Monday, December 11, 2006

Business Travel Can Have its Benefits

A good deal of my travel is during the week. I usually travel to large cities (I usually consult for large companies). I travel over 40 weeks a year so I have status with airlines, hotels and rental car companies.
In the last few years, traveler programs with airlines, hotels and rental car companies have become increasingly popular. I understand that American Airlines was the originator of the "points program" for business travelers. A few years later, other major airlines realized that a points program could help them retain customers. Today, all major airlines have points programs. The newest twist to the airline point programs is that there are alliances between many airlines who share points with other airlines.
Hotels have moved into the points program full swing. Now, all major chains have points programs. Like the airlines, hotels have formed alliances to allow their customers the ability to easily use the same program on every trip. The alliances help smaller hotel chains compete against the leviathans like Marriott and Hilton hotels.
An interesting note about hotels (relative newcomers to points programs) is that hotels offer far greater return, on average, than airlines or rental car companies. Hotel rewards are available in the form of free rooms and gifts but hotels also offer other perks to their customers who achieve the upper levels in their programs.

Some of the perks offered to the top level points program (*priority) members while staying in the hotel:
1. In some hotels, there are sets of rooms that always go to priority members.
2. Access to the Concierge Lounge where you can eat a full meal ( there is enough variety to constitute a meal but usually laid out as appetizers ). Most lounges are open for Breakfast and Dinner and many have some kind of edibles available all day.
3. Priority member can request upgrades, in many cases the upgrade will be a suite.
4. Priority members can enjoy special customer appreciation events (and they can be quiet extravagant depending on the hotel)
5. Welcome gifts which vary from chain to chain. Could be a small bottle of wine, basket of fruits, cheese and crackers or bonus points.
6. Priority members are offered the ability to reserve a room even if there are “officially” no rooms available .
7. Other guest services, like internet access, computer and printer access and concierge services .
8. And of course the special turn down service and gourmet chocolates left on your pillow.

All in all, it has been my experience that hotel points are far more valuable than airline points. At some point I will do an analysis of the comparison.

* I use the term "priority" as a general term for the members who have acheived the top level in a program. One of the chains does use the term "priority" to describe its points program.

Coming next: How to obtain status with an airline or hotel without having earned the points

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