web Musings of The Global Traveller

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Free Accor status

Accor is rolling out a new hotel stay program called APlus. It seems they are giving status of various levels to those who already have Accor Advantage Plus or Sofitel Privilege membership.

I have gotten free mid-level status with APlus, plus some bonus points thrown in towards requalifying.

A while back when I expected to stay at a Sofitel I signed up for the Sofitel Privilege program. This was free to join, and had a benefit of late check-out which I was after. As it happened I had to cancel my booking when an airline schedule changed, so I have no status or points with Sofitel currently.

I received an email offering to give me APlus Gold status for 1 year. You have to sign-up as if a new member. On the first page, enter promotional code "BONUS500" for 500 free points. These have already been credited for me, and they count towards requalification. On the second page there is a box to enter your old Accor or Sofitel numbers to link up with the status offer.

Voila! For 2 minutes work I will have (once they match up the membership numbers) mid-level status in APlus. Benefits include

  • 75% bonus points
  • a welcome drink and gift
  • room upgrade at check-in (subject to availability)
  • 4pm check-out

The emails to existing Accor and Sofitel members seem to have been slow to be sent - some received theirs several days ago. So be patient if you haven't yet received it. If you are an Accor or Sofitel member and don't receive the email by mid-October, I'd try signing up anyway at the AClub website.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Any seat awards

This year it seems to be the fashionable thing for Frequent Flyer Programs (FFPs) to add a new award category for any seat awards.

Yesterday, Singapore Airlines announced Full Awards. Perhaps so-named because you need to have a full mileage account to make use of them? Unlike any seat awards at other FFPs, Kris Flyer (the FFP of Singapore Airlines) blocks some seats - namely the A380 First Suite. All other seats appear to be available, but at a hefty cost. For example Australia to Europe round trip in first class (not A380) is 1,558,000 miles.

Any seat awards work slightly differently at other FFPs. Here is a summary.

  • Singapore Airlines - fixed cost up to 1,558,000 and exclude A380 First Suites, taxes charged separately, excludes Silkair (a subsidiary airline)
  • Qantas - variable cost (explicitly based on fare @ A1c per point) and some over 2,000,000 have been reported, include all seats, taxes optionally included (at extra cost) or charged separately
  • Virgin Blue - all awards on Virgin Blue are any seat, variable cost (loosely based on fare), include all seats
  • Air New Zealand - most awards solely on Air NZ are any seat (exception is business class awards for elites at limited availability), variable cost (based on fare @ NZ$1 per airpoint dollar), include all seats, taxes included for domestic itineraries and charged separately for international itineraries
  • various US-based FFPs - standard awards at double the cost of saver awards (ie fixed cost)

With most US-based airlines hurting financially, how long will it be before their any seat awards change to high variable mileage costs?

Monday, September 01, 2008

I'm ungrateful for extra space in economy?

Air New Zealand has been improving their economy class on some aircraft types.

First to be improved was the 737 used on major domestic routes. The first several rows have been designated as Space+ with a few extra (valuable) inches of seat pitch. Space+ is not treated as a separate cabin but rather like United Airlines' economy plus it is available for free to those with status or Koru Club membership (unlike United this includes Star Alliance gold members), and also available to those on full fares. All 737's have now been fitted with Space+ seating.

Next up is the 767 used on shorthaul and secondary longhaul international routes, and the A320 used on shorthaul international routes and the odd domestic positioning flight in place of 737. Again, the front of economy is being converted to Space+. I flew the first 767 to be converted the other day and I sure appreciated the spacious legroom. The other major change on 767 and A320 aircraft is they are getting new in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems. Not only does every seat get a personal TV screen with audio-video on demand (AVOD) but USB devices and ipods can connect to it.

Further, Air NZ has started gate to gate IFE on all international aircraft that are fitted with avod. The IFE system is switched on when boarding begins and switched off on arrival back at the gate. On long flights this may not make much difference, but for short 3 hour hops this adds about 40% more viewing time (games are switched off for takeoff and landing). I've experienced this a few times in the 747 and 777 aircraft and it has made a big difference on short flights in particular. No more carefully picking short movies to watch. Unfortunately on my flight on the improved 767 the IFE system still had gremlins and we didn't have any IFE at all. (NZ made up for it with a voucher in compensation.)

Short flights on 747 and 777 aircraft are also having a further change. From December premium economy will not be sold and instead premium economy will be used as the Space+ zone.

It all sounds very good, and it is. These are some of the most comfortable economy products anywhere.

Why am I ungrateful then? It has dawned on me that I can get a much better seat on a 45 minute domestic flight or 3 hour international flight, at much lower cost, than on the long 10-14 hour longhaul flights which cost so much more. It is a bit back to front - normally the best product is saved for the longest, most high yielding routes. The optimist in me hopes that Air NZ is working on the problem and will have some improvements to announce soon for longhaul passengers.