Over the last few years I’ve been staying predominantly at Starwood and Marriott properties, so my feelings with their merger was in line with that of many business travelers: a great deal of concern. Though many of my concerns were addressed with various PR releases both before and after the merger, I was a bit perplexed when the rewards program changed from “Marriott Rewards” to “Marriott Bonvoy”. At any rate – this post isn’t about the rewards program (which really hasn’t changed other than in name), but a fun package that I received over the weekend!
Thanks, Marriott! That was a really nice surprise to receive, and the pens are really nice!
As much as I was upset by the news of the merging of Starwood with Marriott, and I’m still not thrilled by the prospect, therecentnews really is the best case for what we could hope for from an SPG member perspective. There are definitely some frustrating points involved, particularly for partner members (Delta and United alike), those that receive status from credit cards (American Express Platinum, for example), and those that focus on stays over nights to attain status.
Adding a spend “qualification” to receive Ambassador service does make sense given the property footprints of Starwood versus Marriott, but putting the price in USD is questionable as Gary points out. For those that spend a lot of time in countries with drastic currency conversion rates, it might require a ridiculous number of days to attain this tier of status. Bundling Your24 with this tier is also a little frustrating, but again with the substantially increased footprint, I can understand wanting to make this more exclusive.
Given Marriott’s relationship with United, the announcement that the relationship with Delta will be ending soon isn’t really a surprise. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed earning points with both at the same time, so this will be missed. With old Platinum Premier Elites, when this tier was invitation-only, receiving Untied Gold, it’s unclear if there will be a new influx of United Gold members as well.
I appreciate that the new Lifetime Status qualifications are based on nights and years, not on points/spend. Plus: breakfast at more properties which can save a decent chunk of change. All things considered, it could be much worse!
We took a rather round-about route because we wanted to land directly in Kochi as opposed to another city (like Delhi, Mumbai, etc.) and go through customs there. To achieve this, we flew Delta to London, British Airways to Doha, and then Jet Airways to Kochi.
On the flight to Atlanta, we had the opportunity to try Delta’s new premium peanut snack. No more self-branded nuts!
We had a short five hour layover in Atlanta, so we went to the SkyClub in terminal E and stretched out a little. We took this opportunity to get a quick nap before our next leg.
On our next leg, we flew in DeltaOne on one of Delta’s 767-300ERs. This meant we got Westin blankets and pillows, as well as Tumi toiletry kits. On longer flights, this makes all the difference in the world.
For our snack, we were given spiced Georgia pecans. These were offered with our selection of water, orange juice, or champagne.
We were then introduced to our purser and given our dinner menus. I opted for the lamb while Carrie opted for the fish.
Once we were in the air, we were given our three course meals: appetizers, main course, and our choice of dessert.
We made excellent time thanks to some storms in the US giving us a very strong tailwind. The downside being that parts of the flight were bumpier than normal.
Closer to London, we were given the option of having breakfast. Unfortunately, they didn’t bring the cabin lighting up so we weren’t able to get a very good picture of it, but it was delicious!
London-Heathrow Sheraton Skyline
We planned a nice long layover in both London and Doha to give ourselves some padding for local customs, and time to leave the airport to find a local hotel. Here, we opted for the Sheraton Skyline. They offer discounted cabs to the hotel and since I had SPG Ambassador service, I was able to arrange everything well in advance!
London-Heathrow South Gallery
Upon returning to the hotel, we had plenty of time to relax at the South Gallery, as we were flying Club World to Doha. The WiFi was nice and fast, and the food was quite nice. The cheese and wine were probably my favorite – no surprise, there!
Though we were late in leaving for our plane, we made it with plenty of time thanks to heavy fog which delayed our departure by an hour. Once we were in the air, it was smooth sailing, though! This was my first experience with a Club World seat, and though we didn’t have Westin bedding, the seat itself was much more comfortable than on Delta (even without the massage).
The Boeing 777-200 we were on was divided into four cabins: First Class, Club World, World Traveler Plus, and World Traveler. The Club World cabin was arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration, which was a little cramped compared to the 1-2-1 layout of Delta’s 767. We also do not have direct aisle-access for all seats as we do with Delta. The nice thing was that since the seats were arranged facing each other, Carrie and I were able to talk to one another without having to turn constantly.
Instructions for operating the seat!
As with our DeltaOne experience, we were given our menus by our purser and asked to select both our appetizer and main course. I opted for the steak while Carrie went with the chicken.
A very cool feature of our Boeing 777-200 was that our in-flight-entertainment OS showed us what we were flying over from different angles!
Close to landing, we were given a very quick breakfast. Pastries, smoothies, and fresh fruit.
Upon landing in the Doha airport, we made our way to the arrivals area to collect our bags. I was lucky enough to notice a very distinct curved wingtip and was rewarded with a sight of one of Qatar Airway’s Airbus 350s! For an AvGeek like myself, this was a real treat!
Since we had 13 hours in Doha, we opted to head to the nearby Marriott. Thanks to my status, I was able to guarantee a room for the same day! Gotta love it! The light poles we drove by were actually laser etched with the Qatari National Anthem, which I thought was a nice touch. They also change color periodically!
Our last flight was in economy on Jet Airways, on a Boeing 737-800. Since it was just 3 hours and 40 minutes, we thought we could tough it out. It was fairly cramped, but we were still given a full meal service and fresh tea, which was nice.
Overall it was a very positive experience, and I am decidedly pleased with my expenditure of miles!
Starwood, now part of Marriott, has announced their Q1 promotion for 2017. Called SPG Double Take, you earn double-points on your first three stays and some decent bonuses beyond that. An extra 10,000 points once you hit 20 nights, for example.
You can register on the SPG Promo Dashboard. Registration is between December 15th and March 15th, and the stays have to be completed between January 16th and April 15th.
Greg over at FrequentMiler recently shared his experience with United’s Last Seat Availability guarantee that he received thanks to his Marriott status (Marriott’s Platinum status grants you Silver with United, once you link the accounts), and that reminded me that since the acquisition of SPG by Marriott went through on Friday, those who had SPG Platinum would also have this once they linked their accounts!
If you don’t have status with United (or SPG/Marriott), don’t worry – you can still get access to this feature with United’s credit card through Chase. In fact, Greg goes on to detail a few other very helpful perks offered by a variety of credit cards that cardholders might not know to take advantage of. Though some of them won’t apply in the near future, such as Citi Prestige’s golf, the list is a good resource for those wanting to make the most of their cards.
Don’t forget to link your accounts – you never know when you will need to buy a last minute ticket!
Lucky, over at OneMileAtATime, has detailed instructions on how to connect your Starwood Preferred Guest number to your Marriott Rewards number. It only takes a few minutes, and the status match is virtually instantaneous. It already matched my Platinum SPG!
In another post, he details some of the benefits of this link. The big thing to note is that the connection isn’t one way – you can transfer Starpoints at a 1:3 ratio to Marriott Rewards points, or go the other way and transfer 3 Marriott points to one Starpoint. Since AmEx changed their signup bonus this year, that means you can use the Marriott credit card to convert 80,000 Rewards points into just over 29,000 Starpoints!
Similarly, SPG Platinums are Marriott Platinums, which means we get complimentary United Silver Elite status. United Gold Elite members are Marriott Gold as well, so they can match to SPG Gold! Not a bad deal, all things considered.
If we keep all the programs separate, I can live with this! At the very least, it seems that the programs will remain independent until 2018, so that is a relief as I love the Starwood Preferred Guest program.