Letters – August, 14 2002

Letters – August, 14 2002

Double Hit to Diners
It may be all well and good that Diners Club has decided to impose a charge to “cover costs” associated with converting points into airline miles. But right on the heels of this change came the announcement that its annual fee was increasing from $80 to $95 (a leap of close to 20 percent). One would think that the new “user’s fees” for mile conversions would have enabled Citibank to go easier on the annual fee hike. This double hit to cardholders has greatly diminished the overall attractiveness of the Diners Club program.
-Richard A. Duffy

Read the Rules First
I *strongly* disagree with your rating of the American AAdvantage program.

I’m a French resident. I discovered the existence of “frequent flyer” programs in the summer of 2001. Nevertheless I should achieve elite status on KLM/Northwest and United Mileage plus within three weeks, and Blue or Red status on Air France by next month following two trips to China. Most of my past flights where made with American Airlines, including for year 2000, four roundtrips to Europe or the United States, one roundtrip North/South America, two coast-to-coast flights and approximately five domestic flights. I was therefore given a suggestion by an American Airlines staff member to register to AAadvantage, which I did in Sao Paulo, back to New York. I then sent all my original tickets to the AAdvantage desk, asking them to credit my miles.

Guess what? It took them two letters to send me a reply. American AAdvantage customer service said I could only get 6 000 miles. They didn’t even include the Sao Paulo NY flight. I told them I would never *ever* fly again with American Airlines and I haven’t been since.

I will be elite with three different programs instead of a higher rank if I stuck with a single program. In fact, sticking to American Airlines would have been easier for me, but I have somehow a “pride” feeling that prevents me from using a deceptive airline again, even if doing that is less useful or will cost me more.

In the past, Air Canada also refused to credit me a flight – the first and last flight I did with them since I have never used Air Canada again, even if it means accumulating some ten thousands of miles in accounts I will never use (like Alitalia, British Airways, Swissair Qualiflyer – never mind, they will go to charities.)

When some airlines, especially American Airlines and Air Canada will understand that treating customers badly will not get them additional dollars, I may fly with them again. Forgetting what they did will take a long time.
-Guylhem Aznar

Editor’s note:
This could be a case of misunderstanding the program rules. The American AAdvantage program rules clearly state that two weeks of retroactive credit is allowed. Your 6,000 miles are most likely from this period. Some programs such as United Airlines do not allow any retroactive credit.

Reward to the End
I have been Platinum since you started that category and was Gold with Continental 10 years in a row before that.

In redeeming international business class rewards on Continental, the problem has been the same for 14 years … we in D.C. never get our final segment home to DC from Newark in business/first class. You always give us coach only on the D.C.-Newark segments, even though we have “paid” (redeemed) for first/business.

Thus, again last month, my family flew on Continental out to Australia and back on business awards (120,000 miles each, times four tickets, is equal to 480,000 miles from my account). But, as in all past years, we were told months and months ago that “we cannot clear you in first class for the last segment of your trip, from Newark to D.C. … and they said, as they always have said through the years, “but don’t worry, you’ll be on a Platinum member’s priority standby list and I’m sure you’ll get your four first class seats.” This year, I said, but wait – we never clear that “list” – you never even try … to which they said, oh no, you are all on priority wait list.

Again this year, we did not get our first class seats for the last segment of our roundtrip business tickets … in fact, when we left Tokyo for Newark and then down to D.C., the Continental agent in Tokyo told us: “Well, Mr. Thompson, you have been upgraded to first because of your Platinum status but your three family members are only “booked in coach.” Hello????? Booked in coach? Did we redeem coach or did we redeem business?

I must say, this unique D.C. problem is not encountered on Delta or American or British Airways when we have redeemed for business class roundtrip tickets on those airlines … when you get a roundtrip business class ticket on those airlines, you get a roundtrip ticket in business (or first) from your origin and back home again – all the way home again.

I have put up with this for over ten years, saying to myself “what the heck, it’s only an hour flight” – but never getting my family confirmed in first for the segments between D.C. and Newark (in either direction) even though we have redeemed for a roundtrip, business class ticket? You guys always book those segments in coach and tell us that we will clear – but they never do, and this time the agent in Tokyo was honest enough to tell us that my family was not even waitlisted (even though I had been told that before we left). She said, “your family is only booked in coach.”

So, does this mean that, for D.C. residents, we will redeem for international business but will always have to accept coach between D.C. and Newark? (That sounds to me like an unfair business practice under FTC rules.) If so, why should D.C. travelers stay loyal to Continental, when all other airlines will honor a redemption for business class ticket from D.C. to wherever and back to D.C. in business or first?

Please give me a reasoned response so that I don’t have to take this matter to higher levels inside Continental and at Department of Transport/FTC.

(And please, in your response, give me the name of the Vice President at Continental who has direct responsibility for One Pass at this time.)

(I am trying to stay loyal to Continental despite how hard that is in D.C.).
-Robert Thompson

Editor’s note:
This letter was sent to Continental Airlines.

Diluted Value
I have noticed that United has been watering down the value of its car rental vouchers (those you get if you cash in some miles for an award) for quite some time by shortening the validity, by reducing the number of certificates that can be used at one time and by switching from free weekend days to simply upgrades for some rental companies. They just made another move and now all vouchers are only good for upgrades, which are worth about a dollar a day and thus not worth the trouble of keeping track of them.

I seem to remember having seen a report about other airlines (American?) eliminating such vouchers altogether, but only since Sept. 11. However, American was up front about this, while United tries to sneak these changes by their frequent flyers without ever telling them.

I do not recall ever seeing any story on this in Inside Flyer.
-Peter Brebach

Letters To The Editor
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