March 2017 Updates
March is always a big month with changes for the travel industry. Airlines make changes, hotel programs change, credit card changes and as always technology changes. Here are the top highlights this month!
Singapore Airlines is making changes to their award chart effective March 23, 2017. They are increasing the require # of miles for a trip yet removing all fuel surcharges. For travelers with more points than cash this is a welcome change. More details can be found here as well as the new award chart. Even with these changes I will still redeem my Citi ThankYou and Chase Ultimate Rewards points for award travel on Singapore Airlines.
Alaska Airlines has announced further integration plans with Virgin America named, “The Flight Plan“. Alaska Visa Signature cardholder benefits, including a free checked bag and companion fare offer, will be available when flying on Virgin America at the end of March 2017. Alaska Mileage Plan elite members will see the following benefits throughout 2017:
Qatar Airways just announced their new Business Class seats, QSuite. They will start service using these new seats with their Doha-London service in June this year. It looks amazing! I look forward to using my AA miles for a ticket. Press release details can be found here.
Hyatt rebranded their entire rewards program from Gold Passport to World of Hyatt as of March 1st, 2017. Everyone who was status matched to Diamond and didn’t re-qualify for 2017 was given a soft landing to Explorist status. Explorist is very similar to Platinum with the old program, but now they include 4 Club lounge access awards, which include breakfast daily (valid up to 7 nights per award). You can use these on all rates except for the free night from the Chase Hyatt Visa card which I found out the hard way last week. A brief overview of the new tiers can be found here.
Starwood (SPG) & Marriott always make award category changes in March. The changes for 2017 went into effect today.
Starwood Changes: 325 hotels changed categories, with 63% moved down, and 37% moved up.
Marriott Changes: 23% of Mariott hotels and resorts changed categories with 40% moved down, and 60% moved up.
American Express (AMEX) is making changes to their Platinum cards to compete with Chase Sapphire Reserve. Starting on March 30, 2017, consumers with The Platinum Card will receive exclusive access in the Uber app to a new Uber Rides with Platinum benefit, which provides up to $200 annually ($15 per month and then $35 in December) in Uber credits for U.S. rides and automatic VIP status where available. Platinum Card Members will also receive 5X Membership Rewards points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. This is in addition to the recently unveiled 5X Membership Rewards® points on airfare booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel. Priority Pass Select will allow 2 complimentary guests whereas now they charge $27 per guest. The annual fee will increase by $100 to $550 annually. Personally, the Uber credits offsets the increase annual fee. Further details can be found here.
Starting on March 30, 2017, Business Platinum Card Members will get 5X Membership Rewards Points on flights and prepaid hotels at amextravel.com. Priority Pass Select will allow 2 complimentary guests. The annual fee is not going up on the Business Platinum card. The fee on OPEN Business Platinum will remain at $450 annually.
AT&T announced new International data plans at the end of January. They now offer International Day Passes for $10/day in select countries. This is to directly compete with Verizon’s TravelPass. This can be an excellent deal if you are just visiting a country for a few days. You get to use your phone as if you were in the US, no extra charges besides the daily flat rate fee of $10. Further details can be found here.