Letters – June, 29 2004

Letters – June, 29 2004

A+ for A-Plus Rewards
I’m one of AirTran’s most frequent flyers. I’ve earned over 200 free roundtrip tickets on them since they started the program. I fly AirTran to every destination that they fly, but fly Delta to everywhere that they don’t fly, and have thus maintained Delta Platinum Medallion status alongside my AirTran Elite status.

I have never had a one of my tickets expire without being able to use it to my destination of choice. AirTran lets you upgrade award tickets to Business Class for $35, and they have an excellent record of last-minute rewards.

They keep their program simple and easy with credits and by allowing business-class upgrades to anyone after two coach roundtrips, and a free one-way ticket after four coach roundtrips. Since AirTran’s fares can be purchased one-way, this allows less frequent travelers to utilize the free benefit sooner rather than later.

Also, unique to AirTran is the ability to take a flight to the Caribbean at the same award rate as a flight inside the U.S. As they continue to expand in the Caribbean with their new fleet of 737’s, that will be an extremely valuable option.

A couple of weeks ago, after we missed a Delta flight to Key West, I called the A-Plus Rewards desk and they offered to redeem free tickets to Florida at 4 p.m. on a Friday that would let us fly that day. Other airlines charge a fee for last-minute bookings. AirTran charges none.

I just wanted to share my thoughts. They’re a great airline heading straight to the top.
Joe Leader

Cramped Confines
I recently flew from New York to Munich, with a Lufthansa ticket, but using on the outbound Singapore Air to Frankfurt and from there on by Lufthansa to Munich. Good seats with very reasonable legroom on both segments.

The return was nonstop on Lufthansa equipment from Munich to New York.

I am 6’6″ (a little less than 2 meters) tall. I was assigned a center aisle in the back and even the purser acknowledged that it was impossible for me to stay there.

So, she was very kind to offer me two open seats on which the crew usually rests during the flight. (Business Class was totally open, so the crew used that section for resting.) It was much better, however still very cramped.

During the flight I developed some back pain, which came out fully upon my arrival at home in Manhattan. I had to stay in bed and with lots of heat treatment, creams and stretching was able again to walk pain-free again after about three days.

This was my fault. I knew in advance how bad Lufthansa is with space on long-haul flights. However, I had a $300 roundtrip, so I thought I could handle it.

Lufthansa is worse than any of the big Asian airlines, and that includes Singapore, Cathay, JAL, ANA, Korean, Asiana, etc. I don’t understand how Lufthansa can get away with such seating.

I wouldn’t even get on their long-haul equipment for free anymore!
Tobias Buschmann

Solidarity, Flyers!
As a traveler, I depend on other flyers to make wise choices of airlines. Wise choices help good airlines to expand, and decrease or shrink other airlines that are giving poor service.

So please understand this: We travelers are depending on each other to make wise choices of airlines, and if we do this, we will increase the number of routes of airlines that treat us well. We have power to improve the situation.

It really makes me angry when some people get in a rut of always choosing the airline with which they have their miles. We should be alert to airlines that are giving better service at lower prices. It is no secret that some of the best service in now delivered for lower fares by some of the newer airlines. Your favorite airline may now be thinking they are tight and the customer is wrong. Try different airlines. Don’t be afraid to change your loyalty.
Mark Terry

Promotion Confusion
Concerning American’s Jan. 1 to March 31 promotion, a lot of us received e-mails from customer service agents at AAdvantage who confirmed that American was awarding triple bonus miles — in other words for Platinunm and Executive Platinum members, five times the actual/minimum mileage flown. In February, AAdvantage changed the wording of their promo and said it was triple miles, so only four times. I know that AAdvantage copied the United promotion language and United has since agreed that their language was ambiguous and has extended triple bonus miles to those who registered before they changed the language. I would be interested in a better explanation than “the promotion was already too generous.” And, if the United language was merely copied and United is giving five times, or a true triple bonus, in addition to all other bonuses, why didn’t AA do the same?
Robert Ayres

A Guru By Any Other Name
I want to sincerely thank you very much for the great service you provide your readers. Your publication is one of two (Money magazine being the other) that I can honestly say saved or made me money over the years. Keep up the wonderful job. But I don’t just want to kiss your #%&. One thing that has bothered me for some time is your title. I am a trade press editor myself (Official Board Markets, a weekly newsletter that covers the paperboard packaging and paper recycling industries) and whenever I see someone with your title I say to myself, “That person sells ads AND writes editorial. He leaves him/herself open to ethical concerns.” So, cutting to the chase, my questions: Do you sell ads for InsideFlyer? If yes, why risk concerns about edit integrity? If no, who does? Karen Heldt? If you sell ads, has an advertiser ever said, “Randy, We would love to advertise 12 times a year with four-color ads. But first could you write an article praising our (new or revised) loyalty program?” If yes, how have you handled this awkward situation? If yes, would you name names? Having been a subscriber to InsideFlyer for a few years now, I trust what you say. Your integrity shines through and you give excellent advice. I admit it’s the title that I’m hung up on. Why not just call yourself editor or editor in chief? Or… does a publisher/editor make more money at InsideFlyer than an editor in chief?????!!?? Take care. Thanks for hearing me out. Keep up the great work.
Mark Arzoumanian
Editor in Chief
Official Board Markets

Editor’s/Publisher’s Note: Mark, thanks for the comments and believe me, as you well know, there is nothing more satisfying to me than hearing this publication is valued and has helped a reader.

As for this publisher thing, I have absolutely no formal background in publishing at all. No schooling, no training and no idea how the real world of publishing works. I’m just a frequent flyer who, 18 years ago, had the crazy idea to share some of his knowledge with others.

In the beginning, I didn’t use the title of publisher, mainly because I really didn’t know what it meant. Over the years it was assigned to me by the likes of USA Today and The Wall Street Journal as they tried to ‘accurately’ describe what I did/do. When they started to use it, so did I (seemed like they would know). To this day, I don’t attend any publishing events and couldn’t say that I actually know another publisher personally.

As for selling ads, I’m so confident I’ve never sold an ad that I pledge if you can find any program or ad agency that will testify I have ever personally pitched them advertising or attended a sales presentation for advertising regarding InsideFlyer, I’ll give you the keys to this company. I’ve always been quite religious about the separation of editorial and advertorial here.

Karen handles all advertising sales, and not only would she back up my contention that I do not sell ads, she would probably bend your ear about how rarely we even talk about advertising.

When it comes down to it, I talk to frequent flyer programs about one thing — well two things actually — miles and points. As for the title, you know, I’m even uncomfortable with the title ‘editor.’ I don’t know how to proof copy and I don’t edit anything. I write, but it always needs a lot of editing from others on the staff. As for making more money, for years I was the lowest paid person in the company, and even now I’m not the highest.

One of these days a real publishing company will probably scoop us up and change the way things run around here, but as of today, we’re enjoying a very long run in one of the ultimate hobby niches — frequent flyer miles and points.

Thanks again for your questions and hope this answers them.

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