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Photo: British Airways

If you recall the recent sign-up bonus for the British Airways Visa card—a jaw-dropping 100,000 miles after charging $2,000 during the first three months—the airline's latest credit card incentive may come as a bit of a letdown.

Realistically, though, while the new bonus isn't as lucrative as the earlier one—which at the time I called the most generous such offer I'd ever seen—it's still substantial. And British Airways and Chase, the card issuer, have added a new benefit to the card that potentially boosts its value significantly: no foreign currency transaction fees. That makes the British Airways card the first and only airline-affiliated card to waive those fees, although on the hotel side, both the InterContinental Priority Club and Hyatt Gold Passport Visa cards, also issued by Chase, have a similar benefit....read more»

Photo: Index Open

While there are signs of a rebound in travel, it's going to be a long slog, especially for hotels, which weren't able to cut capacity to match the recession-fueled decline in demand and still find themselves with a glut of unsold rooms.

According to STR, a hotel-industry consulting company, the occupancy rate for U.S. hotels was up 6.7 percent for the third quarter, to 63.9 percent.

That's an improvement, but there are still plenty of empty hotel rooms in most markets. Which, while it lasts, creates an opportunity to make more free nights available to members of the hotels' loyalty programs.

That's a win-win....read more»

American Airlines aircraft tail (Photo: American Airlines)

Beginning today, members of American's AAdvantage program can redeem their miles, or a combination of miles and cash, for hotel stays and car rentals.

Non-flight awards aren't new. Since the beginning of frequent flyer programs, in 1981, they've regularly appeared in the airlines' rewards catalogs, only to disappear, and then reappear yet again.

They've made a comeback in recent years, due in no small part to the airlines' ever-increasing difficulties in meeting the demand for free seats....read more»

United New Plane (Photo: United Airlines)

I'm a fan of more legroom, especially on longer flights, and don't mind paying a reasonable premium for it, whether it's in the form of miles for an upgrade or cash. (On the other hand, to put "reasonable" into perspective, I've never paid the published fare for a business- or first-class ticket. With prices at 10 or more times higher than coach, premium-class tickets just don't make economic sense, even if my employer is picking up the tab.)

As one of the few affordable paid upgrade options, United's Economy Plus is a winning combination of price and comfort....read more»

Photo: iStockphoto

I've never been a fan of global airline alliances.

Sure, there are potential convenience gains for travelers, when alliance-linked airlines coordinate their schedules and share airport terminals. But the big gains from these alliances—lower costs and more pricing power—flow in the airlines' direction, not toward consumers.

And in the long run, they're anti-competitive: More cooperation means less competition, which inevitably translates into higher ticket prices.

In the short term, however, consumers do stand to gain from the occasional competitive flare-up among the alliances. A case in point is this new double-mile offer from Delta and other SkyTeam airlines that clearly targets the other two alliances: oneworld (American, British Airways, Iberia, etc.) and Star (United, Lufthansa, etc.)....read more»

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