How Your Travel Loyalty Programs Are Changing
If you've been paying attention to your travel loyalty statements lately, changes are afoot.
To varying degrees, Hilton, Marriott and Starwood have revamped their loyalty programs so booking a free award night is likely to require more cash — and additional earned miles, USAToday reports. Mileage programs traditionally have been tied to hard-won accumulated miles or points in exchange for free travel perks.
But appearing on CNBC Tuesday, Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen said, "I believe people vote with their feet and with their decisions."
"What we're seeing each year is an increase in our loyalty program penetration," van Paasschen said. Roughly half the beds filled on any given night at a Starwood property is through a loyalty program, he said.
Starwood's strategy includes free stays, and offering top service for their best customers. "The top two percent of our guests generate about 30 percent of the profitability of our system," he said. "Taking care of them is good business for us."
Starwood, meanwhile, is continuing its growth push by expanding in Africa, the Middle East and Dubai, where the company recently relocated its global headquarters for a month-long immersion in the local markets.
(Read more: Expect Rapid Growth in Luxury Hotels: Starwood CEO)
Frequent Flyer Drama
Airline frequent flyer programs are also changing. Faced with consolidation among other trends, programs are getting more restrictive for travel consumers. Beginning in 2014, Delta frequent flyers will be gauged by miles traveled — and how much you spend with the airline, CNBC's Phil LeBeau reported.
More than 30 years after the launch of airline rewards programs, they're still growing 10 to 11 percent annually. "Today you're competing for benefits not with just other frequent flyers — but with frequent buyers," Randy Petersen of Insideflyer.com told CNBC.
New Consumer Report: Best, Worst On-Time Arrivals
Earlier Tuesday, the Dept. of Transportation released its air travel consumer report for January.
Carriers that posted the highest on-time arrivals were Virgin America, Hawaiian Airlines and AirTrain, LeBeau reported.
Airlines with the lowest on-time arrivals were Frontier Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines and American Eagle. The industry average is 81 percent for on-time arrivals.
The transportation department also found the mishandling of 3.4 bags for every 1,000 passengers.