Man getting poked in the eye by paper plane.

While progress has been slow and sporadic, Virgin America has been taking steps to address the key weakness of its mileage program, Elevate.

When it comes to airline loyalty programs, bigger is better. And Elevate was among the smallest.

Where a fully built-out program like American's AAdvantage boasts thousands of program partners awarding miles for everything from mortgage loans to online shopping to Netflix subscriptions, Elevate members were limited to earning miles with just a handful of other companies.

That's been changing....read more»

Hotel room door slightly open (Photo: iStockphoto/MBCheatham)

With free stays on offer from many of the major hotel chains, I've been calling this the Summer of Free Nights:

  • Best Western - One free night after two stays between June 20 and August 15.
  • Carlson - One free night after two stays between June 1 and August 31.
  • Hilton - One free night after either four qualifying stays or 10 nights through June 30.
  • Marriott - One free night after three stays through August 31.
  • Omni - One free night in conjunction with a paid weekend night through September 6.
  • Starwood - One free weekend night after every three stays through July 31.
...read more»

Woman Frustrated at Laptop (Photo: iStockphoto/Brent Holland)

If you're a top-tier elite member of Hilton's HHonors program, you'll enjoy complimentary Internet access next month. But shouldn't everyone be able to log on for free?...read more»

Hotel bed with rose petals (Photo: Index Open)

The headline is a guaranteed attention-getter: "Earn Up to 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Miles With Hyatt."

That's mucho miles—enough for a round-trip, first-class award ticket within the U.S. or to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean.

So, what must you do to earn those miles?...read more»

<p>For Crystal Swink, <a href="http://www.gohawaii.com/molokai/" target="_blank">Molokai</a> is an ideal destination at the end of summer (or anytime of year). "Most of the island is still virgin, unpopulated, beautifully desolate land," she says, and this "offers privacy, seclusion, and a genuine Hawaiian atmosphere." With its limited development, Molokai's hotel choices are slim, so Swink suggests booking a vacation rental. Good sources for such rentals include <a href="http://www.vrbo.com/vacation-rentals/usa/hawaii/molokai" target="_blank">VRBO</a> and <a href="http://www.homeaway.com/Hawaii-vacation-rentals/Molokai-vacation-rentals.htm" target="_blank">HomeAway</a>.</p><p>(Photo: Crystal Swink)</p>

To me, there's always been something incongruous about rich loyalty bonuses for luxe vacation trips.

I understand the business logic, of course. Hotels have to fill rooms in Tahiti just as surely as they do rooms in downtown Chicago. But earning extra miles or points for a sun-and-fun trip seems like getting free ice cream when you order chocolate cake—almost too much of a good thing.

Perhaps I'm just a Puritan at heart.

Those, at any rate, were the feelings raised by the new Starwood bonus offer for stays in the quintessential leisure locale, Hawaii....read more»

American aircraft tail upclose (Photo: American Airlines)

For more than a year now, United has been deploying round after round of award sales, eliciting nary a peep from competing carriers. Apparently other airlines saw little benefit in fighting United for the title of Premier Award Discounter.

But United's latest award promotion—a 30 percent discount on coach award trips of 700 miles or less—apparently caught the corporate eye of arch-rival American, with predictable results....read more»

Credit Card: People Passing Card (Photo: iStockphoto/Marcus Clackson)

The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, issued by American Express, can fairly be called the darling of the travel rewards world.

The card was a perennial winner of the Freddie awards. It was recently chosen as the Best Travel Rewards Card for Domestic Use in the SmarterTravel Editors' Choice Awards. And I've regularly recommended the card, both in my Up Front blogs and in one-on-one conversations with fellow travelers....read more»

Man checking watch at the ticket counter (Photo: Index Open)

When airlines advertise their loyalty programs, the marketing message typically focuses on a program's earning side.

But United has just launched an aggressive new ad campaign that flips that approach. Rather than touting the ease with which Mileage Plus members can accumulate miles, United's new ads promise that the miles will be easy to actually use....read more»

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