/Continental Merger: A Personal Epiphany

I was recently sitting in a client review meeting with our United Airlines sales representative. I, like most, have been extremely frustrated with the immediate results of the United/Continental merger and how it has wreaked havoc in our travel community. But I was pleasantly surprised with how our United representative took ownership of the situation and the difficulties that have surrounded this transition. She actually shared many points about this process and what has been occurring over the last two months.
One comment in particular stood out above all others. She said, “This was the single largest technology conversion in aviation history and we are working through the technical issues that inevitably accompany a project of this magnitude.” From that one statement, it all began to make sense to me.
Perhaps you could call it a personal epiphany, but I decided I wasn’t going to be frustrated anymore. I couldn’t. Anything of this magnitude can’t be easy!
It was then I took a deep breath and decided to just have patience.

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Business Travel Travel News

Upcoming Changes to United’s MileagePlus Program

Mileage programs have become a major source of revenue for U.S. carriers and a primary source for retaining business travelers and keeping them away from competing carriers. United’s MileagePlus members, for example, are waiting with anticipation for the official launch of the new 2012 program, which will take effect once United and Continental have completed their conversion to a single technology system, scheduled for later in the first quarter of 2012. United will advise its members of the effective date in the coming weeks. Until then, United’s MileagePlus and Continental’s OnePass programs will continue to operate separately.
The new United MileagePlus program will have four membership levels:
Premier 1K
100,000 Premier qualifying miles or 120 Premier qualifying segments
Premier Platinum
75,000 Premier qualifying miles or 90 Premier qualifying segments
Premium Gold
50,000 Premium qualifying miles or 50 Premier qualifying segments
Premier Silver
25,000 Premium qualifying miles or 30 Premium qualifying segments
Global Services will continue as an exclusive, invitation only program for United’s top customers. United is also offering additional ways for travelers to earn miles through a MileagePlus Explore Card. Complete benefit information and details can be found online at MileagePlusMergerUpdates.com.

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Travel Management Travel News Travel Tips

Delta’s SkyMiles Medallion Status Match Challenge

Are you a top-tier frequent flier?
Have you heard about Delta’s SkyMiles Medallion® Status Match Challenge?
If not, we’d like to share some valuable information about how to leverage your current elite status (on American, United, or Continental) to receive comparable benefits on Delta.
Until June 30, 2012, if frequent fliers meet the outlined criteria, they will receive Platinum, Gold or Silver Medallion status from Delta for 90 days, based on their current elite level with another airline. To then maintain those matched Medallion rewards through the remainder of 2012, the flier would then simply need to earn a specific number of qualification miles. The required number of qualification miles is based on the matched Medallion level.
But what are the benefits of doing this?
Well, depending on the Medallion level, members enjoy exclusive privileges such as:

  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades for paid tickets
  • Access to preferred seats and economy comfort seats
  • Priority wait list status
  • Fee waivers for baggage and ticketing charges
  • Priority baggage handling
  • Premium benefits on in-flight food and beverage
  • Lounge access

Plus participating in challenges like this means you don’t have to start at square one in accruing points and miles if you want to switch airlines.
To be considered for this Status Match Challenge, visit Delta.com and submit your information. You can also find more general information on airline status matches here.
 
 

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Travel Management Travel News

United and Continental Roll Out Award Miles Merger Program

United Airlines and Continental Airlines have rolled out a process to merge award miles from Mileage Plus and One Pass programs. Combining your airline flight activity can help you earn award travel and elite status faster. Members can complete the process online here.
To use this process, the name on each account must match. Members will need to be sure to have their account membership numbers and pin to complete the transaction. Once accounts are merged, members can then roll miles into the joined account.
One more item to note is that with the merger, some flight numbers are changing as United and Continental combine their schedules. It is a good idea to reconfirm any upcoming flights to be sure your itinerary reflects any recent changes to flight numbers, operating carrier and possibly, times.
For further information or help, contact Mileage Plus Customer Service at 800-421-4655.

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Travel News Travel Technology

More options to stay connected in the air

As a business traveler myself, I know the importance of staying connected.  On my business trips, I find myself carrying an array of electronic gadgets to get me through the day. Over the past few years, airlines and airports have assisted travelers with their lonely electronically-connected commutes through offerings of charging stations and wi-fi connections.
The latest to join the “connected” offerings is Continental Airlines. Just this week, they announced they have executed a letter of intent with inflight entertainment provider Live TV to offer inflight wi-fi via Ka-band beginning next year. The company plans to offer the service on more than 200 domestic Boeing 737 and 757 aircraft equipped with DIRECTV. This will provide onboard connectivity and more than 95 channels of live television programming to customers flying within the continental United States.
United Airlines currently offers inflight Internet service on 14 aircraft. This planned expansion by United Continental Holdings to offer more inflight wi-fi services underscores the company’s commitment to providing unique options that enable customers to customize their travel experience.
For you the business traveler, it means you now have more options to keep up with your busy life.

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Business Travel Travel Management

Upgrade me please…

After scanning through various articles this week I came upon one titled How to Score an Upgrade: Air, Car and Hotel on CNN Money.com.  I was so enthralled that I thought I would share parts of it with you along with some extra’s from Christopherson Business Travel.

AIR:

Your odds: One in one hundred.
Pick your plane wisely. Passengers on certain Boeing 757s (with 26 first-class seats to 158 in coach) have a better shot than those on an Airbus 320 (12 first-class, 126 coach). Check out a plane’s layout at seatguru.com.
Scope out the cabin. The more empty seats in first class, the better your chances of landing one. To check out the load factor, go to the airline website just before check-in, start to book a business-class ticket, and click “view seat map”.
Ask at the right time. The best day for upgrades is Saturdays; fewer elite travelers fly then. Go to the agent and say something like: “If you need to bump people from coach to first, please consider me. I’m low maintenance — and my back is killing me.”

HOTEL:

Your odds: One in five.  Occupancy rates for the first half of 2010 were estimated at a dismal 56% (down from 63% in ’07), reports Smith Travel Research.
Ask your Christopherson agent for negotiated specials. Christopherson has negotiated rates in various cities where you might be traveling to. For example, most likely when booking the Christopherson rate at the Hilton in Salt Lake City your chances for an upgrade are good plus you receive a complimentary loaded buffet breakfast, free parking, free internet and double Hilton points.
Stay at business hotels on weekends. You can improve your upgrade chances by staying Thursday to Sunday vs. midweek.
Ask multiple times. Use the special-requests option when booking your hotel.  Once your reservation has been made by a Christopherson specialist, call the hotel directly. Talk to the desk clerk at check-in, “We’re here celebrating special event. Any chance of an upgrade?”
Check in late. Most guests show up around 3 p.m., so arrive after 7, when the front desk knows which rooms are left.

CARS:

Your odds: One in 20. Many car vendors cut fleets in 2008 and 2009, making upgrades less common.
Choose the right car. If a company runs out of the vehicle class you reserved, you will be upgraded. Book a midsize car — it’s the most in demand.
Reserve at the right time. Friday nights and Monday mornings are peak pickup times. That means there’s less chance the car class you specify will be available.
Ask for special offers. Ask your Christopherson agent for any free or discounted weekend days (Avis coupon code TUCAO53 and mention your corporate AWD number. Exp 4/2011. Coupons available at Christopherson Business Travel while they last). Check with your credit card company or coupon travel magazines.
For more information Christopherson’s corporate competitive advantages please contact one of our account managers at allam@cbtravel.com.

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Travel News

The Unbundling Trend

This past week I had the opportunity to attend the EdCon Conference for SGTP (Society of Government Travel Professionals) in Washington DC. The focus was “Trends Affecting the Government Travel Landscape: A Probable Future?” Here is a piece of what I took away:
Trends are predictions about the future based on our knowledge of the past and present. The interaction between the trends is as important as each individual trend. There are many trends with in travel: higher fares; TSA requirements; and more noticeably, the unbundling of services by airlines.
So what does the trend of unbundling airline costs tell us about the future? Unfortunately that they are here to stay! This unbundling trend presents several challenges.
The first is the limited time between the notification and effective date or the lack of notifications by the airline to the consumer/travel management company (TMC). It’s frustrating to get to the airport and unexpectedly need to pay for an additional service. Once the airlines have found all the possible services that they can charge for, I believe the notifications will stop. Hopefully there won’t be any more surprises to the consumer or the agency.
The second is the inability of the TMC to assist the consumer by directly charging for unbundled services. To correct that, ARC (Airline Reporting Corporation) has recently come out with a document that will allow agencies to charge for these services. This will result in corporate travel cards or UATP cards being able to be directly charged.
This document also solves the third challenge: travel reconciliation for the corporate customer. Once the services can be charged directly through the TMC, clients will no longer have the hassle of tracking down traveler receipts for reconciliation. Currently the traveler is presenting a receipt (if they have one) for these additional services. When TMCs can charge for these services, they will be present in reporting as well as on credit card statements. It will also clear up confusion on whether an unbundled service is reimbursable or not. When the client has determined which services are reimbursable, they can be noted in the company travel profile for company-wide implementation.
The process isn’t complete, but once the airlines have “all their ducks in a row,” the TMCs will be able to ensure accuracy and customer satisfaction when reconciling and managing unbundled fees.

Categories
Travel News Travel Technology

United Now Offers Mobile Check-In

United has installed mobile check-in at its four hub cities – Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles – plus Las Vegas, Dallas-Fort Worth and LaGuardia Airport in New York. Thirty more locations will be offering mobile check-in by summer
Denver joins 43 other U.S. airports, plus Frankfurt, Germany in offering this service. In 2007 TSA introduced the pilot program with Continental Airlines adding shortly thereafter Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airways. For the most up-to-date information as to what airports offer the program and an airline list of cities providing this service; go to the TSA website or each individual airline’s website.
Mobile check-in saves time at the airport by letting you check in and get your eBoarding Pass right from your PDA or web-enabled phone (iPhones, BlackBerrys, etc.) within 24 hours of your departure. It’s the fastest, most convenient way to check in. You must first go to the airlines website to start the process. At the airport, TSA security officers use hand-held scanners to validate the authenticity of the boarding pass at the checkpoint

Categories
Travel News Travel Technology

Flying the Connected Skies?

Continental Airlines’ announcement last week that it would begin offering wireless internet (Wi-Fi) access aboard its aircraft beginning the second quarter of 2010 brought to close an exciting year of innovative in-flight communication advances.
Virgin America, the upstart discount carrier based in San Francisco, CA was the first U.S. carrier to offer fleet wide Wi-Fi access in May of 2009. American, Delta, United and US Airways followed shortly thereafter with staggered deployments of Wi-Fi across their respective fleets meaning in-flight Wi-Fi access will be a reality with all the legacy carriers in 2010.
As for the discount carriers, Virgin America is definitely leading the charge with Air Tran recently announcing the availability of in-flight Wi-Fi across its fleet. Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Jet Blue have begun testing Wi-Fi on certain aircraft while Midwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines are still considering the option of offering this service to their customers.
As with almost any other service now offered on board, in-flight Wi-Fi will come at a cost. To find out which airlines offer Wi-Fi access and how much they charge based on your destination, call Christopherson/Andavo Travel and our trusted travel advisors will be glad to answer your questions.

Categories
Travel Management

Airline Fees, Alliances and Saving Money

Airline alliances – what is the fuss all about? Besides the ability to earn a free ticket by flying virtually any airline in the world is there really any benefit to knowing which alliance you should belong to? Well, consider this: “How to make consumer-hated airline fees more digestible” was the subject of a three-day meeting earlier this month of the Ancillary Revenue Airline Conference in Huntington Beach (fancy speak for a gathering of airline executives and businesses that serve the industry interested in finding ways to offer coach passengers separate products and services typically offered as part of the ticket price for business and first class passengers). The New York Times estimates that airlines collected $USD 10.25 billion in such fees in 2008 – a staggering 346 per cent increase over 2006. CLEARLY – fees are here to stay and more likely than not will spread to more services offered by airlines.
Understanding airline alliances – who partners with whom and who offers reciprocity – is one way you can avoid paying the fees being levied against the normal traveler these days. OneWorld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance ALL waive ancillary fees for their preferred customers.
To learn more about how to leverage your airline memberships while keeping a little extra money in your pocketbook over the holidays, call Christopherson/Andavo Travel and our trusted travel advisors will be glad to answer your questions.

Categories
Travel News

Continental Airlines Joins Star Alliance

Continental Airlines’ much anticipated entrance into the Star Alliance took place on Tuesday, October 27. Continental brings its young fleet, flier-friendly services and over 60 NEW destinations to the world’s largest airline network. An integral part of Continental’s move to the Star Alliance will be its codeshare agreement with United Airlines. While this agreement will allow travelers to purchase flights on approximately 400 codeshare routes (mainly domestic and Trans-Atlantic) it also heralds the decision by both carriers to synergize best-in-class features for frequent fliers. In fact United recently announced plans to match Continental’s Elite Upgrade policies on its domestic routes beginning 2nd quarter 2010.
So what do you think? A good move for Continental? The Star Alliance? Please share your thoughts with us.
In the meantime, for answers to any questions about what this development means for your OnePass or Mileage Plus accounts or the Star Alliance in general, call Christopherson/Andavo Travel and our travel advisors will be glad to assist.

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Travel News

Need Miles? Here some ideas

With summer vacations fast approaching and wallets seemingly thinner than they should be, more people are turning to their frequent flyer programs to help lower the expense of their vacation.  Some folks are discovering that their miles have been devalued over the last year or two and suddenly need a few more miles in order to secure the flights that they want.

Here are some options that may allow you get a few more miles.

US Airways is offering double qualifying miles.  The offer runs through April 30th, 2009.  You do need to register prior to traveling.  The url is https://www.usairways.com/awa/Content/dividendmiles/promotions.aspx.
United Airlines has a variety of offers which can be found at: www.United.com/mileageplus under the Airline Promotions section.  These range from bonuses of 10,000 miles for flying on specific routes to triple miles in some markets.  You do need to register in order to gain these benefits. Most of these offers require that travel is completed by late April or early May so you will want to get started as soon as possible.
American Airlines is offering members of the AAdavantage program the chance to earn double elite status miles from now until June 15th, 2009.  You do need to register at www.aa.com/dbeqm in order to get these miles.
Delta Air Lines is currently offering bonuses for flying between Cincinnati and select cities.  The have a weighted or scaled approach to their bonuses.  Travel must be completed no later than the 12th of May, 2009.  The first roundtrip is worth 3,000 bonus miles and by the time you complete your fifth trip you will get 10,000 for your trip.  You do need to register for this trip at: www.delta.com/cvgbonus.
Continental is offering a variety of promotions, including double elite qualifying miles.  Most of their current promotions require travel to be completed no later than May 31st, 2009.  You will need to register at www.continental.com/onepass and go to News and Offers for the specifics.
Other strategies for enhancing one’s miles can including using specific car rental agencies, staying at hotels and participating in their frequent guest programs, or one can get miles by taking advantage of various credit card offers or there are the shopping and service options. 
The car rental agencies typically offer some set number of miles per rental, regardless of the length and cost of the rental.  Generally these offers range between 250 and 1000 miles per rental.  You can use rentals to help build your miles incrementally over the course of a year.
The hotel programs generally allow you to convert their points into frequent flyer miles.  Depending on the program, it may not be worth converting the points to miles since the points can be used for free night stays.
The credit card programs frequently have hidden costs ranging from fees to utilize miles, to higher interest rates or fees to transfer points to miles.  My advice is to do your homework to make sure that the program works for you before signing up.
The shopping and services option that most airlines now are can be a gold mine of miles.  You can get miles for purchasing everything from music at iTunes, to buying dinner, to purchasing electronics at Best Buy.  Plus you can get miles for using Netflix, or Brinks Home Security or T-Mobile or for using partners when you do your mortgage or when you make investments through select brokerage firms, just to name a few options.  If you are going be spending the money for shopping or if you need to get a mortgage or you are buying an investment or any number of other services, why not get miles for it.
Last but by no means least, you can purchase a limited number of miles directly from the airlines.  So if you find that you are short by 1000 or 5000 miles, you can buy enough miles to get you to that next award level. 
Hopefully you will find that some or all of these ideas are helpful and allow you to maximize your miles and allow you to enjoy your summer vacation at little or no cost to you.