Letters – December, 03 2002

Letters – December, 03 2002

The Frequent Flyer Versus The Frequent Buyer
What ever happened to the original concept of earning miles for flights flown? With all the partners joining the frequent flyer programs, from hotels to flower purveyors, how do airlines really keep track of who flies often and who actually never flies but has thousands of miles? I have top elite status with four airlines: United, British Airways, Emirates and Malaysia. Recently, I called United to redeem an award for two free first class tickets to Hong Kong (240,000 miles). Of course the flights were not available. I have earned over 2 million miles on United simply by flying. No hotel bonus, no credit card bonus, just good old fashioned flying (I do get bonus miles for all hotel stays, car rental, etc., but have those credited to my British Airways account). I spoke with a supervisor and insisted she pull my record and look at how I earned my miles (first class every month between New York and Asia) the supervisor was quite efficient and gave me the award I wanted. There must be a way for airlines to recognize how people earn their miles and give priority to those who do what the programs were designed for … fly a lot.
-Jeff Rosenthal

Editor’s note: A United spokesperson responds: Thank you for forwarding the letter from the customer asking how we recognize members who earn their Mileage Plus miles by flying. I’m happy to hear that the customer’s award request was accommodated.

The Mileage Plus program has grown over the last 20 years to include over 100 partners that provide a wide variety of earning opportunities toward award travel. These additional earning opportunities enrich the value of the program for our members.

Our most loyal flyers are rewarded with elite membership status. Paid flight activity on United and Star Alliance flights count toward Premier status. When members earn that status, they receive additional recognition, bonuses, and priorities that make their flying experiences easier and more rewarding.

How Strict is Starwood?
Love the Starwood Free Fridays and Saturdays promotion. Read about the unusual requirement that the free night charges have to be paid with the American Express card. Question: How are they going to enforce this? So many of us earn the award with business stays, which are paid with the corporate American Express — and we certainly will not want to use it on the weekends.
-Adam Schaffer

Editor’s note: Chances are this has something to do with their announcement of a new Starwood credit card from American Express. While we often think of American Express as a corporate expenses card, it seems that Delta, Hilton and some of the rest think of it as a consumer card, thus the Optima Platinum cards and such. Strange requirement, but given the new use bonus with the Starwood card, maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

Delta Does Not Deliver
(This letter was addressed to Leo Mullin, C.E.O. of Delta Air Lines)

On June 8, with a return on June 23, my wife and I flew Business Elite from Phoenix to London/Gatwick. On both outgoing and return portions of the international legs, we were disappointed at service that was well below the normal standards I have come to expect from Delta.

On the outbound Atlanta to Gatwick leg on DL 10, I was treated like a lowlife by a stewardess named Darlene. Specifically, as I boarded into business class, I was carrying four bags for cabin storage, two were mine and two were my wife’s. I carry my wife’s bags because she is weak from multiple bouts of cancer. My wife was also carrying her small purse. As I moved toward our seats, the aisle was blocked by the stewardess who in a very demanding tone asked who let me bring that many bags on board. I replied that I was carrying my wife’s bags and had explained this to the person checking our tickets when we were boarding. The stewardess then said the bags were too big to fit in the overhead bins. This was not the case as we have used the same four bags as cabin bags on several trips to Europe on Delta in the past 12 months. I did not explain this to the stewardess because my wife was getting very upset and asked me not to make any fuss. So I asked what I was supposed to do and was told that I would have to check two of the bags. I agreed to do this and said I needed to make sure that the bags with my wife’s medication remained in the cabin. As I was checking for the medication, my wife heard the stewardess muttering insulting comments about people who didn’t follow the rules and held up the plane and some other comments that I will not stoop to repeat. I asked the stewardess for her name and Delta ID- she told me she was Darlene and was prohibited by Delta from giving any more information that that. Although Darlene attended in coach class for the flight itself, the result was that my wife and I were upset for the whole flight.

On the return flight to Cincinnati, while we had pleasant flight attendants just as we normally expect from Delta, we were disappointed to find that there was no “amenity” kit available with those wonderful L’Occitane products and no duty free service.

Overall we were very disappointed with Business Elite and want to know if what we experienced is a sign of things with Delta. If not, I feel we were cheated of our normal enjoyable experience on Delta’s international flights and should be compensated accordingly.
-Roger J. Foreman

United Disconnects
United’s efforts to drive away their clientele has finally hit home with me. I knew it was going to happen, but when I received their last week, I was shocked at the short notice.

As a dedicated 1K user of United Connection for many years, I found that this to be United’s best kept secret and the most powerful tool for seeking out low fares and planning upgrades. The fare search feature has saved me thousands of dollars over the years.

Recent examples: Searching the AA Web site for a flight MIA-NAS return in mid July, the best fare offered was $307. United Connection turned up a better rate for the very same AA flight at $156.00.

I just bought a return ticket for my daughter from LHR-KTM (on Air Qatar) for half the price of other carriers.

Surfing through the Y and F United seat plans allows me to book the flights likely to prove the best chance of upgrades. The flexibility of UC is far greater that United.com, which is often inaccesible, painfully slow and often fails to produce a fare or routing for complicated itineraries, particularly international flights.
-Jack Gill

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