Better Dining Reservation Ability via Capital One and American Express
For years Amex has positioned themselves as not only a financial partner, but a lifestyle company. Their acquisitions, partnerships, and offers fully reflect this commitment, and from their acquisition of Resy earlier this year they are finally rolling out the ability to make exclusive restaurant reservations. In early 2020 Centurion and Platinum cardholders will be able to make reservations directly through the Amex app. There will be about 10,000 restaurants available to book when the system goes live and the the space currently available by calling the Amex Concierge will be able to be booked via the app.
Capital One has gone a step further and has partnered with OpenTable to offer exclusive reservations for their cardholders for weekend dining in 15 cities. Those cities are currently:
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- New Orleans
- New York City
- San Francisco
To find the participating restaurants and make reservations, go to www.opentable.com/capitalone.
While Amex has gone and made their current exclusive availability easier for cardholders to book, Capital One has created new opportunities for card members and thus should be viewed as a much bigger deal. These are both great additions and hopefully Capital One will continue to expand the value it offers to its customers.
Major Changes to Amex Centurion Card, a Potential Product Gap Created and the Amex Business Platinum Loses Benefits
As an invitation only charge card, the Centurion Card from American Express probably isn’t on most people’s radar as a realistic option in this hobby. However, some major changes to the card may have potentially opened the door for something new. First, the changes. The sticker shock on this card has gotten even larger as the initiation fee will increase from $7,500 to $10,000 and the annual fee will increase from $2,500 to $5,000. The bad news is that the card is losing the Gogo Wireless passes, the Boingo Wireless membership, and the $200 annual airline fee credit. The GOOD news is that the added benefits are quite handsome, assuming you live in the right geographic area.
The Centurion Card will be adding a $250 quarterly credit to Saks Fifth Avenue, similar to the $50 semi-annual credit available to Platinum Card holders. Additionally CLEAR membership is included for the card holder, a value of $259 per year. The potential value limitation here is if your home airport or airports which you frequent don’t have CLEAR lines to use. Most major airports do have these and we are starting to see more stadiums and arenas being outfitted with the kiosks. In my opinion, the most interesting of the benefits is the Equinox membership. For those that aren’t familiar, Equinox is a super-trendy luxury fitness company that owns well-known outfits like PURE Yoga and SoulCycle. Starting in 2020, Centurion Card holders will have access to Equinox Fitness via their complimentary annual membership. There are only around 100 Equinox Fitness gyms around the US, so this again is where the geographical limitation to the value comes into play, but normally this membership would set you back $500 in initiation fees, and $300 per month. If you live somewhere like New York City though, this could offer a lot of value.
What strikes me those most about these changes is that there is now a much wider gap between the Platinum Card and Centurion Card in terms of fees (moves from ~5x to ~10x the cost). This potentially allows American Express to position a new card right around that $2,500 (5x Platinum annual fee) mark. American Express has been doing so much this year to drive the “lifestyle” brand that it offers, and this would be another great opportunity for them to target another market segment.
Just as the Centurion Card axed the Gogo and Boingo Wireless benefits, the Business Platinum card will follow suit as American Express is ending those partnerships as of January 1, 2020. Over the years I have gotten a lot of value out of these partnerships, with free wifi in many public locations around the world thanks to Boingo and for a decent allotment of annual Gogo passes for in-flight Wifi. While the Business Platinum retains many great benefits and credits, the loss of these two stings quite a bit.
Can A Credit Card Be Sexist?
In short, as an inanimate object, it really cannot be sexist – but perhaps the algorithm that assigns credit lines on said card can be. I do enjoy making fun of the Apple Card (remember, it shouldn’t be stored in wallets, pockets, or next to other cards!), but this latest development is actually concerning. Credit decisioning is somewhat of a black box for customers (and even a lot of customer service reps) – we may have a sense of where we fall on a credit worthiness scale, but we rarely know exactly how a company weighs data like number of cards opened, utilization, stated income, age, etc.
In early November reports popped up on Twitter and other sources that couples were seeing instances where males were receiving 10-20x the credit lines as their female counterparts. While Goldman Sachs, the issuer of the card has said that gender plays no role in credit decision making, Apple, along with New York’s Department of Financial Services is investigating these consumer claims. We would love to hear if any of our readers have experienced anything like this with the new Apple card.
LATAM to Leave Oneworld
As expected, with the 20% stake in LATAM purchased by Delta, LATAM has announced that it will be leaving Oneworld on October 1, 2020. While there is still no conclusive evidence that LATAM will join SkyTeam, this is still a major loss for Oneworld and American Airlines. LATAM will be a close partner with Delta, much like Virgin Atlantic and WestJet. It is important to note that neither Virgin Atlantic nor WestJet are SkyTeam members.
This loss creates a major hole in the route network for Oneworld airlines in South America and certainly helps bolster Delta’s position on the continent. A lot is still unknown and it will be interesting to see how Oneworld and American Airlines respond.
Boeing Expects 737-MAX Aircraft to Return to Service in 2020
Boeing has not gotten the best press lately and the handling of the 737-MAX situation has been pretty terrible. They currently expect the FAA to clear the planes to return to commercial flight in January, we have already had this anticipated date pushed back, so another delay wouldn’t be a surprise. The bigger challenge for Boeing will be the longer term public relations impact of the groundings along with decreased confidence from potential buyers. My hope from this situation is that the FAA allows less self-reporting and self-regulating from manufacturers and that return to seeing innovation from the US’ largest aircraft manufacturer.
Hyatt Joins the No Single Use Club
We discussed both Marriott and IHG phasing out single use toiletry items in their properties and now Hyatt has confirmed that it will do the same. The target date for the completion of this transition is June of 2021.
On top of the replacement of single use toiletries, Hyatt will be moving away from bottled water in meeting/event space and will be installing more water stations for filling reusable bottles to encourage guests to make sustainable choices. The CEO of Hyatt, Mark Hoplamazian had this to say about their corporate shift:
“At Hyatt, our purpose – we care for people so they can be their best – guides all business decisions, including our global sustainability framework, which focuses on using resources responsibly and helping address today’s most pressing environmental issues. Plastic pollution is a global issue, and we hope our efforts will motivate guests, customers and, indeed, ourselves to think more critically about our use of plastic.”
Air France Retires its First A380
This past month Air France retired its first of its 10 A380s. The plan is to have all of the planes retired by 2022. The planes have only been flying in Air France’s fleet since 2009, but they just don’t fit the airline’s plans going forward. The A380 is expensive to operate and maintain and requires larger and different gate configurations and longer runways to safely operate. With other options such as the 787 and the A350, more efficient routings can be made without needing to operate a hub-and-spoke system as is done by Emirates in Dubai. I truly love the A380 and am sad to see them slowly go, but to be honest, Air France never did anything interesting with theirs. The 777 offers a more private first class experience and unlike Etihad or Emirates they didn’t offer any innovative experiences on the A380 like a bar or showers.
Stories such as these will become more common as the last A380 is scheduled to be delivered in 2021 and from then we can expect to see the fleet numbers dwindle quickly as airlines around the world switch to more fuel efficient aircraft.