The Top Five Frequent Flyer Deals for May 2009

There are many, many promotions. But there are only a few really, really good ones.

In this monthly roundup, I'll highlight the five most lucrative offers currently available to members of airline and hotel loyalty programs.

(Promotions are listed in alphabetical order.)

1. Alaska Airlines' Double Miles

Ever since it became clear that there would be no quick end to the slowdown in travel, I've been expecting to see major system-wide frequent flyer promotions from the airlines.

So far, the only airline to deliver on that expectation has been Alaska Airlines, which is offering double miles for all Alaska and Horizon Air flights from May 6 through June 30. And making a good deal even better, the double miles can be both redeemed for awards and counted toward elite qualification.

This is a case of David showing Goliath how it's done.

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2. Double Elite-Qualifying Miles

While the largest airlines haven't jumped on the promotional bandwagon with offers geared to average travelers, they have seen fit to trot out extra incentives for their most profitable customers—those who travel enough to attain elite status.

American, Continental, and United are offering double elite-qualifying miles for flights through June 15.

Delta is also offering elite-qualifying bonus miles, but only for more expensive fares.

And Southwest, alone among the discount carriers, has joined in, offering Rapid Rewards members the opportunity to earn A-List elite status by flying five round-trips on Southwest by June 15. (Normally, A-List status is earned by flying 16 round-trips within a 12-month period.)

3. Online Booking Bonuses

Remember when airlines offered bonuses for booking trips online? They're back!

Or they are at Delta and Continental, at least, both of which are dangling a 500-mile incentive for bookings made on their own websites, through May 31. (That's the booking deadline—flights can be completed any time.)

4. Summer Hotel Offers

Where the airlines have responded sluggishly to the recession, the hotels have launched wave after wave of robust bonus offers, creating the longest period of sustained promotional activity in memory. Among the current offers:

  • Through June 14, members of the Best Western Rewards program will earn a $50 Best Western travel voucher after completing two stays. Travelers can also earn up to 500 bonus points when staying two nights during the promotion period.
  • Through June 30, Hilton is offering 1,000 bonus points for stays at more than 2,800 participating Hilton, Conrad, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, and Homewood Suites hotels.
  • Members of InterContinental's Priority Club Rewards can earn one free night after staying two paid nights at InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Express by Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites, or Candlewood Suites hotels, up to a maximum of four free nights, through July 3. Alternatively, members can choose to earn double points or miles for the second and subsequent stays at InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, and Holiday Inn, and for every stay at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites hotels.
  • Marriott Rewards members will earn one free night at a Category 1 through 4 hotel after three qualifying paid stays at Marriott, JW Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, Fairfield Inn, or TownePlace Suites hotels between June 1 and August 31.
  • Omni is offering members of its Select Guest program triple American or United miles for qualifying stays through September 30.
  • Between May 15 and September 15, travelers can stay Friday night for free when staying two or more consecutive nights, including a Thursday or Saturday night, at participating Radisson hotels in North, Central, and South America; Asia Pacific; and at Radisson Edwardian Hotels in the U.K. Additionally, between June 1 and August 31, members of the goldpoints plus program will earn 1,000 bonus points per night, including the free Friday night.
  • Members of Starwood's Preferred Guest program can earn one free weekend night (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) after every two Starwood hotel stays between May 1 and July 31.

5. US Airways' Partner Bonus

In recent months, US Airways hasn't exactly impressed with either the quantity or quality of its mileage promotions. For the most part, the Dividend Miles program has been flying on auto-pilot.

Members of the program will find some relief in the airline's newly launched partner bonus: 50 percent more miles between May 1 and July 31 for eligible hotel and rental car transactions. Mileage-earning stays at all partner hotels and rentals from all rental car partners qualify for the bonus, as do hotel points-to-miles conversions, where allowed.

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