Delta and Starwood Combine Forces
With so much competition, airlines and hotels have had to get creative to keep customers coming back. So it makes sense that an airline and a hotel group would band together to foster loyalty to both. Starting March 1, Starwood Preferred Guest elite and Delta SkyMiles Medallion members will get Crossover Rewards, which means both miles and points when you book flights or hotel rooms. More specifically, Delta Medallion members earn one mile per dollar when staying at a Starwood hotel, plus the Starpoints. They will also get perks like priority check-in, late checkout, and that all-important free internet access. And Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum members who fly Delta get a free checked bag and priority check-in and boarding, plus one Starpoint per dollar spent on top of the usual miles.
What do you think of these programs? Would they keep you loyal, or do you always go with the lowest price, no matter what?
Study Finds Airline Fees Changed More Than 50 Times Last Year
If you've bought a plane ticket any time recently, you know all about the fees. How much is it to check a bag? Get more legroom? It all gets a little confusing. Thankfully the number crunchers over at TravelNerd did a full analysis and the findings were fascinating (hat tip to Travel Weekly for reporting on this). TravelNerd's study found that airlines made 52 changes to their fees in 2012, breaking down to 28 baggage fees, 19 service fees, and five in-flight fees. Low-cost carriers Spirit and Allegiant were responsible for 18 of the changes (including Spirit's crazy $100 carry-on fee). The surprising thing was that only 36 of the fee changes were increases, and most were in the $5 to $10 range. One big decrease came from United, which significantly lowered their fees for overweight bags (from $200 to $100 for bags weighing 51 to 70 pounds and from $400 to $200 for bags weighing 71 to 100 pounds). Moral of the story, if you have a lot of baggage, fly United. If you are just as confused by all these fees as we are, check out TraveNerd's airline fees comparison and search tool. You can select which services you will think you'll need (checking bags, bringing a pet, etc) and the site tells you what those fees are from different airlines. You can also select a specific airline at the beginning and get a breakdown of the fees you can expect. It doesn't take away the annoyance of paying $60 to check two bags, but at least there will be no surprises when you get to the airport.
Google Celebrates World Oceans Day With Underwater Street View
I don't usually geek out over things, but today is special. In honor of World Oceans Day, celebrated each year on June 8th, Google has released its latest version of Street View featuring underwater scenes from around the world at the click of a button. According to an article by TechCrunch.com, the new Google Maps feature lets you search for more than 40 underwater spots across the globe and gives you a sneak peek of what it's like to dive with fish in Bali, follow alongside humpback whales near the Cook Islands, and swim among shipwrecks off the coast of Aruba among other ocean adventures. Take it for a spin here: Street View Oceans Curious about what else lies beneath the waves? Check out our 40 Unbelievable Underwater Snapshots slide show, brought to you by our well-traveled Budget Travel audience.
JetBlue Will End Its Free Baggage Check Policy
JetBlue will introduce a new three-tiered fare scale, possibly as early as today, and will for the first time eliminate its signature free checked bag. The reason for the policy change, according to a Bloomberg report, is pressure from investors and analysts to boost revenue. Though fees for checked bags may seem like small potatoes to a big airline, JetBlue's new tiered fare system could boost income by as much as $200 million or more by 2017. The three-tiered fare scale will include a bargain price with no free bag, a medium price that includes one free bag, and a top tier that will include two free bags. According to JetBlue, less than half of the company's customers check a bag. Additional plans to boost revenue include the introduction of 15 additional seats on the airline's Airbus Group SE A320 jets. The baggage-policy change will leave Southwest as the only major carrier to offer complimentary baggage check. We love the JetBlue flying experience and its reasonable fares. Will the end of the company's free baggage check policy affect your future travel plans?
The Top of Mount Fuji Now Has Free Wi-Fi
Tourists visiting Japan have spoken, and they want...Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi, specifically, on top of Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan. According to Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun, the free internet at eight hotspots on the 12,388-foot mountain starts today. Three of the spots are near the summit. Sure, climbers will be able to access safety information and weather conditions, but the local governments especially want visitors to know that they can "share" where they are on Mount Fuji with friends, says the Yamanashi prefectural government's tourism reps: "[M]any climbers from the United States and Europe have said they wanted to use the Internet to share their experiences while on the mountain, the officials said." Cue the selfie sticks! There are a few caveats, though: You only get 72 hours of internet from when you first log on, and you'll need to grab a brochure with password and login info from the Fifth or Sixth station. The free-internet gravy train will end in mid-September. Wanna try it? Mount Fuji is an easy enough climb that most people can hike it on their own. Trails are open from July to roughly mid-September. The bottom-to-top climb takes approximately 12 hours, but you can take a bus to the Fifth Station halfway point, start hiking from there, and reach the summit in about six hours. Read all the guidelines at the official website for climbing Mount Fuji. If you'd rather not DIY, Willer Express offers guided two-day climbing tours of Mount Fuji from Tokyo that include an English-speaking guide, two meals, and an overnight stay in a mountain hut (from about $153).