My take on this year’s Freddie Awards

A full recap of this year’s Freddie Awards is available online, complete with all of the results. Air Canada received an Industry Impact Award for introducing personalized elite-level benefits, allowing members to select from several “Experience” benefits packages. This actually isn’t the first time an airline has tried this. United offered its elite members “the Gift of Choice,” a menu of extra benefits including upgrades and lounge access after its disastrous summer of 2000 which was dubbed “the Summer From Hell.” But it didn’t catch on, and United didn’t continue the practice.Certainly personalizing benefits to member interests is a way to differentiate a program, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s the wave of the future — it can be costly to administer and costly to maintain as tailored benefits are…

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When to spend and when to save

Chris Elliott offers some advice on when to save money on travel and when not to. He gets more right than wrong, but his piece needs a few corrections. Elliott is on the money that: a good travel agent is worth paying for, it’s worth spending miles to upgrade to business class on (most) international trips, and that the Hilton Garden Inn is generally a good business hotel. Bear in mind that similar brands may not be as consistent — Four Points by Sheraton has some good properties (Los Angeles airport and Sydney’s Darling Harbor locations, for instance) but also some real dogs. While my own travel preferences tend more towards a W or at least a Westin, mid-price business hotels remains sound advice. Elliott properly cautions that paying a travel agent is overkill on…

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USAirways Takes a Page from the Launch of United’s TED

They’re trying to burnish their image in Philadelphia with guerilla marketing. The “guerrilla” term refers to events such as delivering breakfast to radio stations around town tomorrow, hoping to get an on-air mention of the low fares, or surprising workers in Center City office buildings next week by offering free slices of pizza. On Saturday, flowers will be delivered to the homes of dozens of the most frequent US Airways customers who live in the region, as a way to say thanks. There will be a roulette wheel, similar to that on TV’s Wheel of Fortune, that will be set up next week in shopping malls. With each spin, passersby can win free tickets, 5,000 frequent-flier miles, or other, less valuable prizes. Free car washes will be offered in Cherry Hill and on the Main…

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Don’t just fly right, park right

Private, off-airport lots sometimes offer extras which can make them more convenient and a better deal than airport parking.They compete on price, to be sure, but they also compete on service (such as luggage assistance and direct car-to-terminal service) and extras.Some lots offer oil change, carwashes, detailing, newspapers, bottled water, and frequent flyer miles. One lot in Atlanta even offers pet boarding.Private lots also tend to adjust their prices to fill up spaces during less busy periods, offering coupons and online discounts.Traveling during peak holidays? Consider making a reservation — something unknown at public airport lots.

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It was only a matter of time before Justice Scalia’s foibles became journalistic fodder

Scott McCartney writes about airline tariff rules such as prohibitions on hidden city, back to back, and throwaway ticketing — and how to get around those rules. The basic advice: if you’re breaking a rule, don’t give the airline your frequent flyer number and they’ll have a harder time tracking you. And, I might add, don’t write publicly about breaking the rules. Unless you’re a Supreme Court Justice.

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Changes to Aeroplan Award Availability

Air Canada is eliminating blackout dates and making more seats available for redemption, but some of those seats will cost more miles. Aeroplan, the airline’s frequent-flier points program, said Thursday that it is eliminating blackout periods and making 15 per cent of Air Canada’s seats available for reward tickets on each route, compared with 10 per cent previously. But as few as 8 per cent of the airline’s total seats will be available at traditional reward levels. Once those are gone, customers must pay a premium of 33 per cent to 50 per cent more points to access tickets in the new “Avenue” category.

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Metal tubes getting smaller

As United’s service at Denver shifts towards 45% regional jets, the Rocky Mountain News rehearses the usual complaints. While RJs are better than turboprops flying the same route, and better than connections when offering new service, they are unpleasant when increasingly replacing mainline service. Most don’t offer first class or adequate onboard luggage space.Their smaller size and lower operating costs are an advantage over traditional jets for markets that lack substantial traffic. But their biggest advantage comes from being operated by Express carriers with lower labor costs — the real problem facing the major carriers. In the end, regional jets are just a bandaid.

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When should you spend miles?

Some good basic answers to basic questions.Should you hoard your miles or “burn as you earn” instead? Scrambling to survive, many have imposed onerous new fees and higher award levels — despite the fact that mileage programs are a rare financial bright spot for most carriers. The Internet is now rife with angry screeds from irked collectors, with Delta’s SkyMiles members going so far as to start a formal group to agitate for improvements. Such blemishes in the programs’ structures could also play a role in determining how large a stash of miles you want to keep. A deteriorating asset is often best disposed of — and that might argue in favor of using miles even when you might get a low fare elsewhere. “This is like owning a stock whose value is declining and…

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