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FlyerTalk Awards

Win $250 & Let Dynamic Pricing Know What You Really Think About It

Win $250 & Let Dynamic Pricing Know What You Really Think About It
Anya Kartashova

The annual FlyerTalk Awards nominations have been announced, and we’re here to talk about the obvious frontrunners, stragglers and a few dark horses. So much happened in the world of travel in 2019: airline partnership breakups, rewards program shake-ups and trivial benefit cuts. So let’s talk about all the delicious drama of 2019 and discuss some of the nominees.

In the meantime, let your favorites know who they are by voting for your favorite Rewards Program and Outstanding Benefit to earn them a FlyerTalk award for 2020 and let your least favorites know where they stand by passing them by.

As a bonus, and because we really want to hear about all of your opinions, you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win one of two $250 Visa gift cards (but first, read the entry rules here) when you cast your vote.

2019: Year in Review

So, without further ado,

 

Alaska Airlines FlyerTalk Awards

Airlines

America: For America, after United Airlines went dynamic and Southwest Rapid Rewards increased Companion Pass requirements, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is likely to be one of the frontrunners here for many reasons.

The program still credits redeemable miles based on distance flown and not money spent and tacks on mileage bonuses for elite members. Additionally, it sticks to its published award charts and allows stopovers on one-way redemptions (no longer true for intra-Asia itineraries). In the world of dynamic pricing—I’m looking at you, Delta Air Lines—these seemingly small perks count for a lot.

Europe/Africa: Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles came out of nowhere with its unbelievably low partner pricing on awards to Hawaii and suddenly caught a lot of attention from award travel enthusiasts.

Hawaii has been moved from Oceania to North America (on paper, not literally) and became the hottest thing on the map for Miles&Smiles members. As long as there’s Saver space on United Airlines, you can book it with just 7,500 Miles&Smiles miles each way. The program is a partner of Citi ThankYou Rewards, which makes these awards reasonably attainable (even though the booking process itself requires a bit of work).

As far as other candidates in the Europe/Africa region, I’d do a double take at Air France/KLM Flying Blue. Not only does the program partner with all major transferable point programs, but it’s also easy to use and offers a reasonable amount award availability.

The only downside is its severe security measures—the program is known to lock new accounts that received a large point transfer shortly after being created. The need to confirm the account holder’s identity is understandable, but the way it’s done can be improved. We already have to present our ID enough times at the airport when we travel. Nobody wants to go there just to get a loyalty account unlocked.

Middle East/Asia/Oceania: After Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer devaluation in early 2019, I think it’s going to be a tossup between Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Cathay Pacific recently changed its mileage expiration policy from three years regardless if there’s been activity or not to 18 months from the last qualifying activity. Doing so makes it easier to keep the miles alive.

As for Flying Club, it’s a wonderful program to book ANA and Delta awards (since Delta itself charges too much). Their redemption rates are reasonable, especially when paired with a transfer bonus from either American Express Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou Points, and their phone agents are a delight.

 

Intercontinental Hotel FlyerTalk Awards

Hotels

Oh boy. Where do I even begin?…

First of all, we all remember the SPG/Marriot merger and its inevitable consequences for loyalty members. I mean, how can anyone forget the hot pile of fiery garbage that is the Bonvoy program? In 2019, we were introduced to peak-off-peak pricing, new Cash + Points charts and points advance limits. I still shake while thinking about the travel package conversion fiasco.

Needless to say, 2019 was the year we kept getting Bonvoyed…hard. So, in light of this, who might take the reins at the front of the race?

Perhaps, the World of Hyatt is there, especially for American Airlines elite flyers (you might remember that the two programs announced mutual crossover benefits for each other’s program members). As far as redemption rates go, Hyatt offers a bigger bang for your buck point. The problem with Hyatt, though, is its relatively small footprint around the world. In other words, your choices are pretty limited when it comes to picking a Hyatt property for a stay.

Or maybe it should be Hilton Honors? For starters, the program allows pooling points for 11 family members and friends who’re members of the Hilton Honors program. Additionally, elite members can book five award nights for the price of four, and the chain comes with plenty of hotel choices when it comes to global footprint. However, Hilton’s dynamic pricing doesn’t guarantee a room rate in points will stay the same when you’re ready to book.

Maybe IHG Rewards Club is the ultimate winner? The program has devalued its crowd-favorite PointBreaks promotion, and its Earn Nights Faster (former Accelerate promotion) hasn’t been as lucrative for many members (my last one was “Stay once, earn 1,000 IHG Rewards points”). Still, for InterContinental and Kimpton enthusiasts, it might be the answer. Pair it with a co-branded Chase credit card and truly earn night faster than with Hilton or Marriott.

In Conclusion

Whatever program you decide to vote for, it’s up to you. Here’s your chance to let them know you appreciate their benefits for your continuing loyalty. Please feel free to share which programs you voted for and which you shunned all year long in the comments section below. We at FlyerTalk would love to know who your favorites are and why.

View Comments (8)

8 Comments

  1. elizadoo

    January 29, 2020 at 6:11 am

    In no particular order–IHG, reliably consistent. Not the absolute best in terms of extremes, but up until the present IHG has never pulled a fast one (I’m talking about the Bonvoy factor). ANA and Alaska are my picks, which you’ve already listed. I’d also opt for Flying Blue/KLM if I knew if wouldn’t be a hassle.

  2. GrayAnderson

    January 29, 2020 at 8:00 am

    Just my $0.02, but though there should be a high bar for it I wish there was a “no award” option. It’s more for hotels at this point (with the Bonvoy mess), but it would be nice if we had a way to say “You’re killing me, Smalls!”

    (Of course, there’s usually a bona fide stinker of a program, such as Spirit on the airline side, which would fill the same function as a protest vote…)

  3. dliesse

    January 29, 2020 at 10:32 am

    I never vote because my flying is so limited — even in the days I did travel a lot more it was primarily on one carrier so I didn’t really experience other programs. I also haven’t had any benefit from hotel programs, lately, but in the past I always preferred Hilton simply because I was able to get both hotel and airline points on the same stay (Hampton Inns were my chain of choice).

    I do have to say, though, that I don’t have a philosophical problem with mileage program benefits being based partly on dollars spent. It has never made sense from Day One that someone paying $99 for a transcontinental flight got more benefit that someone paying $250 for, say, OMA-ORD. This isn’t a thread for designing the perfect program, so I’ll leave it there — but I would definitely overhaul the structure of any program I was put in charge of.

  4. A321neo

    January 29, 2020 at 7:21 pm

    I agree with @GrayAnderson insofar as “no award” should be an option. There are some categories in which no programme is worthy of any award, and instances where positive publicity is inappropriate for a mediocre programme..

  5. BMGRAHAM

    January 29, 2020 at 8:37 pm

    Delta is my favorite airline, they are so accommodating and helpful to me as a Diamond Medallion member.

    Marriott gets the Bonvoyed award for sunsetting the unpublished status level I had for pretty much the whole length of the SPG program, while claiming that Bonvoy would be as good as SPG. Then it turns out that they have a Cobalt level that is the equivalent of the level I had at Marriott. So clearly they favored existing Marriott members over SPG members even though they said they would not.

  6. IBobi

    IBobi

    January 31, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    FYI, you may skip any section of the FlyerTalk Awards that you do not want to cast a ballot for.

  7. Bohemiana

    February 3, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    American’s new dynamic pricing is HORRIBLE! Thank goodness I booked our summer award travel prior to the change. We booked 2 RT award tickets to Madrid late May-late June for 60k pp. Those same tickets are 110k pp RT now! AA does have one or two early May one-way award tickets for the old 30k but that’s about it. The web special deals don’t make up for the negative impact.
    Overall, the new dynamic pricing makes it much harder for travelers like myself (and my husband) who usually plan way ahead to earn just enough points to travel. We are not big spenders who rack up points. We rely on sign-up bonuses and now a bonus means only 1 ticket or maybe 2 nights in a nice hotel.

  8. duranza

    duranza

    February 11, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    Where is the link to vote?

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