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FLIGHT REVIEW: Spring Airlines A320 Economy SpringPlus, Bangkok – Shanghai

I was scratching my head as to how to get from Bangkok to Shanghai on a one-way ticket, and to my surprise there wasn’t many cheap options for flights during the day.

Strangely, there were a lot of red-eye options, but I’m not particularly excited at doing a five-hour red-eye flight, having travelled from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur on a red-eye service a year before and trying very hard to survive through the day after the flight.

I then stumbled across Spring Airlines, which seemed like a perfect option given that it had a mid-day departure and arriving into Shanghai at about dinnertime.

About Spring Airlines

Spring Airlines A320 (source: Spring Airlines Facebook page)

Spring Airlines was established in 2004, and operated its first service in 2005. It’s one of China’s first low-cost airline, although in its early days it offered complimentary food and drinks to all passengers.

The Shanghai-based airline operates only the A320, serving over 50 domestic destinations within China and 25 international destinations across Asia.

Bangkok is one of Spring Airlines’ focus cities internationally, serving over 10 Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi’an.

The schedule

Spring Airlines operate three flights daily between Bangkok and Shanghai Pudong.

At the time of writing, the daily schedule is as follow:

FlightRouteDeparture
Time
Arrival
Time
DayAircraft*
9C8892BKK-PVG0205 0715 DailyA320
9C8756BKK-PVG 13351830DailyA320
9C8580BKK-PVG18102330DailyA320
9C8755PVG-BKK08451235DailyA320
9C8579PVG-BKK 12451705DailyA320
9C8891PVG-BKK21000105(+1)DailyA320

*Aircraft types are always subject to change

How to book

I don’t usually talk about how to go about booking your ticket, but I think in this instance it’s pretty critical.

If you try to book a Spring Airlines ticket through an online third-party site, chances are, you will be booking a ticket without any add-ons. No bags, no food, no seat selection.

To book a Spring Airlines ticket with some choices of add-on, you will have to book directly on its website, ch.com.

Spring Airlines Chinese language site

Being a Chinese carrier, Spring Airlines’ website is available in Chinese, as well as English, Thai and Japanese. If you also read Chinese, you will realise that there’s a lot more options in the Chinese version of the website, but do note that you can only make payment through some of the common Chinese payment platforms, including WeChat Pay and Alipay, or debit cards issued in China. 

More bundle options compared to English site

To purchase a ticket using a credit card issued outside of China, you will need to use one of its non-Chinese version of the website. Apart from the awkwardly designed website, the first couple of steps are pretty straightforward.

When you have decided on the flight timing you want, you will have to select either Spring Saver, which simply gives you a seat and a carry-on bag, or Spring Plus, a all-in-one bundle. Note that all fares displayed are before the applicable taxes.

Choose your preferred bundle

Spring Airlines is technically a budget airline, so if you want to purchase a seat only, they have it. Note that if you purchase a seat only, you can only bring one carry-on bag no heavier than 7kg (more on that later).

If you decide to customise your own add-ons, you can add items such as check-in baggage allowance and food in the later steps.

Add-ons can be selected in the later steps

For add-on baggage, the weight comes in 10kg steps and the price goes up accordingly. On my flight from Bangkok to Shanghai, every 10kg cost THB1,000 or RMB220.

Seat selection can also be made from RMB10 onwards. The price of your seat actually defers from row to row, so be sure to check.

Seat selection ranges from RMB10 to RMB70, depending on zones

As for food and beverage, you can pre-order a hot meal at RMB79 (THB340), but everything else is buy-on-board.

SpringPlus Bundle

Being highly uncertain about whether I could survive a 4+ hour flight on a Chinese low cost carrier, I decided to splurge on the best bundle I can find, which is the SpringPlus package, which costs RMB350 (THB1500) more. The SpringPlus bundle is also known as 经济商务座,which can loosely be translated to “economy business seat”.

SpringPlus seat

So what does it entail? You get:

  • A seat in either Row 1 or 2, with free seat selection
  • 30kg of checked baggage allowance
  • Free meal and unlimited beverages, including wine and beer
  • Priority boarding and disembarking
  • A pillow and blanket

Given that 20kg of checked baggage alone will set you back by RMB440, the SpringPlus bundle was a no-brainer. Having said this, I really don’t get how they priced this, but I suppose many Chinese travellers probably travel light.

Note that there’s also a 3% credit card surcharge, and there’s no way to get this fee removed.

Payment options

After making payment, you are all set! However, note that the email confirmation is a little shady as well. There are details of your flight, but it doesn’t state the bundles as well as the entitlements (e.g. baggage allowance) you have on the flight, so just try to remember what you have booked.

At the airport

While the email asked passengers to arrive at the airport 120 minutes before the flight departure time, I arrived only about 75 minutes before.

There were four check-in counters opened for our flight and a good number of people in line waiting to check in. There was supposedly a separate queue for SpringPlus, but it’s only displayed by its Chinese term. I tried to queue up there, but was directed back to the main queue anyway.

Spring Airlines check-in row K at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport

Never mind that. The queue moved pretty quickly so I wasn’t very bothered.

As I was queuing, I saw a few signages that Spring has put up around hand baggage. The notice was very specific: hand carry items must be 7kg or less, and must be of dimensions 20cm by 30cm by 40cm or smaller. It then goes on to say “if it is found at the boarding gate that passengers’ luggage does not meet the requirements for free luggage entering the cabin, a luggage fee will be charged for passengers’ excess luggage.”

Hand-carry baggage advisory

The price for checking in bags at boarding gate? Pretty horrific:

  • THB3500 (RM820) per piece for luggage under 20kg, and
  • THB7000 (RMB1640) per piece for luggage over 20kg, but under 32kg.

That’s some really expensive ‘fines’ for exceeding the hand carry limits, which I’m very happy for some other low cost carriers such as Jetstar to pick up.

More warnings about hand-carry baggage on the boarding pass

To drive home the point, there was the same notice, in Chinese, being stamped on my boarding pass when I received it. By this time, I was dead certain they were going to weigh my carry-on bags.

The aircraft

Spring Airlines A320

Spring Airlines operate a dedicated fleet of A320 only, in a single class configuration with 6 seats per row, 3 on each side for a total of 180 seats.

The first two rows are dedicated for customers who have bought the SpringPlus bundle, while row 3 onwards are for the other customers. This also means that there are only 12 SpringPlus bundles per flight, and some customers may be ‘upgraded’ if the flight is really full.

SpringPlus seats

When the flight was ready to board, SpringPlus customers get to board first.

However, I chose to wait to board last, as I had an aisle seat. The A320 only has a single door for boarding, so that means if I boarded first, I’ll be greeting every other passenger who has to flow through the single aisle.

Also, a word about budget carrier travellers. Regardless of length of flight, customers on these flights tend to bring too many carry-on items. So that means overhead cabin space is a premium on a first come, first served basis.

I forgot this, and I realised that boarding last was a mistake. By the time I was on board, there was no more space in the overhead cabins. My seat neighbour had not one or two, but four bags – including two cabin suitcases – that couldn’t be stowed overhead. Once again, I wonder if the warnings about carry-on bags were a lie. The cabin crew couldn’t find a space for all their bags, and had to stow them somewhere in the galley in the end.

So I had to keep my bag under the legs for take off, which I’m sure is a breach of safety, and also incredibly uncomfortable.

The seat

Spring Airlines install 180 seats on its A320, in a 3-3 configuration across 30 rows. As mentioned earlier, the first two rows are reserved for SpringPlus passengers.

Each passenger in rows 1 and 2 receives a green blanket and a pillow, which are pretty ugly. The seats are upholstered in a faux leather skin, making it easy to clean and fairly comfortable for a mid-haul flight. The seatbacks are also quite thin, maximising the legroom.

Complimentary blanket and pillow

The seats are standard width at about 17 inches wide, which is slightly narrower than most other airlines. There is also more legroom for the first two rows, at about 30 inches. All other seats have a standard pitch of 28 inches, which is fairly reasonable for the Asian traveller.

Main cabin

If you are in the main cabin, there are also extra legroom seats at the exit rows of 12 & 13.

Each seat comes with a fold-down dining table, and for the first row the table comes up from your armrest. There are also individual air nozzles and reading lights for every seat located above.

Reading lights and air nozzles

One critical point of all Spring Airlines seats is that: the seats do not recline. This to me isn’t really a bad thing. Most of Spring Airlines’ routes are anywhere between short to mid-haul, and in my opinion, disabling the very limited recline in an all-economy layout is probably a lot more beneficial (by preventing disputes), than whatever marginal comfort you may get with a 2-inch recline.

The service

Once we are safely in the air and the seatbelt signs have been turned off, the cabin crew in front swiftly went behind row 2 to draw the curtains, making the front cabin even more exclusive.

The very lovely crew then went around to each row of three to greet us by name, and then provided an overview of today’s flight, such as the flight duration, estimated landing time and meal service. She also gave us a bottled water each. I was impressed.

Shortly after that, the meal service commenced. The meal was fairly simple: pieces of chicken along with some potato wedges, pumpkin cubes and long beans, along with a slice of chocolate cake and a packaged bread roll. Everything was nicely encased in a plastic box and served up at once, with the entree piping hot.

SpringPlus complimentary meal

In terms of beverage, this is where it got a little interesting. Unlike some other low cost carrier which only offered water or one single drink along with the purchased meal, Spring Airlines offered unlimited drinks, including soft drinks, coffee, tea, beer and wine. Even though the cart had a limited choice of drinks, the sheer fact that drinks were unlimited was, again, impressive.

Complimentary unlimited beverages on Spring Airlines with SpringPlus

I had a soda water to go with my meal, followed by a coffee after. Meal service was pretty prompt, and collected shortly after I was done with it. Once again, service was very attentive. As my finished meal was collected, the cabin crew asked if I’ll like another drink. I saw that they had small bottled red wines on the cart, so I decided to give it a try.

You even get China wine!

The red wine turned out to be a China-made Cabernet Sauvignon (China Wine, ha!), produced in a vineyard from Ningxia. Having not tried Chinese wine before, I took a sip and as it turns out, it was pretty decent. I made a quick search online about Chinese wines and the region has apparently been known to produce some award-winning wines in recent years.

The wine was served in a paper cup as the crew has run out of plastic ones. Personally, I do feel that has affected the taste a little, but the wine was delicious so I had three glasses.

If you are reading this and decided not to buy the SpringPlus bundle, the buy-on-board menu is very affordable. Meals begin from RMB20 (THB87) and all drinks from water to beer were RMB10 (THB43).

Spring Airlines buy-on-board food menu
Spring Airlines buy-on-board drinks menu

With about 90 minutes to go before landing, the purser opened up the curtains, and I thought this a little too early to prepare for landing. He then started wheeling out a cart, and took out the in-flight PA to start speaking.

As it turns out, he was starting to peddle the in-flight duty free items for sale, in Mandarin, of course. While he was very good, being incredibly knowledgeable and persuasive in selling the wide-range of items (I did a rough count, he mentioned no less than 20 items in the catalogue – including cigarettes, SK-II, Disney products, and electronics – over the 15 to 20 minutes of speaking), I can imagine that if you didn’t understand Mandarin, you might find it a little annoying.

In-flight magazine (largely duty free catalogue), menu and safety card

After he was done, there was indeed a flurry of duty-free sales going on within the cabin. For one, the Chinese traveller likes to buy cartons of cigarettes back home, and apparently they always run out on Spring flights.

Shortly after, it was time to prepare for landing. The cabin crew once again came to thank customers one-by-one, as well as provide landing information including estimated time of arrival and weather. While this was something fairly simple, I personally was really impressed at the level of service for a supposedly no-frills flight.

Final thoughts

After the flight

I came off the flight more than impressed with what Spring Airlines have packed into a ‘value-added’ bundle.

While Asia is no stranger to low cost carriers and their ancillary products, the SpringPlus bundle that Spring Airlines offer is equivalent to a full-service economy class product, sans in-flight entertainment.

The little more, such as priority check-in, boarding, disembarking and priority baggage handling, made the entire experience even more worth it for the additional cost.

What truly impressed me was the quality of service. Chinese carriers used to be associated with poor quality food and service, but I found both to be more than acceptable in this instance. I’m not sure if this is a one-off experience or representative of the entire fleet, but I’m very sure I’ll be giving this another try if the opportunity arises.

Book Spring Airlines at CH.com

That said, the only downside to the experience is the quality of your travel companions on the same flight. This is a common problem with Chinese travellers, particularly those who are venturing internationally for the first time as they tend to be from smaller cities and may have different levels of refinement and cross-cultural appreciation as those living in the tier-one cities.

Also, Spring Airlines obviously do not belong to any alliance, so if you are more concerned about earning miles, this will obviously not be an option for you.

Qantas settles on A350-1000 for its ultra long haul ambitions

Boeing loses out on this Project Sunrise race, although no orders have been placed with Airbus, yet.

What Is Qantas’ Project Sunrise?

Qantas’ Project Sunrise is essential a challenge aimed at planemakers back in 2017 for an aircraft that has the ability to fly non-stop, with full payload, from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York.

Project Sunrise maps

Being geographically challenged, Qantas has traditionally serviced faraway destinations with a stop in between, such as Sydney-Singapore-London and Melbourne-Los Angeles-New York.

Currently the world’s longest flight is operated by Singapore Airlines’ A350-900ULR on its Singapore-Newark service. That flight covers a distance of over 9,500 miles and takes about 18 hours each way.

Singapore Airlines A350 business class seat (source: Singapore Airlines)

Qantas’ own longest flight at the moment is the Sydney-Dallas Fort-Worth service, an 8,400-mile service served by an Airbus A380. This will soon be overtaken a new Brisbane-Chicago service that Qantas is starting from April 2020, which will top out at some 8,900 miles, taking between 16 and 17 hours.

The project name is a nod to the original Kangaroo route in the 1940s from London to Australia, where passengers saw two sunrises through the 27-hour multi segment journey.

Qantas goes for Airbus

Both Boeing and Airbus were obviously heavily invested in this project, having responded favourably and presumably excitedly when Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce first announced the challenge back in 2017. Both aircraft makers put forth their best long-haul aircraft for the challenge: Boeing with its Boeing 777X, and Airbus with its A350.

Render of Qantas A350 (source: Qantas)

Two years on, Qantas has selected the A350-1000 as the preferred aircraft after a very detailed evaluation of both the Boeing 777X and Airbus A350, if Project Sunrise proceeds.

Qantas said that the A350 uses the Rolls Royce Trent XWB engine, which has a strong reliability record after being in service with airlines for more than two years. There will also be an additional fuel tank and slightly increase the maximum takeoff weight to deliver the performance required for the ultra-longhaul routes.

No orders have been placed but Qantas said it will work closely with Airbus to prepare contract terms for up to 12 aircraft ahead of a final decision by the Qantas Board.

Airbus has extended the deadline to confirm delivery slots by a month, from February 2020 to March 2020. This would allow Qantas to launch these Project Sunrise flights in the first half of 2023 as planned.

Is Project Sunrise definitely taking off?

There is a very strong caveat in Qantas’ latest update, and that’s because there are some critical items that Qantas needs to check off even before placing the orders.

First, regulatory. Qantas has so far operated two test flights – one from New York and one from London – using a very light payload on its Boeing 787-9s, which they said the findings will be used in discussions with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for discussions on policy changes, such as operating limits required for crew.

Next, unions. Qantas will also have to negotiate the operating terms with the pilots union, AIPA. As Lucky from One Mile At A Time has pointed out, the discussions are likely to center on productivity and efficiency gains, including the ability to use the same pilots across A350 Sunrise aircraft and the existing A330 fleet. In my understanding, there will also be other ‘bread and butter’ issues to sort out with a new fleet, such as seniority and allowances.

Also, the economics of the new fleet. Qantas management will have to present to its board on how this new fleet – and ultra longhaul services – will unlock financial benefits for Qantas Group. Ultra longhaul service generally becomes very unprofitable when fuel prices go high (as it did years ago), so this is where a flexible seating configuration will allow Qantas to utilise the aircraft for other (shorter) routes as well.

Final thoughts

The long-running PR exercise that Qantas has been wielding in the last three years is finally entering its final phases, and we have a winner in the form of Airbus – for now.

In any case, it is still far from a done deal as to whether Qantas will indeed embark on a new fleet. There are still plenty of hurdles to clear, so the next couple of months will be exciting to watch.

Asia Miles will no longer expire from 1 Jan 2020, with a caveat

Asia Miles will be kept active as long as there’s an activity once every 18 months. Sounds good at first glance, but that means you need to keep your account active more often.

Cathay Pacific loyalists can cheer: Asia Miles earned from 1st January 2020 will no longer expire, as long as you earn or redeem at least one mile every 18 months.

Note that this will only apply for miles earned from 1st January 2020, and any miles earned before that will still expire under the current rules.

Current system

Under the current rules, all miles earned within a membership year will expire three years after the current membership year.

For example, if your membership year (based on your sign-up month) is from April to March the following year:

If you earned 10,000 miles in May 2018, they will expire in March 2022 (i.e. end of membership year in March 2020 plus three years).

If you earn another 5,000 miles in December 2019, they will expire in March 2023.

New system

The new system will automatically extend your miles expiry date by 18 months from the date of your latest crediting and debiting activity. This is a similar system used by Singapore Airlines as well as British Airways Executive Club, except that the latter two programmes have a longer shelf life of 3 years.

‘Crediting and debiting activity’ refers to the date that miles were added (or deducted) from your account, and not the date when you took the flight, or redeemed the miles.

As an example:

If you earn 10,000 miles in 1 January 2020, the miles will have an expiry date of 30 June 2021.

Following that, if you earn another 3,000 miles on 15 March 2020, all 13,000 miles (assuming you didn’t use any) will now expire on 14 September 2021.

Eligible transactions are pretty broad so it’s quite easy to keep your account active. The eligible transactions are:

  • Earning miles
  • Redeeming miles
  • Purchase of miles (top-up)
  • Points exchange
  • Member-to-member transfer
  • Miles renewal
  • Bonus miles credit
  • Gift miles (from someone else)

How to check when are your miles expiring?

To check when your miles are expiring, you can log onto your Asia Miles account, click on the top-right corner dropdown menu, and click “Manage your Miles”.

Scroll down and click on “Renew your miles”.

Inside, you will see how many of your miles and their respective expiry dates.

Asia Miles offer an option for your renew the validity of your miles for another three years, albeit at a very hefty USD40 per 2,000 mile block.

Note that from 1 January 2020, all renewed miles will fall under the new expiry rules (i.e. expire 18 months after the last activity).

There are also no renewal option for all miles earned or renewed after 1 January 2020, so please be careful.

How will Asia Miles use my miles between the old and system?

Asia Miles uses a ‘first in, first out’ system, using up the oldest miles in your account first when you redeem them.

That means, any miles you have that fall under the time-based expiration system will be spent first, before the ‘newer’ miles earned under the activity-based expiration system.

Final thoughts

This is a good move, especially if you are what I call a leisure supporter of Cathay Pacific or other Oneworld airlines. Under the old fixed time-based expiration rules, leisure fliers may fine it very difficult to rack up enough points to redeem for a trip before their miles expire.

If you have an Asia Miles account and want to keep your account active, you should ideally try to maintain an activity once a year, rather than cutting it very close to the expiration date.

Citi launches new Lazada co-branded credit card

Surprise surprise, banks think that co-branded credit cards are actually still… in?

It’s probably about a decade (or two?) ago where such joint cards are extremely popular. M1, Robinsons, and even SingPost, all have a credit card.

Having said that, the trend has been dying for a while now. The hottest co-branded card that came out was probably the UOB-Krisflyer card last year, and for good reasons, given that the miles gathering community have grown tremendously in just the last two years.

Now, back to the Citi Lazada card.

The basics

  • Income requirement: S$30,000 p.a. for Singapore citizens and PRs, S$42,000 for foreigners
  • Annual fee: S$192.60 for principal cardmembers, waived for the first year; S$96.30 for supplementary cards, waived for the first year
  • Annual fee gift: 
    • 3 x $50 Lazada vouchers for new-to-Citibank customers (with a lot of conditions)
    • Free LiveUp 1-year membership (worth $59.90).
  • Earn rates: 0.4 mile per dollar spent (mpd) locally & overseas
  • Special earn rates:
    • 4.8 mpd for Lazada transactions (until 29 Feb 20, 4.0 mpd thereafter)
    • 2 mpd on dining, travel, entertainment, commuting
    • Total bonus points capped at 10,000 ThankYou points (or 4,000 miles) per statement cycle
  • Foreign currency transaction fee: 3.0% (3.25% from 15 Dec 2019)

Similar to other Citibank entry-level cards, the Citi Lazada credit card charges S$192.60 (waiveable first year) for its annual fee, and requires you to earn at least S$30,000 per year.

Mediocre earn rates

The base rate for the Citi Lazada credit card is a paltry 1 Citi ThankYou point, or 0.4 mpd, on local and overseas spend.

The bonus earn rates for this card lie in spending on Lazada, where cardholders can earn 12x Citi ThankYou points (4.8 mpd), except for spending on Redmart. Even then, this is a promotional rate which will end 29 Feb 2020, after which it goes down to 4 mpd.

Cardmembers can also earn 5x Citi ThankYou points (2 mpd) on dining, travel, entertainment, and commuting.

These are the MCCs for the bonus spends:

Note that the points do not pool with other Citibank cards you may hold, so you will have to accrue at least 25,000 ThankYou points before converting them to miles, with a processing fee of $25.

On top of that, all the points will expiry within 36 months of the card opening date, not from the time the points were earned. For instance, if your card opening date is on 1 January 2020, all of your points earned between 1 Jan 2020 and 31 Dec 2022 will expire on 31 Dec 2022, in a strange fashion similar to the BOC Elite Miles card.

Note that there’s cap to the bonus points

If you have gone mad and decided to apply for the card, note that there’s a cap of 10,000 points per statement month for both the 12x and 5x categories, translating to the following caps:

  • S$833 on Lazada (up to 29 Feb 20, S$1,000 after), or
  • S$2,000 on dining, entertainment, travel, and commuting, or
  • Any combination in between of the above two (e.g. S$416.5 on Lazada + S$1,000 on dining, entertainment, travel and commuting)

There are easier way to earn more miles

So I’m telling you why this card sucks. There are simply too many cards out there that do so much better than this card, making this new card a total waste of time.

1. Citi Rewards Mastercard

This card earns you 10x points (4mpd) on all online spend, up to a cap of S$1,000 spend per month, including online shopping (RedMart included!), online food delivery, entertainment, Grab/Gojek rides, movie reservations and more.

This applies across all the online spend category, except travel. There is a cap of S$1,000 spend per month.

2. UOB Preferred Platinum Visa

Similar to the Citi Rewards card, this also offers 4mpd for all online spend except travel. On top of that, you also get 4mpd for contactless payments in-person.

3. DBS Woman’s World Mastercard 

Fervent miles collectors will know that you don’t exactly need to be a woman to hold the card. Similar to the above, the DBS Woman’s World Mastercard provides 4mpd for online shopping, online entertainment reservations, Grab/Gojek payments, and even online travel purchases (hotels and airfares). There is a cap of S$2,000 on this.

Welcome gifts

If you are applying for the Lazada card as your first Citibank card: DON’T. Especially if you were eyeing that $150 Lazada voucher (or the $500 voucher on 1-day flash offer on 11 Dec).

The $150 Lazada vouchers should be more specifically defined as 3x $50 vouchers, and you can only use one in each transaction as they are given to you in the form of promo codes. Also, the vouchers have a six-month validity, so I won’t be surprised if many of them go unredeemed.

To add salt to the wound, you will need to spend at least S$1,200 before you get those vouchers. Tough.

Final thoughts

There are much better cards to apply for from Citibank than the Citi Lazada card. For instance, you could try the Citi Rewards card, which can basically do everything that the Citi Lazada card do, and more. Granted you will get 27,000 points (about 10,800 miles) only after a $3,000 spend as a welcome gift, that 10,800 miles will bring you further (literally) if you use it correctly.

Even if cashback is your thing, the Citi Cash Back card gives you a much better welcome gift, at $120 cold, hard cash (not really, it’s a credit) with $1,200 spend.

LeClub AccorHotels is now ALL – Accor Live Limitless

Accor has rebranded – once again – its loyalty programme as ALL, which stands for Accor Live Limitless.

Earlier this year, Accor has said that it will be launching ALL only in 2020, but it seems like that has been brought forward.

The key features of the new loyalty programme is supposed to include:

  • Introducing new premium status to reward our most loyal members
  • Enriched benefits according to our augmented hospitality strategy
  • A worldwide connected experience to earn and burn points across the broadest range of brands in the industry, and
  • a New digital app delivering value across work, live & play.

So what’s really new?

To be really honest… I’m not sure.

I’ve played around with the new website. Apart from the usual booking capabilities for hotels and dining reservations, one other significant addition is probably the ability to purchase or book experiences and tours.

Limitless Experiences is essentially a redemption machine, allowing you to burn Accor points for merchandise, stays or experiences.

As for tours and activities, Accor has partnered GetYourGuide.com, a tour booking engine. When I played around it, there didn’t seem to be any difference in price for ALL members, or any other exclusive offers.

Also, it wasn’t clear to me if I’ll earn points on ALL if I book any activities.

On the other hand, Accor seem to have partnered some other brands to provide bonus points offers when members purchase with the partners.

For instance, ALL members who subscribe to The Economist through the dedicated link can earn up to 12,500 Rewards points on a 2-year Print & Digital subscription.

Has my earn rate and benefits changed?

In short – no.

A quick comparison on the ‘new’ website confirmed that at the time of writing, the earn rate and benefits remain largely the same. The only enhancement is to the platinum elite level, where there is a one-night suite upgrade available, which must be booked via phone.

The PR spiel earlier this year promised a new status level, which hasn’t seem to be available online yet.

Final thoughts

While Accor has successfully rolled out its ‘new’ loyalty programme ahead of schedule, I’m really not sure if this is merely another cosmetic change or do they really envisage that this is the answer to “deliver value across work, live & play“, as they claimed.

While large (and growing) companies across all verticals are now trying to blur the boundaries and move into other segments, I’m not sure if any hospitality chain will ever successfully move to deliver what the tourism industry call ‘experiences’, in a bid to boost bottom line. In a closed environment where there are no alternatives, this may seem like a perfect all-in-one solution, but realistically travellers typically like to compare and contrast, so options are always good for consumers.

Also, loyalty programmes can be a burden, as points are effectively currency. If not managed well, it can either be a huge financial liability to the brand, or become a single source of failure in terms of brand loyalty.

Honestly I’m not sure what is Accor trying to achieve with this change, but if there’s one thing I like: it’s the new ‘A’ logo, which all Accor property staff are wearing if you look carefully.