You could be missing out on free hotel stays and flight upgrades while hopscotching around for the best travel deals.

U.S. News & World Report announced its picks for the Best Travel Rewards Programs of 2021-2022 on Tuesday, identifying which hotels and airlines offer the best perks in exchange for loyalty.

Wyndham Rewards was named the Best Hotel Rewards Program, unseating previous winner World of Hyatt. In addition to its namesake Wyndham hotels, the property group includes LaQuinta, Ramada, Days Inn, Super 8, Travelodge and various other brands for different budgets. U.S. News noted Wyndham’s large network, high award availability and the ability to “book a free night with as few as 7,500 points” contributed to its top ranking.

Alaska Air Mileage Plan kept its top spot as the Best Airline Rewards Program for the seventh year in a row. U.S. News highlighted the airline’s wide selection of routes to popular destinations, like New York City and Honolulu. The program’s mileage-based earning structure was also recognized for making “it easier for members to earn miles for free flights faster.”

►The best credit card for travel:New grocery perks and a $1,250 welcome offer

►’We are humbled to play a small part’:Alaska Airlines offers to help transport families from Afghanistan within US

An Alaska Airline jet is parked at a gate at Virginia's Dulles international Airport on June 16, 2018.

Here are U.S. News’ top five picks for each category:

Best hotel rewards programs

  1. Wyndham Rewards
  2. World of Hyatt
  3. Marriott Bonvoy
  4. Choice Privileges
  5. IHG Rewards

Best airline rewards programs

  1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
  2. Delta SkyMiles
  3. American Airlines AAdvantage
  4. JetBlue TrueBlue
  5. Southwest Rapid Rewards

U.S. News factors member benefits like free amenities, network coverage, and ease in accruing and redeeming free travel into its rankings. This year, criteria also included how travel rewards programs responded to the pandemic and flexibility for members. For hotel awards, U.S. News Travel ranks 15 loyalty programs associated with major hotel brands that have at least 50 properties, 10 or more of which are located in the U.S. For airlines awards, only those based in the U.S. are considered.

Navy Cove oyster farm in Fort Morgan is one of the pioneers of aquaculture along the Gulf of Mexico. Chuck Wilson founded the farm in 2011, when the idea of growing single oysters in off-bottom cages or baskets was still a new concept in the area. As mouths around the South – and the country – started tipping up half-shells of Alabama-farmed oysters and slurping them down, the product’s popularity increased, and the number of devoted fans grew alongside the state’s oyster-farming industry.

In March 2020, Navy Cove was getting ready to harvest a bumper crop of bivalves and deliver them to restaurants that would serve them to hungry beach crowds, and they expected to do the same all summer long. The pandemic put the brakes on it all.

“We had a lot of oysters on the farm that were about to be market size in March and early April, right when things started shutting down,” Wilson said. Business dropped precipitously and quickly. “We expected to sell 15,000 to 20,000 oysters per week from spring through August. We sold a third of that.”


DUBAI, July 14 (Reuters) – The Armenian National Interests Fund and Middle East budget carrier Air Arabia (AIRA.DU) said on Wednesday they planned to launch a new budget airline with Armenian capital Yerevan as its base.

The new carrier will operate as a joint venture between the pair, they said in a statement, adopting the low-cost model operated by Air Arabia.

“We see tremendous potential for Armenia in building its airline sector, which will add sustained value to the economy through job creation and the development of travel and tourism sector,” Air Arabia’s group chief executive, Adel Al Ali, was quoted as saying.

Air Arabia operates five hubs in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, Egypt and Morocco, and its shares are listed on the Dubai Financial Market.

Air Arabia has been pushing ahead to expand in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak last year as low cost carriers bet on a post-pandemic surge in travel.

Its joint venture with Abu Dhabi state-owned Etihad Airways, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, began operations last year and has since expanded its network to 15 destinations to meet growing demand for budget travel from the capital.

Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Steve Orlofsky

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Delta Air Lines reported a second-quarter profit of more than $650 million Wednesday, breaking a five-quarter streak of losses. The turnaround is thanks to federal aid and the full return of leisure travel to 2019 levels. Delta describes this rush of passengers as “surprising” and “overwhelming.” 

​And Delta said while it is not having trouble staffing flights, its contractors have struggled to hire people to do things like preparing food and gassing up planes. 

When you fly, especially to or from a city that’s not a hub for a major airline, most of the folks you encounter won’t be employed by the airline that sold you your ticket, said airline industry analyst Robert W. Mann.

“That would include everything from the greeter that meets you at the curb, you know, with a wheelchair, to ticket agents, to baggage handlers and other services,” Mann said.

In the United States, airlines have been peeling off parts of their operations since the industry was deregulated in the late 1970s, according to Mann.

“And some of these companies were actually set up by the carriers themselves,” he said, adding that the idea there was for airlines to use nonunion workers at lower wages.

From a cost perspective, outsourcing still makes a lot of sense for airlines, said Michael Boyd, an airline industry consultant.

“The downside to that is some of those companies, they don’t pay very well. They don’t have benefits,” he said. “We’ve worked with a couple of them that pay $10 an hour, no benefits, work the flight and go home. Do you think that employee really gives a rip whether you fly that airline again? I don’t think so.”

Boyd said third-party contracts come up for renewal about every three years or so.

That gives airlines the chance to assess whether or not to bring certain elements of the flying experience back under their own corporate umbrellas, said Andrew Medland, a transportation analyst at Oliver Wyman.

“I think with a number of airlines, it’s a constant consideration. As they focus on both costs to deliver the operation, as well as their ability to have control over and to better manage to objectives, what it is they’re trying to do?” Medland said.

He said that the amount an airline outsources is cyclical and that airlines are more likely to look for cost savings when revenue is down because people aren’t flying. 

“Aer Lingus tells me they issued the refund and I have to call Orbitz. I got called back from Orbitz four hours after I called,” said Ms. Woolard a retired nurse from Winston-Salem, N.C. “I had to wait another hour to speak to someone. Orbitz said they cannot access my records and that I may not get the refund until the end of 2021,” more than 18 months after the flight was canceled. “I know the airlines are struggling, but you just feel so helpless,” she said.

The holdup in the refund, according to Nisreene Atassi, a company spokeswoman, stemmed from a glitch in the Orbitz computer system which rejected the refund because it had been authorized after the one-year expiration period. (After an inquiry by The Times, Ms. Woolard has now received her refund.)

To improve its customer service, Expedia has hired an additional 500 representatives for its companies to add to its 6,000 total across 30 countries, Mr. Singh said, but it takes three months to train them before they can do the job. Likewise, American Airlines said that it is hiring “hundreds” of customer service agents to deal with the increased call volume.

Expedia expects customers to see improvements soon. Its companies can now handle 80 percent of flight cancellation requests through its websites, up from 10 percent at the start of the pandemic. And by August, it expects to be able to answer 80 percent of its customer service calls within 20 seconds or less, Ms. Atassi said.

With more customer service representatives for the airlines and online travel agencies, wait times should begin to ease. For those who still can’t get satisfaction from either, Bill McGee, Consumer Reports’ aviation adviser, recommends that passengers contest the charges with their credit card issuer. “According to the Fair Credit Billing Act, you’re entitled to a refund if you don’t get goods and services,” Mr. McGee said. “Quite a few readers have gotten satisfaction this way.”

Both Mastercard and Visa require transaction disputes to be filed within 120 days of the original payment. But the price cannot be refunded if the original ticket was a nonrefundable fare, a Visa spokesperson said.

Even with the more-generous expiration dates, vouchers will still eventually expire and the customer will forfeit the amount if the voucher is not used. If specific circumstances prevent a customer from traveling by next spring, American Airlines will work with customers on an individualized basis, said Andrea Koos, a senior manager of corporate communications at American Airlines.

“Aer Lingus tells me they issued the refund and I have to call Orbitz. I got called back from Orbitz four hours after I called,” said Ms. Woolard a retired nurse from Winston-Salem, N.C. “I had to wait another hour to speak to someone. Orbitz said they cannot access my records and that I may not get the refund until the end of 2021,” more than 18 months after the flight was canceled. “I know the airlines are struggling, but you just feel so helpless,” she said.

The holdup in the refund, according to Nisreene Atassi, a company spokeswoman, stemmed from a glitch in the Orbitz computer system which rejected the refund because it had been authorized after the one-year expiration period. (After an inquiry by The Times, Ms. Woolard has now received her refund.)

To improve its customer service, Expedia has hired an additional 500 representatives for its companies to add to its 6,000 total across 30 countries, Mr. Singh said, but it takes three months to train them before they can do the job. Likewise, American Airlines said that it is hiring “hundreds” of customer service agents to deal with the increased call volume.

Expedia expects customers to see improvements soon. Its companies can now handle 80 percent of flight cancellation requests through its websites, up from 10 percent at the start of the pandemic. And by August, it expects to be able to answer 80 percent of its customer service calls within 20 seconds or less, Ms. Atassi said.

With more customer service representatives for the airlines and online travel agencies, wait times should begin to ease. For those who still can’t get satisfaction from either, Bill McGee, Consumer Reports’ aviation adviser, recommends that passengers contest the charges with their credit card issuer. “According to the Fair Credit Billing Act, you’re entitled to a refund if you don’t get goods and services,” Mr. McGee said. “Quite a few readers have gotten satisfaction this way.”

Both Mastercard and Visa require transaction disputes to be filed within 120 days of the original payment. But the price cannot be refunded if the original ticket was a nonrefundable fare, a Visa spokesperson said.

Even with the more-generous expiration dates, vouchers will still eventually expire and the customer will forfeit the amount if the voucher is not used. If specific circumstances prevent a customer from traveling by next spring, American Airlines will work with customers on an individualized basis, said Andrea Koos, a senior manager of corporate communications at American Airlines.



a group of people standing in front of a building: AAA estimates that 47.7 million Americans will travel for the July Fourth weekend. Thomas Pallini/Insider


© Thomas Pallini/Insider
AAA estimates that 47.7 million Americans will travel for the July Fourth weekend. Thomas Pallini/Insider

  • AAA estimates that 47.7 million Americans are expected to travel this holiday weekend.
  • The number of people traveling on airplanes has increased 164% compared to last year.
  • Hotel and car rental prices have increased as more people are gearing up to travel.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More than 2 million people passed through TSA checkpoints on Thursday, nearly tripling the number of travelers compared to 2020 and topping 2019 figures for the first time since the pandemic began.

AAA estimates that 47.7 million Americans will travel for the July Fourth weekend. 3.7 million of those people are expected to take to the skies increasing the number of travelers by 164% compared to last year.

“Travel is in full swing this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue travel opportunities they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half,” AAA said in a press release. “We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the kick-off of summer, and all indications now point to a busy Independence Day to follow.”

There were 37 million people estimated to travel during Memorial Day weekend, 2.7 million of those travelers choosing to fly instead of drive, AAA reports.

Travelers going by air this weekend may want to brush up on the many ways they can enhance the flying experience with early check-ins, apps for easy airport navigation, and more.

Prices are up

Airfare prices have decreased by 2% compared to last year, but hotel prices have jumped more than 30%, AAA says. Hotels aren’t the only prices that have increased, AAA found that daily car rental prices have increased by 86% compared to July Fourth last year.

AAA estimates that 43.6 million Americans are expected to travel by car this holiday weekend. But gas prices are expected to be the most expensive since 2014, “with the national average likely to remain above $3 per gallon,” AAA says.

“Higher gas prices won’t deter road trippers this summer. In fact, we’re expecting record-breaking levels of car travel this July Fourth,” AAA said. “Though prices will remain above $3 a gallon, travelers are likely to look for more free activities or eat out less, but still take their vacations as planned.”

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INDIANAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jul 1, 2021–

Under a new strategic workforce development relationship, Leadership in Flight Training (LIFT) Academy, a flight and aviation maintenance training school in Indianapolis, will send LIFT graduates to Cape Air in a flow program to provide Cape Air a talented pool of aviators to operate its daily passenger flights throughout their four regions in the Midwest, Montana, Caribbean and the Northeast.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210701005862/en/

This relationship enables LIFT Academy and Cape Air to promote workforce development in aviation and provide greater opportunity for pathways to commercial airline careers. Upon completion of their flight training at LIFT Academy, graduates will transition to a First Officer role at Cape Air until they are qualified to upgrade to Captain status. As Cape Air pilots, they will build invaluable flight experience, prior to flowing to Republic Airways, a commercial regional airline that operates daily passenger flights for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

“With LIFT’s subsidized tuition and direct flow to Cape Air and then to Republic Airways for its pilots, this comprehensive program will allow individuals with the skill and the passion for flight to make their dreams of flying a reality,” said Dana Donati, General Manager and Director of Academic Services at LIFT.

“This relationship will enhance our pilot sourcing initiative, an initiative that has been a significant focus for our company over the past 12 years,” said Cape Air President Linda Markham. “LIFT Academy’s graduates will have an opportunity to benefit from Cape Air’s rigorous training program while working toward ATP flight hour requirements. Additionally, Cape Air will have the opportunity to hire skilled pilots from LIFT, where they are trained with airline readiness through every flight hour leading to their transition to Cape Air.”

The relationship between LIFT Academy and Cape Air builds on existing synergies of the two aviation organizations. Donati is one of a few female aviation academy leaders in the country, and Markham serves as one of a few female presidents in the airline industry. Markham is the board chair for Women in Aviation International (WAI) and served as the first female board chair for the Regional Airline Association (RAA). Donati serves on the FAA’s Women in Aviation Advisor Board, which began in 2019 to provide advice and recommendations to the FAA in supporting women’s involvement in aviation.

In connection with the collaboration, LIFT Academy, through its parent company Lynx Aviation, has made a minority investment in Hyannis Air Service (d/b/a Cape Air) as an opportunity to broaden its workforce development initiatives with a strong strategic partner. LIFT’s mission since inception has been to broaden diversity within the cockpit and maintenance hangars. Traditional barriers to flight training and airline careers include cost and accessibility, and this workforce development relationship aims to remove those barriers for its participants. This strategic relationship creates a defined pathway for career progression, making aviation an attractive opportunity for those who may not have believed it to be possible before.

INDIANAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jul 1, 2021–

Under a new strategic workforce development relationship, Leadership in Flight Training (LIFT) Academy, a flight and aviation maintenance training school in Indianapolis, will send LIFT graduates to Cape Air in a flow program to provide Cape Air a talented pool of aviators to operate its daily passenger flights throughout their four regions in the Midwest, Montana, Caribbean and the Northeast.

This relationship enables LIFT Academy and Cape Air to promote workforce development in aviation and provide greater opportunity for pathways to commercial airline careers. Upon completion of their flight training at LIFT Academy, graduates will transition to a First Officer role at Cape Air until they are qualified to upgrade to Captain status. As Cape Air pilots, they will build invaluable flight experience, prior to flowing to Republic Airways, a commercial regional airline that operates daily passenger flights for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

“With LIFT’s subsidized tuition and direct flow to Cape Air and then to Republic Airways for its pilots, this comprehensive program will allow individuals with the skill and the passion for flight to make their dreams of flying a reality,” said Dana Donati, General Manager and Director of Academic Services at LIFT.

“This relationship will enhance our pilot sourcing initiative, an initiative that has been a significant focus for our company over the past 12 years,” said Cape Air President Linda Markham. “LIFT Academy’s graduates will have an opportunity to benefit from Cape Air’s rigorous training program while working toward ATP flight hour requirements. Additionally, Cape Air will have the opportunity to hire skilled pilots from LIFT, where they are trained with airline readiness through every flight hour leading to their transition to Cape Air.”

The relationship between LIFT Academy and Cape Air builds on existing synergies of the two aviation organizations. Donati is one of a few female aviation academy leaders in the country, and Markham serves as one of a few female presidents in the airline industry. Markham is the board chair for Women in Aviation International (WAI) and served as the first female board chair for the Regional Airline Association (RAA). Donati serves on the FAA’s Women in Aviation Advisor Board, which began in 2019 to provide advice and recommendations to the FAA in supporting women’s involvement in aviation.

In connection with the collaboration, LIFT Academy, through its parent company Lynx Aviation, has made a minority investment in Hyannis Air Service (d/b/a Cape Air) as an opportunity to broaden its workforce development initiatives with a strong strategic partner. LIFT’s mission since inception has been to broaden diversity within the cockpit and maintenance hangars. Traditional barriers to flight training and airline careers include cost and accessibility, and this workforce development relationship aims to remove those barriers for its participants. This strategic relationship creates a defined pathway for career progression, making aviation an attractive opportunity for those who may not have believed it to be possible before.

LIFT Academy opened as a flight training school in 2018 and


LEE COUNTY

Air travel has picked up again but the airline industry is struggling to keep up.

Pilots are in demand.

American Airlines is canceling almost 1,000 flights because of the shortage.

Katie Clagg is a flight instructor at Paragon Flight in Fort Myers. The academy, at Page Field, says it’s on pace for a record year in training students.

“It’s continuing to get busier and busier, I’ll tell you that,” said Katie Clagg, Paragon Flight instructor.

The fascination for flight has Paragon student Matthew Spychalski considering a career as an airline pilot.

“Ever since I was a kid I always found myself looking at airplanes flying around and you know guessing what kind of airplane it was, what airline, where it’s going,” Spychalski said.

The American Airlines flights canceled run through mid-July.

“Everyone needs to travel. I mean, there’s never going to be a time when we don’t need pilots,” said Cassie Thompson-Pride, also a Paragon Flight student.

Thompson-Pride, 18, is making it her mission to fly for the airlines by the time she’s 21.

“We need a lot of pilots, so the more we have the better,” Thompson-Pride said. “They’re getting trained at a great facility.”

Soon she and her fellow students will be cleared for take-off.

Paragon flight is expanding.

The academy is building a new maintenance facility and an 8,000 square-foot learning center.

It’s slated to be done next year.