Letters – May, 25 2004

Letters – May, 25 2004

Taken AAdvantage Of?
I’m rather amazed to see so many people defending the availability of AAdvantage free tickets. I’ve been flying almost exclusively on American for several years (Platinum last year and easily on track for Executive Platinum this year) and have found that getting award tickets — at least for the 25,000 mile domestic award level — is extremely difficult.

I’ve been trying to use my miles to take my family to Syracuse in August. I want to use a PlanAAhead (25,000 mile) award, but it is completely impossible. Our target departure was Aug. 1. The latest flight I can get from Tulsa to Syracuse (neither one is all that hot a destination) was July 12. If I delayed my flight, the earliest was Aug. 7. Return flights were almost as bad.

So, we have almost an entire month blocked out entirely on PlanAAhead awards — and I’m trying to book my ticket five months in advance. Just for kicks, I tried nearby cities — Rochester, Buffalo, and Albany. None of them was available within three days of our target date. Finally, I found that we could fly to Newark, N.J. (close to a five-hour drive from our destination) within two days of our target dates.

Of course, I could use 50,000 miles per ticket, but I’d rather not cut the value of my awards in half. I’ve found that I have to pay for at least half of our travel because award tickets are not available. It has been this way for years — American is reserving so few seats for awards that you have to be extremely lucky, more flexible than is reasonable (sure, I’ll just ask my daughter to move her birthday back to July 13 so she can spend it with her grandmother), or wait until the last minute to book award flights.

Come on, American — give us a break. I spend a ton of money on your airline and have been extremely loyal. Can’t you at least make it possible to use your awards within reason? How about eliminating capacity restrictions for Platinum members, even if you can’t do it for everyone?
Joe Ragosta

Not-So-Fine with the Fine Print
I have re-read the promotion offer below. As I mentioned when I spoke to the representative that informed me that I am not currently eligible to receive any free nights under this promotion, I feel the language in this promotion is confusing. You will notice that the promotion opens with the upper-case statement “STAY 5 NIGHTS AND ENJOY A COMPLIMENTARY NIGHT ON YOUR NEXT VACATION.”

Over the years, I have spent thousands of dollars staying at many Starwood properties. I have selected the Starwood brand over others for its fine hotels, service and excellent frequent guest program. The capitalized promotion offer below that is later limited seems confusing and contradictory.

I have participated in Starwood promotions that offered free weekend nights similar to this one in the past, and they did not later state that the nights to be stayed to receive the free weekend nights had to be consecutive.

Based on past experiences with Starwood I relied on the offer in the opening sentence of the message below, “STAY 5 NIGHTS AND ENJOY A COMPLEMENTARY NIGHT ON YOUR NEXT VACATION.” I then attempted to accept the offer and stayed the required number of nights. I later learned that the nights I stayed had to be five in a row in order to receive the free weekend nights. In the future I will certainly read any “offers” I receive from Starwood more closely. Based on this experience I will also likely start paying more attention to other brands and their offers.
Michael Rogers

Editor’s Note: Though this letter writer makes reference to a promotional mailing he received, he regrettably neglected to include the text of the mailing in his letter to us. Still, he makes an interesting point, and this letter illustrates the fine line that separates rewarding a member and angering them.

Happy Days
Oh, happy day when certain gigantic but clumsy airlines go out of business! Oh, happy day when the new, nimble low-fare airlines come in and take those routes! I can hardly wait! How long — how much longer — must we wait for these dinosaurs of the airline business to go out of business? Trust me, it will be a happy day for most of us — even if certain people among us lose their frequent flyer miles that they clumsily left banked with the dinosaur airlines. Well, that is your business. But the wise among us will watch the financial statements of the airlines in trouble, and use up our flyer miles before they go out of business. And we will shop around and try out new airlines, and learn that we have choices, and better choices than before. Oh, happy day!
Mark Terry

German Efficiency?
(The following letter was sent to Lufthansa German Airlines.)

Dear Sir or Madam,
Enclosed you will find copies of the documents from our trip to Munich, Germany, last month.

We go there twice a year, and since Lufthansa is now flying from Portland, Ore. to Frankfurt nonstop, we thought we’d try it. We left April 9th and were able to use the two upgrade certificates we had. That made this segment of our trip satisfactory. Our return flight on April 24th, however, was the opposite, and more or less a torture. When we checked in at the airport in Munich I wanted to confirm our seat assignments from Frankfurt to Portland. Our itinerary, dated Feb. 27, showed that we had the seats 46 HK on the 2-4-2 configuration. Your agent at the counter told us this must be a mistake, because we did not have a seat assignment at all and the only seats left were in the middle row. Since we were early and had some extra time, I went to Lufthansa’s customer service center trying to find out what happened. The lady there was very helpful and showed me on her computer that we in fact had the seats 46 HK but that somebody at the Portland airport cancelled that on April 9 — the day of our departure. When we arrived in Frankfurt, I went to one of the gate agents, and after about 40 minutes of an almost heated discussion we received seats 42 AC.

After boarding the plane, we had another surprise waiting. I am over six feet tall, and when I sat down I had the seat in front of me pushing against my knees. There is absolutely no leg space on that Airbus. On that 10-hour flight, I was standing in the galley most the time.

The flight from Munich to Frankfurt offered about five inches more leg space than the long haul from Frankfurt to Portland. Even the (very friendly) flight attendant acknowledged that the planes within Germany offer a lot more leg space.

As I mentioned earlier, we have been traveling to Germany twice a year for the last nine years and have flown on just about every American carrier. We have never had such a bad experience as we had on Lufthansa. Needless to say, we are not planning to use your airline again nor will we recommend it.

On a final note, I would recommend that some of your ground personnel should work for an airline here in the U.S.A. for a while to learn courtesy and politeness.
Dieter Wurpes

The Miles Transfer Tango
I was just reading your great publication and came across a question submitted by another reader (found on page 17 of May’s issue). The reader wanted to know if there was any way possible to “move miles” between Continental and United. Your answer was basically “no.”

Through the Amtrak Guest Rewards program, however, participants can do just that for free. Miles need to be transferred in 5,000-mile increments from Continental to Amtrak, then they can be transferred from Amtrak to United (or Midwest Airlines or Hilton HHonors). One can also do this vice versa. The only real restriction is that a maximum of 25,000 miles per year can be transferred like this.

Just wanted to make sure you were aware of this excellent and free exchange tool!

Thanks — keep up the good work!
Sami Takieddine

Editor’s Note: Sami, thanks for taking the time to write. We not only appreciate your kind comments about the magazine, but that you took the time out to write us — our kind of reader. We’ve written several times in the past of the Continental OnePass to Amtrak Guest Rewards transfer and the subsequent ability to transfer Guest Rewards points into United Mileage Plus miles. The only reason we did not offer up that advice on the particular Q/A that you refer to in our May issue was that the reader only had 950 OnePass miles and was not interested in further transactions with Continental. As you know, the only way you can effect the Continental OnePass transfer would be in 5,000-mile blocks. The other reader was quite short of that limitation, thus our advice for his particular situation.

For others reading this, be advised the transfer of Continental OnePass miles into Amtrak Guest Rewards points is not visible in the normal “non-travel” or “travel” award options on the onepass.com Web site. It seems you need to know this from publications such as InsideFlyer or visits to member help Web sites such as FlyerTalk.com. Keep this in mind when considering or researching options.

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