Letters – October, 25 2002

Letters – October, 25 2002

Continental Snubs Elites
A few issues ago you recommended that I keep Continental as my primary carrier. I tried to get four BusinessFirst seats in July or August to Hawaii for my family. There was nothing available on Continental using miles or miles and money, even though I was totally flexible and was planning 10 months in advance. They wanted me to use double miles, 120,000, for one seat!

So I went to American, which promptly accommodated me. Continental is getting so restrictive that even if you have the miles you cannot use them. They are not that good of an airline to treat their customers — especially elites — that way for long.
Patrick Greenough

Cumbersome Star Alliance System Handled Well
Kudos to Lufthansa for their prompt and sympathetic response to my complaint about the frustrating and unfriendly customer system of obtaining upgrades with United miles.

I wrote Katja Lemberg, general manager of marketing, Lufthansa North America, and outlined the hoops one has to go through to obtain confirmation: 1) Call Lufthansa to make booking at H class fare without obtaining guarantee of upgrade. 2) Call back for ticket numbers necessary before contacting the United awards desk. 3) Contact United, which immediately deducts miles and sends a computer message to Lufthansa requesting upgrade but insists that the passenger call back to recheck if confirmed rather than the airline doing the contacting.

Needless to say, the system entails long waits to reach an agent — some 30 minutes for each Lufthansa call and up to 15 minutes with United. It is a most discouraging experience to say the least and it is totally inconsiderate of the passenger. The total time spent was 140 minutes.

After a five-day run-around, I wrote to Ms. Lemberg who immediately obtained confirmation and agreed that the system was cumbersome and forwarded my complaint to the Star Alliance group, which is presently trying to make the upgrade procedure seamless between member carriers. Let’s hope they succeed.

Ms. Lemberg wrote that, in appreciation for bringing the problems to her attention — and in a bid to maintain loyalty to Star Alliance — she enclosed two duty free vouchers (value Euro 50) to use on board. Although that was quite an unnecessary gesture, nevertheless, it will be put to good use.
Derek David Gollan

Irked with United’s “Lifetime” Death
My wife and I have been devoted United Airlines customers and have been Executive Premier members for many years. When Silver Wings program was established by United in the early 80s, I took a lifetime membership for $150 and I was issued a card that gave me and a companion 10 percent discount on all published fares.

About two years ago, United stopped that perk on international flights, and now they are not offering it on any flights. They told me that they have a right to deny an agreement.

How can they promise a lifetime and decide to cancel? What’s next, Red Carpet Lifetime Agreement?

I would appreciate any information you can give me on this matter. Has anyone instituted a class action suit with this problem?
Raymond Morris

The Royal Treatment?
(Regarding Continental’s changes that won’t allow for first-class upgrade with OnePass miles).

This is the most demeaning and prejudiced thing I have heard of so far from an airline, but what’s new? They think we’re all just a bunch of nobodies unless we’re rich and can afford their outrageous first-class prices. This is America. There are not any kings and queens. Further, all people are created equal. And if not, then, please let me see you create another earth and place it in the air and maybe then I might worship egotists.
Russell Dusablon

No Reason to Stay with Continental Now
I am noticing that Continental has already made it nearly impossible to upgrade to first class with OnePass miles. Just because seats are available does not mean that they can be upgraded. Continental has “revenue” and “non-revenue” first class seats. And it seems like all first class seats have now been deemed “revenue.”

I have been a loyal flyer on Continental for the past six years. It is
convenient for me (Newark), and they fly to the destinations that I often go to. I also get OnePass miles in any way that I can (Through AMEX Membership Rewards, Continental Visa, Flower Club, and of course by flying Continental).

On at least two of my longer trips per year, I like to upgrade to first class with my OnePass miles. This really hasn’t been a problem over the past few years. But it seems like things have changed dramatically. First class upgrades are hard to come by. I cannot find a reason to fly Continental over any other airline at this point. My best bet is to find the cheapest fare.
Anthony Bevelacqua

Customer for Sale
I am a frequent flyer with several airlines and they seem to have misplaced their loyalty to me. I know I am not a bad person; I fly in their crowded planes, I even say thank you for the three or four peanuts I get in first class.
I want an airline that appreciates my business. At least AirTran sells me seats in first for $25. Even Spirit added upgraded seats for $40. Hell, it seems I now need 200,000 miles with some airlines for an upgrade, plus a $75 administrative charge.

Customer for sale: Cheap
Gary Parish

IF Too Mainstream for Brancatelli?
It was a mistake to publish Joe Brancatelli’s opinion on Continental Airlines and its CEO in the latest issue of Inside Flyer. Apart from its simplistic analysis, the articles tone was rude and inappropriate for the mainstream publication you’ve become. Mr. Brancatelli’s angry column is out of place in the balanced and informative publication your readers have come to expect.
P. Koutsenko

Business Traveler Wants Boarding Perks on Southwest
As a very frequent flyer sometimes we come across hidden gems that we want to share with others. It’s probably time to share the Southwest Airlines secret especially with their push to try and increase their share of the business travel market.

I am a United 1K member and was recently a Northwest Airlines Platinum member but due to a technicality, I had my status with NWA non-renewed. Ever since the events of last Sept. 11, I found taking a trip and getting home was far more important to me than an upgrade. United made it easy for me as they took their jet fleet out of Birmingham, Ala. and replaced it with affiliate commuter carriers.

With my Southwest increased business came an incredible perk. I have Companion Pass status which means my designated companion of choice (changeable three times a year) can travel wherever I go on SWA free for one year. This is an unbelievable benefit and with my Starwood Platinum, they are the two best perks I get!

But with my Southwest travel, of course, come some negatives. Its boarding procedure is exhausting. However, if you play your cards right and can be among the first boarding group, then normally a choice seat is yours to be had. But Southwest just made our boarding life a bit more difficult by changing boarding groups from the first 30 to the first 45. As a business traveler, the one thing we want more than anything else is control, and Southwest has now wrestled some of that away from us with multiple boarding pass outlets!

Southwest Airlines is one small step away from the ideal frequent flyer program. My award tickets and Companion Pass status are indeed treasured. I have suggested to them on countless occasions the creation of an elite boarding status. Right now, the only people who are able to pre-board are the handicapped and those traveling with children. I don’t have a problem with that. However, the pre-board process is abused and flawed. At multiple airports, Southwest has been told that anyone whom claims to have a disability must be allowed to pre-board with no questions asked. At times, the pre-boarding line is larger than the first boarding group and it’s always comforting to see someone who is pre-boarding because of an alleged disability sitting in the exit row!

Southwest would have my business forever with one simple, easy move. Let all Companion Pass members (100 points in a given 12 month period) have elite pre-boarding privileges. Make them check in at the gate 30 minutes before departure time to ensure the credentials. Every airline has an elite boarding process. Southwest is the only one that doesn’t. Come on Southwest, just take this one final step to being a perfect carrier: Do not stray from the elite-qualifying requirement. It’s Companion Card status or nothing. Let me have some comfort that I can get close to the seat I want. You need more customers like me. You are so close to having me never consider another domestic carrier, and I can assure you those business travelers who have never considered SWA will now not only take a second look but probably a first trip as well!
Roy Berger

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *