The Heat is Off

The Heat is Off

In a reaction to massive public outcry, US Airways has rescinded its plan that would not have allowed the majority of US Airways flyers to earn frequent flyer miles on non-refundable tickets.

The retraction came just 11 days after the airline first announced the changes. Over that period, other airlines have duplicated changes made by US Airways with regard to standby fees and non-refundable policies, but those airlines stopped short of copying the elite-level policy changes – leaving US Airways alone to face the heat.

“Obviously (the absence of similar policy changes from other airlines) made a difference,” said Mike Isom, the director of marketing programs for US Airways. “It does tend to make you non competitive in a sense.”

The financially struggling airline also maintains it was responding to customer backlash. More than 1,000 angry customers called, emailed and sent notes to US Airways threatening to stop flying the airline after it initially announced miles would be awarded based on money spent.

“I love US Air, but I will leave you if you proceed down this path,” wrote Rosemary Lavoie, a Chairman’s Preferred member in a letter to B. Ben Baldanza, senior vice president of marketing for the airline. “Never forget, Delta, Northwest and Continental would love to welcome me aboard…”

News of the Sept. 6 decision to rescind the changes was met with applause from both those who threatened to end their loyalty with the Virginia-based airline and those who hadn’t complained, Isom said in an interview with Inside Flyer. Isom also said the company received about 150 compliments from customers.

“The company,” Isom said, “admits it made a mistake.”

Back in August, US Airways executives said the change was a reaction to the growing number of business travelers who stopped paying full-price for tickets and are opting for restrictive tickets with low-price fares. Many business travelers maintain their hands were tied when it came to purchasing tickets.

Isom told Inside Flyer that the company does understand that times have changed and many business travelers are no longer permitted to purchase the refundable, high-fare tickets at the last minute. When the letters and notes started pouring into the company headquarters after the changes were announced – and US Airways subsequently reviewed the customer’s travel history – company officials began to realize that many of its best customers would be hurt by the changes.

“Obviously we heard from a lot of our customers,” Isom said.

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