NEW YORK (biztravel.com) - Trans World Airlines has undergone several radical changes in 1998.
In January, TWA (TWA) introduced Trans World First, the carrier's new and improved domestic first-class service. In March, it unveiled TWQ, a package of schedule improvements and amenities for business travelers based out of St. Louis International Airport.
But in May, the airline introduced its biggest change yet -- the Aviators frequent flyer program. The new program is a significant departure from its predecessor, Frequent Flight Bonus, and it promises business travelers a whole, new world of improvements.
The biggest change in the TWA program is the addition of Fare Rewards as a standard bonus. Now, all passengers who pay full-fare for their F, C or Y tickets are given one bonus Aviator mile for every U.S. dollar spent (excluding taxes, fees, and surcharges). No other major U.S. airline offers a similar fare-based mileage bonus.
This feature could be of great benefit to business travelers who are constantly stuck paying full-fare on their last-minute reservations. The bonus can add 1,000 to 2,000 bonus miles to a trip even if it's just a quick shuttle flight on Trans World Express. If customer feedback is strong enough, it may not be surprising to see other airlines match TWA's fare bonuses (at least temporarily).
New elite levels
TWA offers three new levels of elite membership in the Aviators program: Elite, Elite 1 and Platinum. The more important improvement, though, is that members now can qualify for these elite levels through dollars spent as well as through miles flown or transatlantic flights taken.
The change is made possible by TWA's new revenue-tracking system, which keeps track of how much money passengers pay the airline.
This change should also be welcome news to business travelers who typically fly short-haul routes but who still end up paying outrageous fares because they book at the last minute. The revenue-based qualifications should help them earn elite-level status at a rate comparable to those who fly on longer routes.
|Level Qualification ||Fare Based ||Mileage ||Transatlantic Segments |
|Elite ||$5,000 ||20,000 ||4|
|Elite 1 ||$10,000 ||40,000 ||8|
|Platinum ||$20,000 ||100,000 ||20|
Another innovative feature of the Aviators program is the new 15,000-mile award. Members can request a free round-trip ticket for just 15,000 miles, as long as it's for travel between cities located less than 750 miles apart, and in which TWA publishes fares.
No other major U.S. airline offers free award travel for only 15,000 miles. United Airlines tested a similar award for a limited period last year, but has not incorporated it into their inventory of standard awards.
Also, under Aviators, TWA will offer a new 40,000-mile domestic first-class award a 20,000-mile reduction from the previous award level.
This summer, Aviators members will no longer need to rely on paper certificates to claim upgrades. TWA will begin crediting premier members' complimentary upgrades into their accounts so they can be accessed electronically with the swipe of the member's card. The start date for this feature is set for July.
Unfortunately, there is one discouraging change to TWA's frequent flyer program -- expiring miles. TWA used to allow frequent flyer miles to accumulate forever without requiring members to fly airline every now and then.
Now, under Aviators, members must fly TWA or Trans World Express at least once or earn at least 10,000 bonus miles from Aviators partners during a three-year period. If not, members will lose their miles. While this system isn't as bad as actually setting a time limit on miles, it is a sad departure from TWA's earlier no-expiration-date policy.