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Travel News

What Travelers Should Know About The Marriott Starwood Merger

The news we’ve all been waiting for is here—Marriott International and Starwood have finally completed their $13 billion merger.  With the sale originally announced almost a year and a half ago, the twists and turns surrounding the Marriott Starwood merger occasionally felt like a daytime soap opera. Through it all, the travel industry has been anxiously waiting to hear the details, especially how travelers and travel managers will make out in the end.

What happened with Starwood?

  • In April 2015, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide first put itself up for sale.
  • They initially had 30 serious parties interested in merging, both U.S. and international.
  • In November 2015, Starwood announced a deal with Marriott for $12.2 billion. (Read Skift’s article about how Marriott played hard to get here.)
  • They slated the deal would be finalized by mid-2016, with a $400 million termination fee if it didn’t go through.
  • From there, the merger needed approval by regulatory authorities in over 40 countries. The U.N. also approved the deal in June.
  • The Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) requested more time in August to review the merger. They finally approved the deal September 20, 2016.
  • This merger created the world’s largest hotel company.

Marriott, the largest hotel company, ever:

  • The new company now has over 30 hotel brands. This includes operating or franchising more than 7,500 properties and 1.1 million rooms in more than 110 countries.
  • The hotels that are now under the Marriott- Starwood merger include:
    • Marriott, Courtyard, Ritz Carlton, Sheraton, Westin, W, St. Regis,  The Luxury Collection, Le Meridien, Tribute Portfolio, Four Points by Sheraton, Element, and many more.

What does the Marriott Starwood merger mean for travelers?

One of the biggest concerns about the merger have been regarding the loyalty programs. Both companies have their own loyalty programs. And as any frequent travelers knows, their perks often keep the customer loyal. Well, good news for any worried road warrior out there. Marriott has acknowledged the necessity of loyalty programs since the beginning of the merger. Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott, said integrating Starwood’s guest loyalty program was ‘central, strategic, rationale for the transaction.’

This week, Marriott announced the loyalty points will be linked and transferable. One Starwood Preferred Guest point will be worth three Marriott Reward points. This is yet another strategic tactic that many travelers wont be able to pass up. The process to connect your loyalty rewards is already set up and ready to go. Simply start at Marriott’s New Member page and follow the steps.

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Travel News

TSA Secure Flight

What the TSA is going to require starting May 1st, 2009, is as follows:
1. The name on the ticket MUST match the name on the valid government issued photo ID presented at check in and at the TSA security checkpoints. This means that if the ID reads “John Q. Smith”, then the ticket must read “John Q. Smith”. If there is a name mismatch the traveler may be subjected to extensive secondary screening and may be forced to miss the flight or may even be denied boarding.
2. At the same time, the TSA is requiring the airlines and travel agencies, acting as an agent of the airlines, to gather the following information and submit it through the GDS to the TSA. We must submit the full name, including first, middle and last name, gender and date of birth. This must be done for every flight entering, departing or fly through the airspace of the United States. It is not required for flights that don’t enter that airspace. So fights between Sydney and Brisbane are exempt.
To be accurate, this is voluntary. A traveler may opt out however in doing so the traveler may be subject to additional screening or denied transportation or authorization. Also, the TSA may share information provided with law enforcement or intelligence agencies or others that it deems necessary.
See www.tsa.gov for more details about privacy.
So what does this mean to you, the traveler?  It means that whatever source you use for booking your travel will be asking you for more details about yourself.  You are likely to get the following questions.  First, how does your name appear on the identification that you use when you check in at the airport?  Second, what is your full, legal name, date of birth and gender?  If you are booking with an agent, you may not be asked about your gender however online booking sources will be asking that question.  You have the right to decline to answer any of these questions, however you will potentially be subjected to extra screening and the TSA reserves the right to deny you entry into secured areas, such as the boarding areas.  That would cause you to miss your flight.
That won’t be the only impact it has on travelers.  It may impact your frequent flyer accounts, hotel frequent guest programs and car rental programs.  Since most of these reward programs require that the name on the reservation match the name on the account this may cause some issues if your name on your identification doesn’t match the name on the program.  For example, if your frequent flyer account is in the name of John Public and your government issued photo id is in the name of John Q. Public, the name on your reservation isn’t going to match your frequent flyer account and therefore you won’t earn miles and you won’t get any of the benefits of your status.  So what do you need to do?  You need to contact the airline in question and change the name on your account to match the id that you use when you check in.  A word of caution here, if you travel internationally, the id that you will be using to check in with the airlines will be your passport and yet most people don’t carry their passport with them when traveling domestically and thus use their driver’s license as their photo id at check in.  You may want to make sure that both your passport and your driver’s license names match as well.
Okay, so you’ve started to change your name on all of your identification so that it matches and you’re changing your frequent flyer accounts to match your id.  All is wonderful and you are pretty much done, right? Wrong!  You will want to insure that all the hotel and car programs have the same name as your photo id.  Why?  Because when your reservation is made the name that goes on your ticket will be the one that your car and hotel are booked under and if those account numbers don’t match, you may not get your points and the perks that your status entitles you to.  So you will want to contact those companies as well and change your name to match everything else.
The bad news is most of the companies involved say that it will take four to six weeks to change your name on your account.  The good news is that you’ve got that at this point.
Given that this program doesn’t start until the 1st of May, unless it is pushed back again, it will take a while for it to ramp up since many people have already booked travel well into the summer months and their names don’t match exactly.  Our suggestion is to get started now and hopefully by the time that the TSA and airlines get this up and running, you will be ready to go.
Happy Travels!