Letters – August, 29 2003

Letters – August, 29 2003

Congress Should Match Airlines’ Compassion
The following letter was sent to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.Dear Senator Feinstein: I am writing in reference to the major airline medical emergency policy as I recently discovered there is none. My wife, a service-connected disabled veteran, was hospitalized at the San Francisco VA Medical Center on May 27 with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. She has just completed her first round of chemotherapy and has started on the transplantation process with UCSF that will probably last through October 2003 at the earliest.

During this time, my 10-year-old son was scheduled to fly unaccompanied on United to Washington DC and then I was to fly to Washington on July 3 and return with him July 6. When this illness occurred, I called United to tell them of the situation and let them know I had obtained a letter from the Doctor and needed to move my departure to the 5th so there was a minimum of time away from my wife during this time.

I was informed there was no medical emergency policy and that I would have to pay a $100 change fee plus the fare difference of over $400. Although I am a regular customer and Premier Executive member, the reservation agent indicated my wife’s leukemia did not matter.

I am writing to urge you to raise this matter when the airline executives come to you in the next session asking for bailouts. I urge you to show them the same compassion and the same sympathy that they have perfected in their no medical emergency policy. I urge you to tell them you have no bailout policy that matches their no medical emergency policy.

Philosophically and simplistically, what we have are executives who believe that tax cuts are more important than human life. It is all about money and we need stateswomen and statesmen of moral courage and fiber to stand up to this madness.
R. Jolly Brown

Is Loyalty a Bankrupt Concept?
I am a United 1K passenger, and have been for 14 years now, so I am as high in their mileage program as I can get. In fact, this year I’ve already completed my 100,000, so I’m 1K already for next year. For me, the best thing about the program is that I am usually 1st or 2nd in line at the gate for an upgrade, and hence usually get the upgrade seat — until last month.

Flying from LGA last month I found I was 5th in the upgrade line. When I asked the gate agent what happened he advised that there is a new category of flyer called a “global services flyer.” Returning home, I called United’s Mileage Plus center to find out what mileage qualifies for this new category, and was advised that this is not a mileage level, but a marketing effort to reward those that provide United with monetary value in tickets; being people responsible for travel planning and high value ticket purchasers.

During the flight I was seated next to one of these “global services” folks, who told me she got the “global services” distinction as she was the departmental secretary who purchased tickets for everyone in her department. She herself only flies about 10,000 miles annually.

Thus it would appear that 14 years of 1K loyalty do not seem to be worth very much. What I cannot figure out is why an airline in bankruptcy would choose to institute such a policy discriminatory to the interests of its best customers? Can anyone explain this to me? Has anyone else experienced this new ploy? And, what can we do about it. I have already complained to the Executive VP at United, but have had no response.
Michael H. Anisfeld

Trash Talk
Clearly the airlines don’t get it, and certainly organizations around frequent flyers won’t admit it, but all airline programs have evolved into more aggravation then they are worth.

Lots of ways to earn miles, sure. But what the airlines have done is virtually eliminate standard awards. So called rule-busters are now just about required to go anywhere anyone really wants to go. You can get a standard award for Fargo, N.D. in December, but anywhere else? Use a rule-buster, you’ve got the miles. End result, the airlines have devalued the miles by 50 percent.

I can get 15,000 miles for applying for a credit card and using it once. How many hours and how much money does a business flyer have to spend to get 15,000 real miles?

What does a real frequent flyer do for awards now? He tries to book a leisure ticket (low price) and attempts to use those miles to upgrade them. No good. You can’t upgrade Q, V, K or T fares. The only fares you can upgrade are the overpriced ones. I can pretty much get a $300 roundtrip fare from PHL to LAS from five major airlines within a month of the time I want to travel. None of those fares are upgradeable. However, book a $500 fare and you can sit up front with only 25,000 miles. What a bargain. Thank goodness I’m a loyal flyer.

You seem to rate frequent flyer programs; well, in my humble opinion, they’re all garbage. I no longer have any airline loyalty and absolutely refuse to fly the airlines I made top tier in. I earned my miles the hard way. I overpaid for a business ticket and flew those miles. They have no respect for the time and money I spent on their planes.

I have over 500,000 miles on the books, what do I do with them; get frequent flyer magazine subscriptions?
Frank Schudde

[Editor’s Note: The following letter was sent to Northwest WorldPerks.]
To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to report my frustration and disbelief at your new policy for issuing upgrades to frequent flyers. I recently inquired about the availability to upgrade a full-coach fare ticket from Minneapolis to Bangkok. And in spite of the fact that I was paying an exorbitant price for this ticket and upgrade seats were available on every leg of the journey, I was not able to access those seats because of the requirement that an upgrade seat be available in the point-to-point, origin to final destination market of MSP to BKK.

This is yet another example of Northwest Airlines living up to their reputation of being difficult to work with and ignoring customer service. I am a young professional who does a significant amount of airline travel, including several international flights a year. Maybe I just got spoiled living in the Pacific Northwest where I became a gold level frequent flier on Alaska Airlines but I look forward to the time when I don’t live in a marked monopolized by Northwest so I can choose another carrier to be loyal to.

I do expect a reply to this letter, and not just another form letter thanking me for my input. I want to know the reasoning behind this policy and what you are going to do to keep me as a customer.
Kip Beardsley

[Editor’s Note: The following letter was sent to British Airways Executive Club.]
Dear Ms./Sir:

I am writing today to express my outrage because of situation I have encountered with British Airways Executive Club. Because of your lack of response to this matter, I intend to inform Inside Flyer magazine, as well as to the U.S. Department of Transportation, my two United States Senators, and Diners Club.

I transferred points from my Diners Club account to my Executive Club Account several years ago. I called British Airways and was informed that the points in my account would not expire. When I moved, I sent you a change of address card so that you could reach me and send me any account statements and notices. I received nothing. I followed up with a telephone call to ensure that my change of address had been received. I confirmed that my miles would not expire.

Six weeks ago I was reading about the changes to your program in Inside Flyer magazine. Alarmed, I called Executive Club and gave my account number. The telephone representative stated that my account did not exist. She suggested I speak to a supervisor. When I agreed that talking to a supervisor would be a good course of action, she stated that one was not available. She took my name, telephone number, etc., and said a supervisor would call me that day. Today, four weeks later and no call, I called Executive Club again. Your automated voice mail is not user-friendly. It continued to tell me that my prompts were invalid. I called your reservations center and reached a woman at reservations who transferred me to your Executive Club Service Center and this man who told me that he would transfer me to a supervisor who would probably be able to reinstate the points given my situation. He transferred me to Tera who said there is nothing she could do for me because there was no record of any correspondence or any phone calls.

Why is there no record of any calls or correspondence? I have now called more than four times and no record is in the computer?

Why is there no record of my address change? United, American and other airlines received my address change without an issue. As an organized person, I made sure all of my contacts could find me after I moved. Additionally, I followed up with British Airways to make sure you had my current address.

Why did I not receive a notice in the mail that my miles would expire? Why did I not receive a notice in the mail that my account was in danger of being closed due to inactivity? Aren’t you required to send such a notice to customers?

I see that we have a few options to resolve this matter: a) Refund my miles to Diners Club points; b) Reinstate the account and place the amount of points/miles in the account and offer me an expiration date, which I will need to adhere; c) Grant me a certificate for a free flight on British Airways with an expiration date.

This situation is completely unfair and rude on the part of British Airways. Certainly it is not the way in which a corporation ought to treat its customers, especially in the current climate. I ask that you consider my request to rectify this matter and to write me back stating that you have done so. Thank you for your kind consideration.
Stephen M. Mally

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