Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 29 2015

How Your Travel Rewards Points Will Change In 2016

David McMillin



The meetings industry requires long nights and long flights away from home. While all that traveling can be tiring, frequent flier miles and hotel loyalty points are two perks of spending so much time going from here to there to everywhere. In 2016, though, changes are coming to some of the most well-known rewards programs. Before you start booking flights and making reservations, here’s a look at some of the differences that will impact travelers this year.

American Gives Advantage To Dollars 

For frequent fliers in American’s AAdvantage program, the ability to earn status based on miles was a big benefit. For example, if you scored a $200 round-trip fare from Chicago to Los Angeles, the cheap ticket still managed to get you nearly 3,500 miles toward Gold, Platinum or Executive Platinum. Starting in the second half of 2016, miles traveled won’t matter. Instead, travelers will earn elite qualifying miles per dollars spent. There are a range of other changes, but the long story short is that American’s changes put the rewards program more in line with other US-based carriers.

“As far as loyalty program evolutions go, this one isn’t so terrible,” Nick Vivion at Road Warrior Voices, wrote when American unveiled the changes. “Everyone is going to see a bit of pain in the transition, but the program focuses on what it’s meant to do: reward the passengers that spend the most with the airline.”

SEE ALSO: 4 Predictions For The Next Generation Of Air Travel

Delta Makes Awards Drinkable

Struggling to find availability on the flights you want when you’re trying to cash in your reward miles? If you’re a Delta SkyMiles members, you’ll have a new option for mileage redemption: premium alcoholic beverages at Delta’s Sky Clubs. By the end of March, 300 miles will get you a Stella Artois or a Blue Moon, and top-shelf wines, spirits and cocktails will cost between 600 and 800 miles. However, if you’re a less discerning drinker, you may be better saving those miles and enjoying the complimentary options.

The Starwood Mystery

Here’s the million-point question: how will Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood impact SPG members? While it seems clear that a deal like this will deliver some type of change, that change will not be immediate. More importantly, Marriott seems committed to making the transition as smooth as possible.

“While we will be spending a great deal of time in the coming months developing our strategy for SPG and Marriott Rewards, our members should take comfort in the fact that we know without a doubt these loyalty programs are the most powerful tool we have for developing strong relationships with our best customers,” Arne Sorenson, President and CEO, of Marriott, wrote on LinkedIn. “The SPG program was one of the most attractive aspects of our acquisition of Starwood. To state the obvious, devaluing points or member benefits is not the way to preserve and strengthen these programs, which is our aim. We will keep our customers in the loop as we work through the strategy. In fact, we are likely to involve many members of each program in crafting the strategies that are most exciting to them.”

SEE ALSO: 3 Things You Should Know About The Marriott And Starwood Deal

Looking for more help making your time on the go feel better? Check out “4 Awesome (And Free) Tools For Business Travelers.

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