Letters – December, 19 2002

Letters – December, 19 2002

PlanAAhead: A Late Whistle
I just read your Opening Remarks in the October issue of Inside Flyer (Forgive me for being late, but I’ve been doing what FlyerTalkers ought to be doing — flying. I used an American/Cathay PlanAAhead Award and was in Vancouver/Hong Kong/Seoul/ Hong Kong/San Francisco and back to Honolulu for only 45,000 miles. Stops in all cities!)

It is disheartening to hear you speak so casually of the change fees … and in the same issue where the charge from Hertz for frequent flyer miles is vilified!

American’s policy is now to charge $100 for a change of date to an award ticket. As you can see from my itinerary above, there are a lot of variables and things are likely to change, not to mention that one is very unlikely to get preferred dates of travel on the initial booking. Just a few changes to my award ticket and I’d be penalized near to the cost of a ticket.

I was fortunate enough to have had my ticket issued prior to this rule taking effect, so I was not responsible for change fees, and I did make changes. I dread my next award booking.

How can an airline charge us for making changes when we likely didn’t get what we wanted in the first place?

It was disappointing that you didn’t take a pro-consumer stand on this topic, perhaps by simply suggesting that $100 is an outrageous amount. And, again, it’s ironic that in the same issue of Inside Flyer you complain that 40 miles on Hertz will cost you 50 cents, yet a new $100 change fee gets your stamp of approval. Something is wrong.
Stephen Gentuso

Editor’s Note: We’ve tried to rationalize these fees as reasonable for when our own actions as frequent flyers change the course of events. As for the difference-only 4 percent of members who book awards change their reservations (96 percent pay no change fees). In the case of Hertz, 100 percent of frequent flyers will pay the fee to earn the miles. Quite a difference wouldn’t you say? As for the pro-consumer stand. We thought we did-acknowledging the rights of 96 percent of the members booking awards with no changes and with this effort, it seems likely that AAdvantage will be able to do a better job of managing award inventory since with less awards changed (possibly), those seats won’t go unused.

Back to Basics
What the hell has happened?

The airline industry is trying to pull the biggest scam since Enron and WorldCom. Let’s review the most recent events:

Over the past few months there have been a series of decisions that are a result of US Airways’ inability to run an airline. Why is everyone so willing to accept the outrageous new policies that don’t allow an unused ticket’s value to apply to a new one? Why are we all so silent when we are now subject to the latest brilliant attempt to alienate their customer base by charging us to stand by? This, after recent changes over the past few years that severely restricted standby applications.

The problem with the airline industry goes further than these recent examples. Their arrogance and total lack of regard for customer service has been building. All of this in the name of cost control. Please, give us all a break! All of the services that all of us frequent flyers loved and that created loyalty are being taken away one by one while the airlines are turning the tables on us. As a matter of fact, the joke’s on us.

For example, living in Atlanta and being a frequent traveler was heaven. We had Eastern and Delta slugging it out for local superiority. Obviously, we chose Delta. Why? The answer was simple: Service. Delta would do almost anything to keep you as a customer happy. Their employees took so much pride in providing exceptional service because it was obvious that they truly loved their company. Don’t forget, these are the same employees that bought the company a 767! How impressive.

So now, we have run off Eastern as they went bankrupt and dissolved. American and United tried to use the old international gates to establish themselves as viable competitors to Delta. That lasted less than a year. TWA made a big splash by utilizing the majority of the C concourse and make Atlanta a new hub — flatly rejected by the flying public.

Why? Because Delta would match fares. We could maintain the integrity of our frequent flyer accounts and stay with Delta. We had so many perks (mostly upgrades) by staying loyal.

Delta would practice predatory pricing in the surrounding small markets serviced by AirTran. They would match the fares, the Delta flyers would stay loyal and then AirTran would leave. The fares would rise almost immediately to the pre-AirTran days. Needless to say, it is hard to complain when you helped run off the competition. What fools we were!

Now they are crying poor because they can’t run a business! Please don’t fall for it. Leo Mullin is an accountant with many years of business experience. Surely the airline with the highest amount of passengers year in and year out doesn’t just come unglued. They like to blame past CEO Ron Allen for taking too much of Pan Am’s assets on. Bull! Now they will have you believe that September 11 is to blame. I am still not buying it!

Pre-September 11, Delta was crying poor. They had started nickel and diming long-time customers for services they never had before. Charging for changes that were always ignored. Mind you, we are not asking for free, only for something that was available. That was how they earned our loyalty! Now they hold their company line — we are loosing too much money. Again, bull! They were profitable as hell when they used to do this. What changed? They have fewer employees, less costs, less available perks. They don’t waive any fees. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Leo and his team is just in over their heads.

So, all I ask is that everyone use their heads when you hear of airlines wanting you and me to bail them out. Say the same thing they say to us every time we fly with them: I am sorry, but we are loosing too much money and there isn’t anything we can do to help you. Please don’t let them sucker us in again. Let your congressmen and senators know that we will not help them anymore. Press for intensifying a new passenger bill of rights! Please speak up, or they will think that everything is O.K.
Richard Zambacca

Mending a Mileage Makeover Misimpression
I have to correct a misimpression that your December “Mileage Makeover” may have left. In response to a question about whether elite status will help secure premium international award seats, you state that “United supposedly puts aside a better mix of award seats for the Premier members.” This is misleading.

Basic award availability is open to everyone. If there’s an award seat in the desired class of service, you get it regardless of status.

There is special 1K-only inventory for domestic coach saver awards (booking class NY), and status does determine priority when waitlisting for awards. However, there is no special business or first-class inventory set aside for elites.
Gary Leff

Editor’s Note: Thanks Gary. Overzealous editing zapped the 1K gremlin and you are correct.

Complaint About 15,000-mile Upgrades from Select Fares
(The following letter was sent to United Airlines)

My best wishes and support to you as you struggle to lead United Airlines through these very difficult times.

However, I must say that this is not the right time to alienate your best customers.

Let me explain. I recently called to see if I might use Mileage Plus miles to upgrade a future reservation. After being told that seats were indeed available for upgrade, I was told: #1 that the one-way upgrade now costs 15,000 miles (up from the previous 10,000 miles), and #2 that 15,000 mile upgrades were now only valid on “select economy M and H fares”.

I protest the increase in miles necessary for a one-way upgrade using miles at time of purchase in advance; however, I am really angry, and I protest that United has chosen to be like most other airlines by limiting upgrades to “select economy fares”. One of the main reasons that I have flown United over the past 22 years was that I had the ability to use one-way upgrades at time of ticket purchase-especially on advanced fare ticket purchases. Upgrades are my most valued Mileage Plus perk, and now you have put this type of upgrade practically out of reach for me.

Northwest Airlines, by the way, has graciously extended WorldPerks Gold Elite status to me for a limited time in order to get me to switch loyalty.

Along with this perk comes the ability to upgrade from any economy fare. In addition, I have found that Northwest also offers Gold Elite members FREE space available upgrades three days in advance of the flight-unlike United which requires the use of 500 mile electronic coupons-some of which I grant-have been sent free after flying the required 20,000 miles.

Please do not alienate me during this difficult period. Please return to permitting upgrades using miles at time of booking even on any economy fare.
Karl J. Walczak

Loyal to the End?
(The following letter was sent to United Airlines)

I am a loyal United Premier Executive customer.

With the chaos of the past few months, I have stopped buying tickets. It is a tough time for those of us in the United family … employees, customers, and other stakeholders.

All I hear is that the mechanics union tells the world how incompetent management is. Management fights back with issues regarding survival. I don’t care who is right, I just can’t stand bickering.

Southwest Airlines has given me free wine and beer for being a frequent flier with them. America West, Delta and American will recognize my Premier Executive status with a gold card and free upgrades.

I won’t check bags on United in case the bank repossesses the plane after I’ve boarded.

Please do something to encourage us long-term loyal customers to maintain our loyalty and start buying tickets again.
Neil Johnson

The Jury is Out
In September I bought a nonrefundable ticket on Continental to go from D.C. to L.A. departing on 12/6/02. After purchasing the ticket I received a notice from the Federal Court for the District of Columbia informing me that I was to report for jury duty on 12/2/02 through 12/20/02.

I called Continental seeking either to reschedule my trip or obtain a refund or voucher for the value of the trip. I didn’t think it would be a problem, and that they would waive their $100 change fee. Continental informed me that receiving a summons for jury duty was not sufficient to waive the $100 penalty, that I either had to take the trip or pay the $100 penalty. They also told me that they recently had a case of someone who was called up from the Reserves, and that that wasn’t sufficient for them to waive the penalty.

It’s time DOT imposed some strict penalties for this kind of attitude. I hope that the Court in my case orders Gordon Bethune to appear before the court to explain this unpatriotic policy.

And the worst part of all this is that I am an Infinite Platinum Elite Member of OnePass.
Thomas R. Vincent

Leave a Reply

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