There was a great new association announced in the loyalty marketing space yesterday. Starwood’s loyalty program SPG tied up with Uber to offer SPG and Uber members the potential to earn SPG loyalty points for their Uber rides. On the face of it, this is great news for regular Uber users who may also be frequent guests of Starwood hotels.

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Here is the lowdown:

  • You earn 1 StarPoints every time you spend USD 1 on an Uber ride, approximately INR 63. You earn for Uber rides around the world
  • When you are staying at a SPG property, between those dates, you earn between 2-4 StarPoints depending on your status with SPG (2 points for base members, 3 for Gold and 4 for Platinum members per 1 USD spent).
  • You need to have at least 1 stay in a calendar year to start earning SPG StarPoints for your Uber rides. Signup Here to start earning.
  • You can earn for up to USD 10,000 spend in a calendar year.
  • The email address on your Uber account and your SPG account should be the same.

I think this is a great partnership, for a simple reason that everyone benefits from this everyday. For instance, I am a big time user of Uber’s services in India, and I easily bill about INR 5000 with them in a month at least, so that is a cool 80 SPG points for taking rides I’d anyways take.

All I got to do now, is to make use of one SPG hotel stay at the earliest to get my partnership started. If you are new to Uber, you could get a free ride worth INR 300 by using my referral link now!

How do you intend to use this Uber-awesome SPG partnership?

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 2 Comments

It is that time of the year when hotel loyalty programs make adjustments to their hotel categories. The category of a hotel depicts how many loyalty points should your be charged to stay at the hotel, or how many points required for cash+points and so on. Very recently, Hyatt adjusted their category charts, and a lot of India hotels dropped a category down.

Here is a full list of all the hotels [PDF] which are going to be adjusted. I read that 22% of the hotels are going to be impacted by this move, which means if you have an award stay upcoming you should be interested in this. The new prices go into effect as of March 10, 2015, so if you have some time to make plans with hotels where prices are going up, and if your hotel is going down in category, you should call after March 10 to reclaim the extra points.

In terms of Indian hotels, the following hotels are going to be impacted:

Hotels Going Up:

  • Four Points by Sheraton, DehraDun : 1 –> 2
  • Four Points by Sheraton, Delhi Airport : 1 –> 2
  • Le Meredian Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa (yet to open) : 3 –> 4
  • The Westin Pune Koregaon Park : 2 –>3

Hotels Going down:

  • Four Points by Sheraton, Navi Mumbai : 3 –> 2
  • ITC Gardenia, Bangalore : 4 –> 3
  • ITC Grand Bharat, Gurgaon : 6 –> 5
  • ITC Grand Chola, Chennai : 3 –> 2
  • ITC Maurya, Delhi : 4 –> 3
  • ITC Rajputana, Jaipur : 2 –> 1
  • ITC Sonar, Kolkata : 3 –> 2
  • ITC Windsor, Bangalore : 3 –> 2
  • Le Meridian Bangalore : 3 –> 2
  • Le Meridian Coimbatore : 2 –> 1
  • Le Royal Meridian Chennai : 2 –> 1
  • Sheraton New Delhi : 3 –> 2

Clearly, most Indian properties are not pricing the same way in the $ Index of Starwood and hence they come cheap to SPG members. A good thing for those of us in India, since we don’t have many ways to earn Starwood points.

Which ones are you going to book, speculatively or otherwise?

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 2 Comments

Vistara is perhaps one of the most keenly watched airline in India in a long while, all because they are the only new full-service carrier to have launched in the past few years in India. One of their innovation is the launch of a Premium Economy class, which I consider an Economy+ category.

Now, I’ve reviewed the first flight of Vistara as well, and gone into the details of their frequent flyer program over and over again.

However, two new pieces of information have emerged about their plans over the weekend. Firstly, the SimpliFlying blog reports that Vistara is almost ready to make an announcement on provision of Inflight Entertainment on their domestic segments:

There will also be an imminent announcement on In-Flight Entertainment, within the next 1-2 weeks. We are very excited by it because it is something new, something which is not offered in India at the moment. In the long term, we feel it can lead to a lot more possibilities.

While the airline itself has not commented on how will they offer IFE, the blog hazards a guess that this will be wi-fi based IFE. We’ll see how that goes.

Another news item doing the rounds today is on the Times of India network, where the airline talks about its international plans. It states:

Termed “Plan B”, the airline is eyeing long-haul flights to the west – US and Europe – when the government abolishes the current rule that a local airline must be five-year old and have a fleet of 20 planes to fly overseas.

Further, the CCO comments:

Almost 70% of India’s outbound traffic is west-bound. US will be interesting for us, especially routes like New York and Washington. America has Open Sky with India. Once 5/20 goes and the US Federal Aviation Administration upgrades the Indian directorate general of civil aviation, we will like to go there. Many cities in Europe will also be interesting for us. Indian carriers are underutilizing their flying rights for overseas destinations.

I’d say this is an interesting strategy, and maybe giving the other two airlines from India who fly abroad a little bit of a headache right now, since the aspirations of Vistara clearly seem to be focussed on making it big and not just being a marginal player in India’s civil aviation.

Do you think Vistara will go long haul anytime soon?

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 7 Comments

Hello from Mumbai, where I just got back in after a quick overnight trip from Pune. I hope everyone enjoyed the nice victory of India in the Cricket World Cup today. Here is a recap of the posts from last week, just in case you missed something: The Novice Perspective: Shipra wrote this evening about […]

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Shipra is my fiancée and the first of contributors at the blog. She has worked with one of the largest airline conglomerates in the world, and is now based in Mumbai. Shipra has lived, worked and travelled across 4 continents. We travel often enough, together and separately. These are her perspectives, as she gets used […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 4 Comments

While I love me a paper boarding pass for my #avgeek collection, they are a dying breed. Except in India so far, where paper boarding passes are used to go through the abuse of the security check, with stamps to signify that a security screening was done. However, there is change coming through. Jet Airways […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 3 Comments

A few days ago, I posted about a few passengers who arrived at the airport late, and Air India refused to check them in since they were beyond the cut off time. Now, much has been said about why they should have been on the plane or not, but I just thought I’d bring you […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 8 Comments

Etihad Guest, the frequent flyer program of Etihad Airways, is offering a tier match to their Gold tier (second from top-most) and inviting people to apply for the status match till March 15, 2015. Etihad has long been offering status matches to Gold Elite tier, at least once a year. If you are in India […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 5 Comments

Jet Airways withdrew the access for a +1 guest for higher end elites in 2011. Before 2012, the policy for lounge access used to allow JP Platinum members to bring 1 guest along to the lounge, regardless of the fact if the Platinum member was flying Economy or Business class. As a not so frequent […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 3 Comments

Like many regular readers would know, I chose to spend the last weekend at the almost new JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa. The resort opened in October 2014, and was on my wish list for a while. I had a couple of category 4 room nights expiring from last year’s Marriott Rewards […]

Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 3 Comments

Etihad Airways is offering a 25% bonus on conversion of your Membership Rewards points to Etihad Guest miles, in case the transfer is completed between February 11, 2015 and March 11, 2015. The usual rate for conversion is 2 Membership Reward points = 1 Etihad Guest mile, but with this conversion bonus built in, it […]

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