Letters – September, 24 2004

Letters – September, 24 2004

Where Do you Want To go Today?
I hope you haven’t decided to stop publishing letters on the award availability issue. I think I can provide some understanding of the issues. Your secret survey found that the availability was quite high on most airlines. However, you checked a number of fairly popular routes.

My own experience tends to involve less popular city pairs — like Tulsa to Syracuse. Invariably, some or all of my travel includes one or more segments on American regional jets. Availability of awards on American Connection is terrible. For example, I was unable to book award travel for any day of the week over a 4-week period from Tulsa to any of the seven American Connection cities closest to Syracuse. Even if I wanted to use the full 50,000 miles per ticket, availability was quite poor. When I selected a city served by American Airlines, availability was pretty good — I was able to book a flight on my requested date using the discounted 25,000-mile award, albeit at rather inconvenient hours.

This experience seems pretty consistent — at least on American. If you stick to cities served by American Airlines, availability is good. If you have to use American Connection, it’s tough.

My guess would be that the people who are complaining the loudest are looking for cities served only by commuter airlines.
Joe Ragosta

Editor’s Note: Joe, as you might guess, we chose popular routes as determined by redemption statistics precisely because they are in the greatest demand, regardless of type of aircraft. I do suspect there is some merit in your very asute observation and we plan on testing that in the near future. In fact, we just might borrow your suggested city pair. We have also have plans to test the direction of travel, for instance, requesting New York-Seattle at the same time as requesting Seattle-New York. There really are so many things to consider, which is why we are most certainly continuing with this series we call “Award Search.” Thanks for reading and many thanks for the suggestion.

Nowhere with Northwest
Two years ago, I tried to use my Northwest WorldPerks frequent flyer miles to go to Hawaii. I was told that no seats were available on the requested dates. I changed the dates, changed airports, and changed ticket class but no seats were available. Then I was informed that seats were available on the original requested dates but at twice the mileage. I said no thank you, and flew First Class to Hawaii using my Delta SkyMiles.

I then sent a letter to Mr. Richard Anderson, Northwest CEO, informing him of my displeasure and requesting exactly when and what actions I needed to take to obtain tickets at the normal mileage rate. Mr. Anderson replied via a correspondence specialist.

I called WorldPerks on July 22, 2004, in accordance with the correspondence specialist at 00:01 a.m. requesting First Class tickets to Hawaii. As Yogi Berra said, “It’s deja vu all over again.” I was informed that no seats were available. I changed the dates of my flights, airports etc. but seats were not available. Then I was informed that seats were available on the original requested dates but at twice the mileage. I tried to get coach seats but they were only available at twice the mileage.

Why were there no seats available if you can not acquire seats prior to 352 days in advance? I called 352 days in advance in accordance with the correspondence specialist.

Who called before me on July 22, 2004? I called at 00:01 a.m.

No matter when you call, no matter what class of tickets you request, no matter what dates you request, the bottom line is that Northwest WorldPerks will require twice the mileage.

I wrote to Mr. Anderson on August 4, 2004, via certified mail and to date he has not responded.
Alan J. Dempsey

Say It Isn’t So
Editor’s Note: The following letter was sent to United Airlines.

As a frequent traveler on United I have just read some disturbing news in an air-travel magazine that I read monthly.

InsideFlyer Magazine, in its “Letters to the Editor” section for September, has information apparently attributed to United Airlines Corporate Headquarters, that United Airlines is planning to convert all regular United domestic flights to “Ted” flights by the end of 2005.

Is this true?

If so, will flights on aircraft flown in the United States then be configured without seats upgradeable to Business or First Class?

My next question concerns “confirmed regional upgrades.” These upgrades to comfortable seats and best service are also earned through frequent travel and also allow upgrades on United flights by region in the United States and internationally.

Will these disappear as well?

I am a Mileage Plus 100,000 mile-a-year flyer, with almost eight hundred thousand flight miles on United over the years, and I will be very disappointed if this comes to fruition.

Like many folks, I have seen the decline of legroom and seat width evolve over time to a sorry state. So I was initially delighted to see that United had finally listened to their best customers and instituted “Economy Plus” seating on United flights around the country.

But as a flyer who has attained the status to be able to upgrade to Business or First Class, by my loyalty to United, I would be very disappointed to learn that the “500-mile upgrades” that I have earned and that I can also currently purchase, would appear to be eliminated.

I’d also be chagrined to learn that confirmed regional upgrades could also go away.

Please remember: Economy Plus does NOT compare to First or Business Class! Upgrades have always been a “perk” to those of us who spend a lot of time in the air. Are they about to be eliminated, just as pensions may be about to be eliminated for airline employees?

I’m sure that United’s “bottom line” in order to clear bankruptcy is all important at this time. Just as I’m sure that United employees and their benefits issues are affecting many decisions at United.

If indeed United is planning the elimination of First and Business classes domestically, please also consider the people that continue to keep United flying — your best customers.

I look forward to specific responses to the questions posed from United on these issues.

Joel Harms

Editor’s Note: Joel, the information of the United conversion to “Ted” flights came from another reader, not from this magazine directly. I somewhat doubt its validity, but as we have learned, anything can happen in this industry.

Luggage Woes
I keep receiving conflicting information on whether or not airline passengers can lock their suitcases once again. Even the airline I fly most often, United, seems confused over the current regulations. There are supposed to be authorized locks that the TSA can override to check suspicious luggage, but a TSA person at the Honolulu airport told me my bag must be unlocked. United said to check with the TSA person.

What is the real story? Can bags be locked or not? I have not seen you address this important matter now that stories are surfacing that the amount of theft from open luggage has increased dramatically.
Bill Hamilton

Editor’s Note: Bill, I’m afraid even I can’t find the correct answer for you here. I contacted the TSA and was referred to their Web site, which “… contains the answer and any further updated information.” Yep, you guessed it. The information is not available. I searched both for ‘locked luggage’ and just ‘luggage’ and found that the most up-to-date information available is dated December 19, 2002, and it comes from the Dallas Airport — not exactly what we were both hoping for. One thing is for sure, any thugs trying to subvert the system will never find a loophole, since there is no loop. I’m very sorry I could not help you.

Reading Woes
While I have enjoyed my years reading your monthly magazine, I find it most difficult to read. The print, even black on white is too light. Example, on page 9 of the September issue, check out the center page article on Cathay Pacific Feedback and Many Thanks segments where the print is darker than on the rest of the page which is most difficult to read. Then on page 53, the print is laid over a marbled background. Why not keep the basic darker print on white throughout the magazine?

I am a senior but with glasses have no problem with other publications. How about it?
Marv Patrick

Editor’s Note: Marv, you are correct. Our goal is not to make this information hard to read and I’ll make sure the ‘artsy’ guys and gals understand that. You’ll see that I have corrected this problem within these letters and will see the same is done with the marbled background you noted. I can learn from you about these things and very much appreciate your feedback.

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