Airplane Silhouette Blue Sky (Photo: iStockphoto/Dan Barnes)

Although eagerly anticipated, WestJet's new Frequent Guest Program is too focused on business travelers to be a game-changer....read more»

<h2>Fernando de Noronha, Brazil</h2>

While most Americans have never heard of it, <a href="http://www.noronha.pe.gov.br/eng/ctudo-tourism.asp" target="_blank">Fernando de Noronha</a> is regarded by many Brazilians as having the most beautiful beaches in the country&mdash;and that's saying a lot coming from a nation full of sand and sun connoisseurs. With its steep bunny-ear hills that soar up from undeveloped white and gold beaches, Fernando de Noronha might look more at home alongside Bora Bora and the other islands of French Polynesia than it does hundreds of miles from mainland Brazil. But unlike those Pacific islands, Fernando de Noronha is cheaper and easier to get to, at least from the East Coast. 

At only seven square miles, the island is easily explored by dune buggy. Pack some snorkel gear and head to beaches like Baia do Sancho and Baia dos Porcos, where you'll see sting rays, sea turtles, and a wide variety of colorful fish just feet from the shore. Without a doubt, the water surrounding the island&mdash; a national marine park&mdash;is Fernando de Noronha's top attraction. Besides snorkeling, you can experience Brazil's best scuba diving with <a href="http://www.atlantisdivers.com.br/english/default.asp" target="_blank">Atlantis Divers</a> (from about $75 for two dives) and go boating (about $25) to spot spinner dolphins and see the island's unusual rock formations up close. 

In the evenings, head to Vila dos Remedios, the island's historic heart, where you'll dance the night away to traditional Brazilian music and eat seafood al fresco at the popular and cheap Bar do Cachorro. For affordable accommodations, stay at the simple but comfortable <a href="http://www.pousadaparaisodoatlantico.com.br/i_index.htm" target="_blank">Pousada Paraiso do Atlantico</a>, where prices for double rooms start around $78 a night.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/Mihir Panchal)

AAdvantage members can now use their miles for award flights on Brazil's GOL airline. Later this year, American and GOL will begin codeshare flights between the U.S. and Brazil....read more»

Hotel bed with rose petals (Photo: Index Open)

Effective immediately, elite members of Marriott's Rewards program will not be charged extra for Internet access when staying at Marriott hotels.

The new perk comes bundled with restrictions. And it raises questions about hotel pricing and value.

The benefit is only for the two top elite tiers—Platinum and Gold, but not Silver. It only applies at hotels in Canada and the U.S., excluding Hawaii. And it applies only to the most expensive hotels in Marriott's network—Marriott, JW Marriott, and Renaissance—not to Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, and SpringHill Suites, all of which routinely feature free Internet access, no elite status required.

That distinction, between hotels that charge and those that don't, is a troubling one. ...read more»

Delta aircraft on the ground and taking off (Photo: Delta)

In the world of frequent flyer miles, there are promotions and there are novelty promotions.

Unlike ordinary promotions—which offer extra miles for flying on certain routes during certain time periods, for example—what I call novelty promotions link the bonus to improbable behavior or unnatural conditions.

And they generally position themselves as having a high fun factor, presumably to offset the extra effort required to meet the offers' more demanding requirements.

The novelty promotion in question is the new Together We Fly offer from Delta. What makes it a novelty promotion is its reliance on teams to earn special bonuses, and its geographic focus. ...read more»

Travelers packing up convertible

It's Friday, and, perhaps influenced by thoughts of weekend getaways, the following travel sweepstakes caught my eye.

AirTran and Little Debbie Snacks, a Tennessee-based baker of cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and the like, are giving away 50 vacation packages, including flights for two people to any U.S. AirTran destination, two nights at a Holiday Inn hotel, a weekend car rental from Avis, and $200 spending money.

To enter, fill out the online entry form. It took me less than a minute. After submitting your information, you'll see a confirmation page that also includes a link to receive a $10 voucher for an AirTran flight. Click that link to receive the voucher via email. ...read more»

Photo: Virgin America

It was just last month that Virgin America made a significant improvement to its Elevate program, adding a mileage mall, dubbed The Red Store, that affords members an opportunity to earn points at more than 150 online retailers.

This week, Virgin takes another major step in the right direction, amending a policy that I have criticized since the program's inception....read more»

Photo: PhotoDisc

If you're a member of Delta's SkyMiles program and hope to redeem miles for an award trip on Singapore Airlines, be warned: Your window of opportunity is closing.

Delta and Singapore will sever their frequent flyer program tie-up on May 15, after which members of the two airlines' programs will no longer be able to earn or redeem miles in each other's programs. That means SkyMiles members must book award flights on Singapore by the end of day May 15, 2010, for travel through May 14, 2011. ...read more»

Travel brochures (Photo: IndexOpen)

Let's begin with the notice of upcoming award changes in United's own words:

On April 27, 2010, we'll be making minor changes to the chart to accommodate new regions of service and bring some of our mileage requirements in line with our competition. If you book your award ticket on or after April 27, 2010, the information on the new chart will apply.

While the pronouncement appears benign, there's a long history of airlines' "minor changes" turning out to be anything but. Here, however, the minor changes are rightly so-called. ...read more»

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