Letters – November, 22 2002

Letters – November, 22 2002

Prepared Flyer: Leave My Elite Rules Alone
I have earned my Premier Executive status with United Airlines several years in a row. Although there have been a few mean flight attendants and an occasional delay (none since 9/11), I am quite satisfied with the service, particularly the Economy Plus, as I am 6 feet 4 inches tall.

Your recent comments suggest that airlines may eliminate or revise the rules for Elite travelers. I find that to be bad business. Those of us that travel 5000 miles a month cost them much less than the other passengers and cause the fewest problems. If I have to use a person to check in, the process is done in less than 15 seconds. Rarely do I check baggage or eat the food. If I want a beer, I’ll bring exact change. Flying across the country is a great opportunity to catch up on paperwork, professional journals, classes, etc.
Neil Johnson

I Want My Amtrak
Three issues ago you published my letter asking why you didn’t publish anything recently about Amtrak Guest Rewards program, even though it doesn’t have the ugly airline capacity controls and has many ongoing promotions. The reply indicated that you would mention the program. The last two issues haven’t even mentioned the program. Is it embarrassing to the airlines to have a program without capacity controls or that Amtrak’s service in the Northeast is more comfortable than the airlines?

What gives?
Pesach Kremen

Editor’s Note: Pesach, you must start reading the magazine a little more closely. Three issues ago, we wrote about Amtrak’s two-for-one offer on travel to Europe with Icelandair; in the last issue, we lavished praise on the Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card; and in this issue we even write some more. I might kid you that that is enough words about Guest Rewards to last a year; however, if there is news that we feel is relevant to our readers earning miles and points, we’ll print it.

Inside Flyer’s New Reader Profile Gets Mileage Junkie Stirred Up
I was so excited to see the new addition to the magazine (Reader Profile).
This really gets a mileage junkie stirred up. I really began to see the potential of this segment as I read it. I found myself reading along and smiling because I was identifying with this guy. You realize as a mileage junkie that you are not alone. It brought about some support for my lifestyle of getting miles for everything. One of the great things that I have been blessed with is that because of all of these miles, I have had the opportunity to fly friends and family on trips of a lifetime, and also help out in difficult situations in which people needed to be somewhere but couldn’t afford the ticket.

I hope to see this new addition to the magazine around for a long time. Thanks for continuing to add to an already great magazine, that is, around my home, the number-one eagerly anticipated publication every month.
Ron Roads

Reader To Reader: Elite Status Programs Are About Perks, and the Right To Extort Freebies From Airlines Isn’t One of Them
I am writing in response to a letter which ran in the October issue from a Mr. Mike McDonald. In his letter, Mr. McDonald praises American Airlines for excellent customer service after they gave him a refund on an already-purchased ticket, as well as for allowing him to use an upgrade certificate on seats that were not for upgrades.

The non-upgradeable seats were clearly presented to Mr. McDonald as such both verbally and in writing, but apparently English is not Mr. McDonald’s first language, as he didn’t understand this and felt it necessary to push the airline until he got his way.

And that was not enough.

After having purchasing his ticket at a discounted fare, the airfare for his flight was further reduced, and he used his Executive Platinum status to bully AA into refunding him the difference.

Mr. McDonald, when you make any purchase, you do so with the knowledge that the price may drop in the future. If you can afford to risk losing the item all together, you wait and see if the price goes down before you buy. If you can’t wait, you pay the asking price, fully aware that you may be paying more than the customer who waits until tomorrow to buy the same item. It’s a very simple concept, and one businesses rely on in order to make money.

Elite status programs are about perks, and the right to extort freebies from airlines isn’t one of them. Such extortion is bad manners in any economy; in this economy, it’s downright nasty. So, Mr. McDonald, exactly how many kids did you beat up in junior high so you could have a free lunch?
William Rockess

Unkept Promises by NWA and Sprint
I’ve experienced little but maddening problems in dealing with Northwest Airlines recently. I’ve been a member of their WorldPerks program for many years.

Last year I joined their nwa.com club and seldom even heard from them (by e-mail or any other way). I nevertheless decided to renew this year, even though, typical of their competency level and poor business sense, they didn’t even bother advising me that the membership had expired. (When I later commented on that, they said it’s not their policy to do that).

In anticipation of a trip to Europe next year, I wanted to use NWA’s Web site (which supposedly afforded points for booking award travel) to book that trip.

Their Web site wouldn’t give the choices promised, and drove me around in circles trying to get what was promised in the way of reduced points needed for the trip, discounts promised by my nwa.com membership, etc.

As time went on, I discovered that NWA had-seemingly without sending any notices to me-increased the restrictive times and amount of miles needed for my trip. (I thought their many months of silence on the subject to be a very poor and improper way of treating customers.)

When I got in touch with a live customer service person, they stated they would not give the two mileage-discounts afforded me: they’d allow only the lesser of the two reductions (available to any WorldPerks member booking award travel online in September), rather than the larger discount I’d paid for via my nwa.com club membership. There was no explanation given except the archetypal cop-out that it was policy (which, by the way, was conveniently hidden in fine print and the like).

Trying to build up more miles in my account, I called Sprint (with whom I’d been earning points from NWA for years via my home long-distance service).

Talking to Sprint’s customer service department, I made it clear that it was vital that I be earning WorldPerks points for initiating new service with them.

The first representative detailed that I’d get 500 points immediately upon activating service, then 2,500 points within the first 12 weeks and 2,500 more points after six months. Plus, I’d earn five points per dollar spent. All this seemed to match basic info I’d had previously.

When I got home from work the evening of 10/29, I found my first bill from Sprint PCS. When I saw no mention of any link to WorldPerks, I called customer service and was put on a lengthy hold.

When the representative came back, she said they were no longer offering any points with NWA! I pointed out I’d been told precisely the opposite when I’d agreed to start service with them, and their position was unacceptable — if I wasn’t getting the promised points, I didn’t want the service.

Her supervisor reiterated that there was nothing she could do to get any miles, and tried to blame the initial rep for not checking in the right place when promising me the miles.

When she stated that the mileage program with NWA had supposedly ended last March, I pointed out it certainly shouldn’t take seven months to get that message to their people!

She finally said she’d void out the entire amount of charges made to my account.

Why is it that so much of our dealings with companies nowadays are so fraught with incompetence and seemingly never-ending hassles at getting what’s promised to us?! Why is everything a fight to simply get what we deserve?!

I’m getting increasingly weary dealing with entities such as NWA and Sprint — but I feel they need to have a line drawn and be confronted about their lousy activities and poor business sense.
Thanks for your time and listening!
Jim Chudnow

Editor’s Note: We on the other hand have had nothing but acceptable service on a few different issues involving miles and Sprint. We’ll see what we can do to help this reader. With Sprint no longer associated with WorldPerks, it does make for a difficult task, but we’re up to it. But there might be a caveat. Northwest WorldPerks left Sprint to return to MCI. With the tumble of MCI, might Sprint be back in the picture?

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