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Dollar bills on a line (Photo: Index Open)

Effective yesterday, July 29, Gold- and Platinum-level elite members of American's AAdvantage program are exempt from the so-called close-in fees for booking award travel within 21 days of travel. (AAdvantage members who had attained the program's highest level of elite status, Executive Platinum, were already spared from the fees.)

For background, United did away with these fees more than a year ago. And they did away with them for all members of the Mileage Plus program, not just elites. So: advantage United, both for the timing of their policy change, and for its scope. Delta, earlier this summer, followed United's example, discontinuing the fees for all SkyMiles members. So Delta is also ahead of American, both in beating American to the punch and in exempting non-elites as well as elites....read more»

Photo: iStockphoto

By my count, United has offered discounted award travel 11 times during the past 18 months, making such discounts a regular if unofficial feature of the Mileage Plus program.

The latest award sale makes it an even dozen.

Offer Details

Mileage Plus members can save 30 percent on coach-class award tickets for short-haul flights (less than 700 miles) within the U.S., or between the U.S. and Canada. With the discount, the price of a round-trip Saver award is reduced from 25,000 to 17,500 miles, and a one-way Saver award drops from 12,500 to 8,750 miles. A round-trip Miles & Money award is reduced from 10,000 to 7,000 miles, plus cash, but United warns that "this award type may not be offered on every flight."...read more»

Photo: iStockphoto

The oneworld global airline alliance is on a roll.

In the past week, the consortium of airlines—American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malev, Mexicana, Qantas, and Royal Jordanian—has announced a new European partner, and received regulatory clearance to jointly operate transatlantic flights.

Alliances Dominate Europe Flights

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) followed the European Commission in granting antitrust immunity to American, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair, and Royal Jordanian on their transatlantic routes, including "plans for an integrated joint venture in which American, British Airways and Iberia would cooperate on all their transatlantic flights and services." That means those carriers are now free to jointly set schedules and fares across the Atlantic, effectively eliminating any pressure among the affected airlines to compete with lower prices or better service....read more»

Photo: Southwest Airlines

If you're headed to or from Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington, D.C., Southwest has the flights, and a bonus to make those flights extra-rewarding.

Offer Details

Through September 30, Rapid Rewards members can earn double credits for Southwest flights to or from Philadelphia, Baltimore/Washington, or Washington (Dulles).

To earn the bonus, flights must be booked by August 11....read more»

Virgin America seating (Photo: Virgin America)

Members of Virgin America's Elevate program can now earn points for stays at Joie de Vivre hotels, a collection of California boutique properties.

To earn Elevate points—one per dollar spent—travelers must also be members of the hotel's Joy of Life Club and indicate Elevate as their earning preference. But through December, as a launch promotion, hotel guests can earn both Elevate points and Joy of Life points for the same stays....read more»

Midwest Airlines logo (Photo: Midwest Airlines)

Following the decision by the two airlines' common owner, Republic Airways Holdings, to merge them, Frontier and Midwest are on track to have most of their operations consolidated by the end of this year, including unification of the two airlines' frequent flyer programs, Frontier Early Returns and Midwest Miles.

According to an email announcement last week from Midwest:...read more»

Photo: JetBlue

The airline business is one of the world's most incestuous. Even as carriers furiously match and beat their competitors' prices, to keep from losing the merest slivers of market share, they doggedly work together with those same airlines on joint fares, interlining, global alliances, reciprocal frequent flyer program participation, and so on.

If ever there were an argument for the coexistence of cooperation and competition, the airlines are it.

Still, when American and JetBlue unveiled, in March, the outlines of their upcoming "commercial agreement," it was a mild surprise....read more»

Credit Card: Man Holding a Range of Cards (Photo: iStockphoto/Andresr)

Among travel-rewards credit and charge cards, there's an intensifying scramble to add cardholder perks, both to bolster their customer bases and to keep existing users reaching for their cards.

Among the recent developments was Continental's enhancement of its card benefits and Delta's waiver of checked bag fees for holders of its SkyMiles credit cards.

The latest move in this escalating perk-athon is from American Express, which announced last week that holders of two of its Membership Rewards cards would henceforth enjoy access to 17 US Airways airport lounges in 13 cities....read more»

Man on laptop and phone (Photo: Index Open)

Members of Starwood's Preferred Guest program who register for the Rewarding Returns offer and complete five stays between July 1 and December 31 will receive a choice of three bonuses. The bonuses vary somewhat according to the member's profile—yours will be displayed only after you register.

The basic bonus, that most members are offered, is a choice of one of the following:

  • 4,000 bonus points
  • $50 certificate redeemable for hotel services during a stay
  • 25 percent discount on an award redemption of up to five nights at any Category 1 - 5 property through July 31, 2011

The offer may be combined with other Starwood promotions....read more»

Shopping from home (Photo: LLC, FogStock)

In recent years, all the largest airline frequent flyer schemes have launched mileage malls, networks of online retailers that award miles in their programs.

And now, JetBlue has a mileage mall of its own.

Through the new ShopTrue online mall, TrueBlue members can earn points when shopping at over 800 retailers, including Office Depot, Nordstrom, Best Buy, Macy's, Apple, Gap, Sears, Target, and Walmart.

If size matters, ShopTrue rules. With those 800-plus participating merchants, ShopTrue features one of the most extensive retailer collections of any airline mileage mall....read more»

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