Letters – July, 30 2002

Letters – July, 30 2002

No carrot for you?
I just finished reading your "Opening Remarks" challenging frequent flyer marketing experts to "convince me to fly more than last year (hint hint)." I agree. They just don’t seem to get it. For instance, last month I wrote to Customer Service at United Mileage Plus asking them for a promotion that I could and wanted to participate in. I got tired after I received my fourth postcard-type ad telling me that I could get a few extra miles if only I flew some place in F, C or full fare Y.

I wrote to them stating that who in their right mind today would pay 10 times as much for a full-fare ticket to anywhere just to get a few miles — especially when, without much advance notice, one can get a reasonably priced ticket? I suggested that if United allowed its employees to over spend by 10 times more for a product, the employee would be fired or the company would be bankrupt. (Maybe I have found out the source of their financial woes!) Nevertheless, they expect the average business flyer to willingly spend enormous sums of money when it is not necessary — and just to get an extra 5,000 miles! They do not seem to realize that the old fare structure is dying.

Just like the next frequent flyer, I have done my share of extra flying just to meet a requirement for a decent promotion, but even I have limits to what I will spend. I’ll bet that there are more and more frequent flyers like me. These days that means looking for a decent discount fare which still gives me full mileage — plus all other bonuses and benefits. As an aside, I also let my friends at United know that, even though I am a Million Mile Lifetime Premier Executive and Chicago native completely loyal to my hometown airline, even I have been lured to Midway Airport, which is only three miles from my home and business. Every major carrier except United and America West (US Airways is returning soon) serves Midway with reasonable fares.

At least through your editorial, I am glad to see that all the airlines, not just United, are not yet offering frequent flyers a reasonable challenge to fly more without breaking the bank.
Karl J. Walczak

Mexicana Madness
I recently obtained a "free" award from Mexicana. A one-way ticket (Mexico City-Merida) for which I was charged a total of MXP 452.14 (approximately US$47).

The charge was made up as follows:
TAX: 7.50 MXP
(separate receipt — this charge does not appear on the ticket)
TOTAL: 452.14 MXP

Not exactly "free" is it? If I had bought the ticket it would have cost me MXP 1572.24, so this "award" cost 28.75% of the cost of a full fare one way.

Do other Star members do this or is it only (as I suspect) Mexicana Airlines?
John Lawless

Mexicana responds: Thank you for taking time to bring to our attention your experience with Mexicana Airlines. Mexicana Airlines strives to provide our clients with quality customer care, which has resulted in many loyalties.

We are in receipt of your correspondence and upon review we noted the administrative charges assessed were duties collected by the government of the Mexican Republic. Please note that no carriers, including the members of Star Alliance, are able to waive payments of taxes collected by any governing body.

Once again, thank you for the time you have invested with Mexicana Airlines. We trust the efforts we make ensured your confidence in the ability of the Star Alliance to provide our clients with the attention they deserve.

We hope to welcome you onboard soon.
Adolfo Crespo
V.P. Public Affairs, Mexicana Airlines

Missing Stays
Recently I noticed that eight stays at a Fairfield Inn in California were not credited to my Marriott Rewards account. My Marriott Rewards number had been submitted at check-in each time and was on each of my receipts. Nearly a month ago I submitted missing stay requests per the procedure outlined on Marriott’s Web site and still no credit. When I talked with Marriott they said that stays booked through a travel agent (Travelocity and Orbitz specifically included) did not qualify for Marriott Rewards points. By email, Travelocity informed me that this information was not accurate. According to Travelocity, only stays booked at their "Good Buy" rate would not qualify for hotel points. My stays were generally at the AAA rate, which is by no means a deep discount. Who’s right here? The lady from Marriott seemed quite specific and certain about her information and there are no points in sight.
Joe Bishop

Editor’s note: A second call worked — Bishop spoke with a representative who personally ensured his points made it to his account. In fact, the last stay credited two days before we went to print.

Unfair Fare
I am writing to advise you of the action I have taken against British Airways here in the United Kingdom. As many of your readers are aware, British Airways only awards 25 percent of miles on discounted flights. Well, in recent months British Airways have cut many of their fares in the United Kingdom and from the United Kingdom to Europe. In May I flew from London Heathrow to Glasgow on business, returning the same day. I paid the new published fare, and expected to receive my full compliment of miles and Executive Club points. However, I only got 25 percent of the miles and no Executive Club points, and when I queried this with British Airways I was told that it was a discounted fare and therefore only qualified for the reduced mileage award. I argued that I had paid the new published fare, and that it could not be considered a discounted fare.

Needless to say I got nowhere with British Airways. However I was not prepared to let the matter go unresolved. So my next step was to speak to my local Government Trading Standards office, who investigate, and if necessary, prosecute individuals or companies who break our consumer laws and regulations. I have passed them all my supporting evidence, including a copy of the British Airways Executive Club handbook, and after some investigation they have informed me that they will be raising my complaint with British Airways. I will keep you advised of the outcome, although I have been told that it may take some time.
Tristram Carter

Northwest Policy
Six months ago I booked a flight to England with Northwest Airlines. A month ago I had to cancel the flight. I was told that no refund was possible, I could only use my paid fare on a more expensive trip at sometime in the future, and that I could not receive any credit voucher, or proof that I had ever purchased a ticket from NWA. Is this usual airline policy, or just another NWA user friendly custom?
Howard Smale

Editor’s note: We spoke with Jodie Kite at our in-house travel agency: "If the ticket was non-refundable, that would be why the airline said there would be no refund. The basic rule on a discounted, non-refundable, international ticket is that if you do not use the ticket at all, it will be valid towards the purchase of another ticket within one year of original purchase date with a penalty (normally $150), but many fares require that you upgrade to the next highest fare on your next purchase.

You will not receive a travel voucher, but you can go to any Northwest city ticket office or Northwest ticket counter at an airport, and they will print an electronic ticket receipt for your original ticket, which will only provide proof that you actually purchased the original ticket. You may even be able to go to the Northwest Airlines Web site, access your reservation and print your own receipt if you want proof of purchase.

The good news is that the ticket can still be used within one year of its purchase and is not a total loss. That’s a great deal considering it was a non-refundable ticket."

More AA Angst
Aargh! The new AA.com is horrible. On each submission, my computer locks up for about a minute processing the change. I have not yet been able to buy a ticket, I always get "This feature is temporarily unavailable." And, of course, there’s no way to tell them about it, since they don’t list an email, and the "web services" phone number tells me I’ll be on hold for 18 minutes (no, I won’t…).
The form doesn’t always send the login information over a secure link (usually, but not always).
Mike Nolan

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