As predictable as the falling leaves and as inevitable as the start of the school year, travel bonuses have become fixtures of the autumn landscape and a potential bonanza for consumers looking to get more for their travel dollars.
With this year’s post-summer falloff in travel, airlines, hotels, and rental car companies are again turning to loyalty program promotions to maintain their share of the shrinking pie. Following is a sampling of the deals on offer.
Airlines offer more miles to fill planes
Gone are the days when airlines would simply double the miles for all flights in their network. Now bonus mile offers target specific routes and classes of service. Among this fall’s promotions is the following bonus mile offer by three carriers for flights to the same three popular European destinations.
Through November 15, [%1293221 | | American %], [%1300812 | | Northwest %], and [% 1284220 | | United %] are offering members of their programs bonus miles for round-trip flights between the U.S. and London, Frankfurt or Zurich— 5,000 miles for coach fares booked in unrestricted (i.e. higher-priced) fare categories or 2,500 miles for coach fares booked in some lower-fare categories. The bonus can be earned up to three times during the promotional period.
‘Tis the season for award travel
Fewer paying passengers means the airlines can make more seats available as awards for members of their mileage programs. So fall is always a good time to redeem miles for free trips. And making it better still, some airlines are offering award tickets on select low-demand routes for fewer miles or for a combination of miles and cash.
For example, [% 1330348 | | Alaska Airlines %] is treating Mileage Plan members to a 10,000-mile discount off the standard 30,000-mile Mexico coach award for travel between any city in the U.S. and Mexico through October 10. To qualify for the discount, award reservation must be booked online at alaskaair.com.
Members of [%1293223 | | American’s AAdvantage %] program can save 10,000 miles on restricted coach award tickets for travel between Cancun and the continental U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean through December 13. With the discount, Cancun award tickets can be had for 20,000 miles.
[%1332823 | | Northwest %] allows WorldPerks members to combine miles and cash to pay for coach-class travel to most Northwest destinations through December 20. Prices for round-trip flights within North America start at $89 and 20,000 miles or $169 and 10,000 miles. Flights between the U.S. and Europe are priced at $294 and 20,000 miles, $384 and 10,000 miles, or $424 and 5,000 miles. Flights between the U.S. and Asia are $470 and 20,000 miles, $580 and 10,000 miles, or $630 and 5,000 miles. Bookings must be made by December 2.
For qualifying rentals through November 15, Dollar Rent A Car is offering 1,000 bonus miles through seven airline programs (Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Airways). Bonus is awarded for rentals of intermediate or larger vehicles for three or more days. Rentals must be picked up Sunday through Wednesday.
Through December 15, Gold members of the Hertz #1 Club will earn 100 bonus points for qualifying rentals. Separately, and also through December 15, #1 Club Gold members can redeem 250 points for a free weekend rental day—half the normal requirement.
Through December 15, members of National Car Rental’s Emerald Club will earn a rental day after every two paid rentals of an Intermediate or larger vehicle for two or more days each. Emerald Club enrollment fees are also waived for the promotion period.
And through November 15, members of Thrifty’s Blue Chip Rewards program who choose credits over airline miles will earn two credits for each 24-hour rental, double the normal award rate.
For those with no appetite for miles and points, free Budget Rent A Car is offering two pounds of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee after two qualifying rentals through December 15.
More points for hotel stays
Never before has it made such compelling financial sense to earn points in a hotel frequent stay program. As prices for airline tickets have declined, hotel room rates have risen steadily. As a result, an ever-growing slice of the average travel budget is devoted to lodging. That makes the free hotel nights earned by travelers participating in hotels’ frequent-stay programs more valuable than ever. And the fall bonuses from several hotel chains make those free nights that much easier to attain.
Through December 15, members of the Choice Privileges rewards program will earn 8,000 points—normal and bonus points combined—for every two qualifying stays at 1,000 Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Clarion, or Mainstay Suites properties in North America. That’s enough points to redeem a free hotel room night at most Choice properties.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards members can earn double credits (1.0 credit instead of the standard 0.5 credits) for stays between September 1 and November 30 at participating Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton Grand Vacations Club, Homewood Suites or Waldorf-Astoria Collection hotels in the U.S.
Through January 31, 2007, Marriott is offering Rewards members 2,500 bonus points for the second and subsequent stays charged to a Visa card at Marriott, JW Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, TownePlace Suites, and Fairfield Inn hotels. A maximum of 10,000 points may be earned during the promotion. Some program members will receive targeted offers that differ somewhat from the advertised promotion.
Priority Club Rewards members will earn double points or double miles for the second and subsequent qualifying stays between September 12 and December 15 at InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Express by Holiday Inn hotels. At Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites, members earn double points or miles beginning with the first qualifying stay.