Hilton changes rewards

With airlines changing the rules of their frequent-flier programs to help improve their balance sheets, it was only a matter of time before hotel chains began to re-evaluate their own loyalty schemes.

Still, many travelers were surprised, confused and even angry when, earlier this month, Hilton Hotels Corp. announced two major changes to its program, Hilton HHonors. It made it more difficult to qualify for elite status, and it restricted access to so-called executive lounges at its high-end properties. In 2005, Hilton pioneered a “rolling VIP tier qualification” system, which replaced the industry standard of requiring a certain number of stays or nights during a calendar year — from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 — to win elite status…

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Website soothes travelers

About two years ago, an economics professor in Maine thanked me for the free travel advice that I had unknowingly given him through my posts on a Web site called FlyerTalk.com.

While my experience on the fly has taught me a great deal, little did the professor know that most of what I was sharing online I had learned from FlyerTalk. The site, which just celebrated 10 years and 10 million posts, has helped thousands of travelers plan trips that might have seemed overwhelming at first, deal calmly with delays or cancellations and maximize benefits from airline and hotel loyalty programs…

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Delayed at the airport? Enjoy!

Flight delays are all too common these days, but if you have to wait around for hours, why not do it in style?

It may be difficult for many Americans to believe, given the state of U.S. airports, but there are airports in the world where one can enjoy spending time. I was reminded of that recently while waiting for a delayed connecting flight in Hong Kong. Not only is the airport one of my two favorites, it was named best on the planet in a global survey released last month. It’s efficient, clean, easy to navigate and displays architectural finesse. My final destination on that trip was Singapore, my other favorite airport, which came in second in the survey of 8.2 million travelers conducted by Skytrax…

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Being airline elite can be simple

Many of you must already hate me — not me personally, but people like me, known as “elite” passengers.

Remember that time you were on standby for hours, then suddenly a guy walked over to the gate, asked the agent if he could get on what you hoped would be your flight, because he didn’t want to wait another hour for his original flight? A minute later, he walked away with a boarding pass in hand, and there was no seat for you on the plane. It wasn’t me, but it could have been. Elite passengers can be added to a waiting list minutes before a flight and go right to the top. The highest-level elites — and their travel companions — are exempt from all sorts of fees…

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