New Travel Trend, Awards With Perks

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On multiple occasions, a certain airline (I won’t mention Delta’s name) has granted me frequent flier miles for travel booked as an award. Of course, this was an error on their part that I most certainly did not argue with. In fact, I make it a habit to enter my frequent flier account number into my award bookings on all carriers and hotel, on the off chance that their computers experience this kind of error again some time, and accidentally award miles or points to me for my award stays. These company’s computers screw up travel arrangement all the time in ways that penalize us, I might as well get some errors in my favor every now and then.

Now imagine if a company actually gave you credit towards elite status just for using your points? If any travel company in the world would do such a thing, it would have to be Starwood hotels, by far they most customer friendly outfit in the travel business. That is what they have recently announced:

We’re excited to announce that starting October 1, 2011, and onward, all SPG® Award stays and eligible nights will now earn credit toward Gold and Platinum elite status qualification. Redeem for SPG Free Night Awards or Cash & Points Awards to further your elite progress.

In a way, this makes sense. Look at it this way; When you use your points for a free hotel night, you are purchasing a room from an individual property. In fact, as far as Starwood properties are concerned, award nights are the same as paid nights.
While, I am happy to report that I have always been treated like a paying customer when I stay on an award, I also happen to know that the properties are compensated with cash by Starwood corporate. I can only assume the rate is somewhat low, but I am sure they are happy for the huge amount of business they get from corporate and could care less that I am using points. As far as they are concerned, Starwood is just one big client that books a lot of rooms for them.

Is This A Trend?

Of course, one company’s actions do not make a trend, but consider this; Several airlines have announced that they will allow award travel to be eligible for upgrades. The idea here is that a good customer traveling on a paid ticket is also the same person when he or she travels on an award booking. Recognizing and upgrading the same person one day and then treating them like any other customer the next, simply doesn’t make good business sense.

Where This Is Going

Just about every company in the travel business is offering a loyalty program with some kind of status. Companies are realizing that they can’t continue to devalue their programs year after year and still maintain their customer’s loyalty. They are also coming to the conclusion that they need to uphold their service levels with their customers at each interaction, whether or not they are getting paid for that particular room or flight that day. Think of it this way. If you ran a business and one of your best customers stopped by, wouldn’t you treat that person with extra care, even if they weren’t actually making a purchase that day? This kind of everyday, common sense logic that every business takes for granted, is actually a novel idea in the travel industry.

Let’s just hope it catches on.

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