In the mid-1980s, United Airlines decided that it was time to consolidate the travel industry. The CEO, Richard Ferris, felt that he could achieve massive economies of scale by buying up hotels and a rental car agency, allowing consumers to book their entire vacation with one telephone call (For my younger readers, a “telephone” is a pre-internet device that allowed individuals to communicate by speaking with each other.). He named the company Allegis”* and sent it on its merry way. Sadly, he didn’t have the finances to pull it off, and the new conglomerate fell apart in under a year.
So now, hotels and airlines have started alliances with each other. Starwood works with Delta. MGM works with Hyatt. Marriott and United work together. The partnerships allow you to earn points and enjoy elite benefits reciprocally.
The New Method
Today, Marriott announced a slight change to its benefits with United. Currently, Marriott customers with its top-tier Platinum status can get Premier Silver elite status from United. It’s the lowest elite status on United, but it does get you free bags and the possibility, albeit slight, of getting an upgrade.
Now, however, Platinum Premier members at Marriott get Gold Premier status at United. What’s is Platinum Premier status at Marriott, you may ask. It refers to the double secret probation status that Marriott offers to its very top Platinum members. You can’t earn the status; it has to be awarded for you. But until now, it actually had no discernible benefit over traditional Platinum status. As of today, however, those who have been granted Marriott’s super-secret Platinum Premier status now get United Gold elite status, its second-lowest tier. You’ll have a better shot at an upgrade and more luggage benefits, but the best new benefit is that you’ll get lounge access internationally.
It’s not much, but it’s something. And it’s certainly better than Allegis.
*There appears to be a rule in corporate spin-offs and consolidations that each company must come up with a more ridiculous name than the last. In fact, failed businessman and six-time bankruptee Donald Trump (Whatever happened to him, anyway?) said the name “Allegis” sounded like a disease.
Fortunately for Allegis, Philip Morris spun out its US tobacco business and called it Altria, which was supposedly the Latin word for “high (Sorry, Altria, its your competitors products that do that.),” although many people cynically believe that the name was chosen to associate the company with the positive world “altruism.”
It gets worse. When Kraft food spun out its snack division, it called the new entity “Mondelez” which translates as “world of delicious” in no language whatsoever (but sound good).
Bottom line: Allegis can now hide its shame behind several of its spin-off descendants.
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