Letters – December, 22 2003

Letters – December, 22 2003

Not-S0-Friendly Skies For Elite Flyers
I have been a frequent flyer for 30+ years, have attained elite status many times on Eastern, Continental and US Airways, and I’m a long-time subscriber to InsideFlyer. Until now, I was removed from a plane only once before (the gate agent had directed me to the wrong commuter flight). This letter involves United airlines and their treatment of partner elite members.

On Nov. 21, I was involuntary bumped (removed) from United Des Moines-Chicago flight 464 after I had boarded using the paper boarding pass received at check-in from the terminal agent. The gate agent’s justification was that there was no record of my check-in. My seat was given to another passenger who had the same seat assignment.

The gate agent ignored the predominance of evidence I presented as a valid flight 464 passenger (reservation number, issued boarding pass, checked baggage receipts, and elite status) upon my removal from the overbooked flight and refused to bump another passenger to allow me to remain on board.

I was booked on a later flight that arrived at Washington four hours later than my scheduled 1:30 p.m. arrival. I received a free ticket coupon and a $300 credit voucher toward a future flight.

I am complaining about the treatment from the gate attendant who summarily removed me from the flight. I should not have been removed from the plane in the presence of my coworker who did not know what happened to me after we both checked in at the same time in the terminal. The mistake was clerical. As a US Airways Silver Elite, I boarded flight 464 first ahead of the passenger who received my seat assignment. In addition, I was subsequently forced to fly a regional jet and walk through all of the “F” and “B” Chicago terminals instead of between the four gates in Terminal C that I preplanned when I made the original reservation. Alas, the compensation I received cannot be upgraded.

As a current US Airways elite member and future United elite member, this is not the treatment I expect and deserve from the employees at United Airlines.

P.S. I subsequently learned that the terminal agent had inadvertently deleted my pre-assigned seat while upgrading the connection leg from ORD to IAD. The terminal agent (who checks me through every other weekend and knows who I am) researched, admitted and apologized for the clerical error after I complained at the airport on Nov. 21. The gate attendant blamed the terminal agent for the mistake and has not apologized for ignoring the facts and removing me from the flight.
Richard O’Brien

Fare Is Fair
As you know, you can have a lot of people riding in coach on a plane, and those people can be paying a lot of different fares. Some of those fares are very low, and some are outrageously high. Now does it make sense that the high-payer and the low-payer should get the same number of frequent-flyer miles? What you are really seeking to reward — if you’re an airline — is the customer who is bringing in the money. You want to encourage that customer to continue to do so. And you give him perks like upgrades and frequent flyer miles. And then you give the exact same thing to the guy who flies often, but at an incredibly cheap fare? Doesn’t sound right to me. If an airline can keep track of miles flown, it shouldn’t be any more difficult to keep track of money received. We are in the computer age, and it should actually be easier to do it that way. Certainly it would be more fair.

I really shouldn’t be writing this letter. I’m the guy who pays the very low fares. So if the airlines change their system to reward us by how much we’ve paid, that hurts me. But what’s right is right, and what’s fair is fair. And in these times of difficulty for airlines, they’ve got to get it right.
Mark Terry

TSA Screening Concerns
I don’t know where to address this, but I am looking for someone to examine an issue that has been getting bigger and bigger.

There has been a lot of talk about how trustworthy the Transportation Safety Administration is regarding checked baggage. A couple of days ago, I was traveling from JFK to Hong Kong. As I was handing the TSA employee my luggage (checked-luggage screening), I noticed in the back another employee opening up another traveler’s suitcase. What I saw verified the concerns that I have been hearing on how responsible the TSA actually is.

As the employee was going through the suitcase, she found some kind of photo album. Although it was quite far away from me, I could make out that they were 8 x 10 photos of either famous people or models. She slowly flipped through the album as if she was on a break — because she took a long time (at least three minutes). On top of this, after looking at the album and inspecting more of the bag, she found a very fancy dress which she took out of the suitcase and looked at as if she were sizing it on herself. At this time, I had my digital camera ready and attempted to take a picture — because I am certain this is not within the duties of a TSA inspection.

Unfortunately, because I turned off the flash to avoid detection (I think you are not allowed to take pictures of this), the photos later turned out to be fuzzy. Fortunately, the woman folded up the dress and carefully put it back in the middle of the suitcase — where it was originally located — and zipped up the bag.

During this time, there were three other TSA employees — two casually talking to each other and one that was receiving luggage. Now, I can understand this if there was not much to do, but there was a LOT of luggage to be screened. There was no one else doing manual inspections except that woman.

My hope is that someone could address this situation as I believe this is going on much more often than my one sighting. My family member lost a watch that was in checked luggage a few months ago — and I am now quite certain that it was lost in a similar inspection.
Kent Leung

Thanks for the Advice
Recently you ran my request for a mileage makeover (Sept. 2003). I would first like to say that I appreciate your running it and doing so in such a timely fashion. Secondly, I would like to thank you for the fond words and encouragement. Such acts of genuine kindness and concern are one of the reasons why I believe you consistently produce such an outstanding product.

I wish to inform you that I took your advice and now have both United Bank One and American AAdvantage Citibank mileage-bearing debit cards. I received sign-up bonuses for each and have already begun accruing miles through purchases. Further, I have begun a process of trumpeting this benefit to all who will listen (something I do regularly for Inside Flyer, as well).

So again, I wish to thank you and you should be very proud of the publication you produce. As an avid reader and subscriber to various publications across many industries, I can honestly say yours is the most informative, enjoyable, and relevant of all that I read. Keep up the good work and don’t go changin’!
Gregory William

Missing Miles from American Express
An alert for your readers: I’ve held a platinum Delta American Express card for six years. Recently I accessed my Delta account to check on AMEX miles awarded during the past few months. What I found was disturbing, to say the least.

First, I found no miles credited from AMEX since June 17. Upon calling AMEX, I was informed that they issued me a new Delta frequent flyer number on July 4, and all those miles were going to that account. I did not request a new number, nor did I receive notification of it being issued. Also, in checking with Delta, I was informed that the new card was in my name and I was employed by Quality Paving Inc. with the same university address on my long-term account. I have never worked for or heard of Quality Paving. My first call to try and fix their problem occurred on Oct 10. Today, Nov. 4, the problem has still not been resolved, after at least six more long inquiries. What is really interesting is that the miles are not even in the new account that I was issued. They are “sitting in limbo.”

Confidence in American Express? You be the judge.
Jack Riesselman

Customer Care in the UK
I’m Continental OnePass Gold Elite in the United Kingdom. I’ve only just found out about (Continental’s) stupid (elite-qualification) changes via the December statement. A bit more notice would have been welcome! Unfortunately, I’ve just booked two return trips to the U.S. in the wrong class, via a tour operator.

What really pisses me off is that Continental won’t let me change these tickets for free; they want me to pay $90 per ticket as an “Administrative fee,” in addition to the higher costs. They really seem to want their best customers to find a new airline. The changes are idiotic, and their so-called “customer care” doesn’t seem to extend to the U.K.

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