Letters – October, 30 2003

Letters – October, 30 2003

Continental Criticism
I have been a Continental Platinum elite member for six years now. While I have understood the need to cut some meals and have noticed the change from actual “meals” to “snacks,” I cannot understand why Continental would want to affront the exact people who have helped them in those hard times.

Many of us are now required to fly the lowest fares available with business. I can’t justify flying Continental to earn more elite qualifying miles if it’s $200, $300, $400 or more.

Since I reside in Phoenix, Southwest is clearly coming out as the true winner here. If I am not going to get upgraded, why not fly an airline that gives you some more legroom, accommodating schedules and redemption policies, and the friendliest people in the sky. I admit that I have preferred Continental in the past for the exact reasons that they are betraying now — their loyalty to ALL of their frequent customers.
Jim O.

Where Else Will We Go?
I talked to a person at OnePass service center and asked questions. Though not clearly stating it, it became obvious to me that this is driven by the breakup of the Wings alliance (Continental-Northwest-KLM) and it being folded into SkyTeam. It is the cost of admission. I asked what Northwest will do and was told to just wait. Continental fully expects Northwest to do exactly the same thing. Continental can’t change their mind and go it alone. They are too small by themselves. They will be an unofficial division of Delta just like US Airways is now one of United.

Continental-Delta-Northwest-KLM-Air France will still be the best. United/US Airways are both bankrupted. American expires miles and has flight attendants with an average age of 60. The cheap guys don’t get you off the continent. Nowhere else to go.

Elitist Elite Changes
I had been a Gold Medallion flyer with Delta since 1998 and last year when they changed their policies I changed airlines. What these airlines don’t seem to understand is that sometimes the people flying with lower ticket prices sometimes end up buying higher-priced tickets. When the planes are only 60-75-percent full, how can you rightfully give up 10 to 15-percent capacity on a flight to another airline? As long as United and American are smart they will keep their programs just the way they are and welcome those other passengers. If they each pick up an additional 5-percent capacity they can rightfully charge a little bit more for each passenger. I’m sure Delta/Continental frequent flyers wouldn’t mind paying $15 more than a Delta/Continental flight if they know they are going to get full elite-mileage credit for it. The passengers buying lower cost tickets are going to go somewhere, and if the majors don’t want them, then say hello to expanded networks on Southwest, ATA, AirTran, and jetBlue. I have flown over 110,000 miles this year with United and I have three months left — those are all flights that would have been on Delta if they had not made the change.

Continental is making a big mistake following in Delta’s footsteps.
Scott Zaban

Goodbye, Delta
Editor’s Note: The following letter was written to Robert Borden, Director of Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles program.

Dear Mr. Borden,
I am a Platinum Million Miler, and have finally had enough. I fly out of Palm Beach (having flown a total of 1,390,340 miles), and now Delta’s switching to 500-mile segments from 800 (when it is 595 miles to Atlanta from Palm Beach) is the final straw.

I have loved flying Delta, and have encouraged many other artists and ministers to switch to Delta over the years. Now they are asking me, “Why did they change?”

I switched from Northwest (1,600,000 miles) to Delta eight or nine years ago, and worked my way up to Platinum (not knowing that I could “comp”).

You’ve cut too deeply with these changes, Delta management, and I do have a choice of where my corporation will spend its money flying. It will not be with Delta any longer, even with the latest changes. I usually fly with “K” fares, after getting Board approval for the higher fares, to be able to upgrade. Go back to the program as it was and I will consider bringing back our company’s business. I have now returned to flying Northwest/Continental (they were VERY happy to “comp” me equal status), and quite frankly, Continental’s first class is FAR superior to Delta’s. It’s better than Delta’s first class used to be.

I realized at the end of August that Delta management would not change. So, I made a corporate policy change to start “hunting” for an airline that would appreciate not only my dollars, but also my LOYALTY. I remember a time on board in first and also in the Crown Room, where fellow Platinums would be “abuzz” at the latest Delta “deals,” and how excited everyone seemed to be about flying the best airline in the USA. Since January, the “buzz” has been mostly grumbling in these same quarters, or discussions about “who is the best airline to comp with,” or “where shall I bail?” In the last months I flew with Delta over the summertime, I noticed a lot of the “regular” Platinums missing from the Palm Beach-Atlanta flights. I’ve run into several of them now on Northwest and Continental. They too have scratched their heads at the Delta management “kamikaze” downspin of destroying a once-excellent SkyMiles program and airline.

I feel like I have lost a good friend to drugs or alcoholism, in seeing the way Delta management is treating its best customers. I will miss so many excellent employees, and I wish I could have made at least 2 million miles with your airline. I will make 2 million soon with Northwest … and the revenue in the process could’ve been Delta’s. Too Bad. The great Delta Platinum exodus has begun. I wonder how the shareholders will feel about Mr. Mullin’s business competence after he has scared off the best customers?

Good-bye Delta, and have a safe landing.
Rev. Robert M. Heaberg

Load Factors
I’m writing this email from 37,000 feet above Louisiana en-route home from Lost Wages, Nevada, where I had a client meeting. My flight today included three very powerful signs that America is changing — and, perhaps, not for the better.

As our shiny new Boeing 737-500 taxied off the gate, the flight attendant joked about the “new plane smell,” because this plane is less than a couple of weeks out of the box. That enthusiasm dampened thirty seconds later when the captain stopped the plane in the taxi way and called maintenance to troubleshoot “a mysterious hissing noise in the cockpit.” A maintenance team came onboard for a few minutes but were unable to identify or resolve the cause. So the pilot asked everybody to stay seated while they completely powered down the airplane — everything from engines to APU to air conditioning. Maintenance had told him that if he completely powered down and then back up, it might resolve the problem. So he quite literally “rebooted” the airplane and, voila, no more mystery noise. (That was good news, because they said if rebooting didn’t work, we’d have to completely uninstall and then reinstall the aircraft seats and carpeting.)

Lucky Me ended up with an entire row of three seats to myself, so I stretched out for a nap. On past flights — especially on aging 727s or DC-9s — the standard seat belts are comfortably snug (no jokes, please). Because of predicted turbulence, I sat in the middle seat, belted myself in, and then laid down with my head on the window armrest. Those of you in 9th grade will quickly realize that the belt around me was in a corkscrew shape and had to be much longer than the typical arc across the lap. So it was obvious that Boeing wove the brand-new 737-500 seat belts WAY longer than past belts. Apparently more Americans are growing into longer belts — and not just for nap time. (Attention airlines: I don’t need a longer belt. I need more knee room!)

Is related to Number Two. There is, of course, no “food” service onboard flights anymore. You’d think that would have a positive effect on America’s collective waistline, but, no. To compensate, the flight attendants generously doled out two and even three “Snack Pack” boxes to each passenger. The Nabisco samplers contained separately wrapped packets of Teddy Grahams, Ritz crackers with cheese, and Oreo cookies. Total for each “Snack Pack”: 420 calories (175 from fat). Ouch. Although that’s probably not as bad for me as the Nathan’s All-Beef Hot Dog Combo Meal I ate for breakfast.

Yes, the plane worked fine for the rest of the flight. Yes, I had a nice, long nap. And yes, I stopped after eating only half of the Oreos and Ritz crackers, although the Teddy Grahams were history.
Todd Beck

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