Letters – November, 01 2004

Letters – November, 01 2004

Small Market, Fat Chance n Those of us who earn miles in small destination resort cities like Bozeman, Mont., would take issue that rewards have become easier to obtain.
Just yesterday, Oct. 2, I attempted to obtain a reward on United for a trip on Nov. 10. I was informed that the first available award seat was Dec. 7. It is always the United Connection segment to Denver that restricts availability. The really annoying fact is that Internet fares are available to Denver, via United, almost every weekend with numerous seats available. For those living in these cities, check out Delta as your preferred carrier; they seem to have great award seat allocations.
Jack Riesselman

Oh, Canada, Oh, Pioneers!
One comment on your Sept. 2004 issue.

In the Inside Edition section, you’re trumpeting that American is the first North American airline to offer a 15,000-mile coach award. Unless things have changed lately, Canada is still part of North America and Air Canada’s Aeroplan has been offering this 15,000-mile coach award for years – and not just for a promotional period like the American offer. You should have mentioned it somehow.
Jean Lariviere

Neither American nor America West pioneered the short-haul awards concept. Such an awards program has been in place with Air Canada’s Aeroplan (and its former competitor and eventual successful takeover target, Canadian International), ever since I can remember – at least a dozen years! It is a very handy system for across-border (Canada-USA) short-haul flights. The redemption is 15,000 points (miles) for such an award.
Ken Grace

Editor’s Note: There was no intentional slight to the country of Canada and its frequent flyer programs. In fact, over the years we were the first to laud Canadian Airlines for these types of awards and later Air Canada. In my public comments to other news organizations, I did point out the precedent in Canada. For the record: I’ve got an editing staff that hasn’t been working for me as long as you’ve been a reader. My apologies.

Disillusioned with Diners Club
For the last few years, several of us voted Diners Club as the best credit card (for the Freddie Awards). My recent experience clearly changed my mind: VISA or MasterCard clearly states your spending limit, and Diners and American Express sell their services as no-pre-set spending limits. Due to hurricane Ivan, I had to move several colleagues from the Caymans to the UK. With my United Visa card, I clearly knew my limit. I had charged over $100,000 to my Platinum American Express and, when I called them to explain my recent activity, they fully understood and mentioned to me not to worry. I had charged around $50,000 on my Diners Club when I received a call from a representative who rudely informed me that my account had been frozen until I wired money to cover the exposure. This included some recurring payments that I charge to Diners Club on a monthly basis. I was very surprised, as Diners states that their card has no pre-set limits. Bottom line: Diners has pre-set limits which are not disclosed unless you ask! Not nice; next year, American Express gets my vote: not the best program but a credit card one can depend on.
Paul Nathan

History Lesson
Commenting on your response to reader Mark Terry’s letter (“Whose Side Are You On?” September, 2004), I happen to agree with you for the most part. Regarding the number of miles required for a flight prior to 1988, I think that back then, and even after that for a time, each segment earned you 1,000 miles as opposed to the current 500. A 50,000-mile redemption would be the same then as a 25,000-mile redemption today, based purely on miles or segments flown. Longer flights would give the edge to the current system, while short hops would be beneficial under the previous one. I would also add that my experience has been that the ease of finding award seats is directly proportional to the number of flights on any given route, i.e. finding a Business Elite upgrade or award seat on Delta between Atlanta and Narita (Japan) is a minor miracle, while on most European routes (London, Rome, Barcelona, etc.) a bit of planning and flexibility is all it takes.

Keep up the great work and thanks for FlyerTalk,
Eli Carmeli

Requiem for a Program
A quick comment: Lufthansa Miles & More has completely redesigned its program, effective Aug. 1. Where 20,000 miles sufficed for an upgrade from economy to business, it is now 35,000, or (for the bulk of bookings) 50,000 respectively. Miles & More has also begun to link mileage accrual to ticket price. In my opinion, the program has effectively ceased to exist, and I have been a Miles & More member since about 1993. I believe a new review (on WebFlyer.com) is urgently needed, since your April 2003 review regrettably does not reflect today’s program anymore.
Irene Peters

Editor’s Note: Irene, thanks for the reminder. You’re right – Lufthansa has made some fairly major changes to its program, as we’ve reported over the past few months. However you may feel about those changes (and it’s clear you don’t feel good), you can at least take some comfort in knowing that we’ve recently updated all our online reviews, including that of Miles & More. You and all of our readers can check them out at http://www.webflyer.com/programs/ratings_and_reviews/program.php.

Get It Together
Being a loyal Marriott Platinum member for years, I recently began travel to some outlying areas where Marriott does not have properties. Best Western was one of my choices, and I signed up for their card. To my dismay, each time I check into a Best Western hotel I am asked to provide my drivers license so the clerk can make a copy for their file. This is in addition to the American Express card I have on file for my guaranteed room.

I object to handing out copies of my drivers license with all the theft identity going on. What does Best Western have to say of this practice?
Dottie Johnson

Remember the Regulars
Perhaps a reason why Priority Club is so popular is because travelers are fed up with being under appreciated by competing hotel programs such as Marriott Rewards. If Priority Club can avoid doing things such as giving the 21 millionth member an exotic trip while ignoring those of us who have been with the program for years, then it will continue to be successful.
“Hotel Points Traveler”

A First-Class Operation?
I have been trying to find out how US Airways is a member of the Star Alliance. As a member of Star Alliance you must have a minimum of 12 first-class seats available on all aircraft that offer first class. That was the case prior to US Airways removing 16 first class seats from most of their 757s. So how is US Airways a member of the Star Alliance, as it seems they do not qualify? Do they plan on adding additional first-class seats on the aircraft they just removed them from?
Peter Zeichner

Editor’s Note: Peter, you have great knowledge of the industry. Your statement is true; however, there are new requirements for alliance members that US Airways operates under. With low-cost carriers perhaps becoming potential members of alliances, as well as fleet changes for many carriers due to competitive markets, the rules you note are being updated. Since US Airways is a new member of the alliance, they are granted a period of time to modify and change their fleet. I see no immediate time frame for US Airways to modify its current fleet to 12 first class seats.

WiseFlyer Attention
Thank you for your fair and balanced answer regarding US Airways Dividend Miles (WiseFlyer, October 2004). As the spouse of a loyal US Airways employee, I am grateful when a travel editor such as yourself responds to these questions with facts. I realize the traveling public values their frequent flyer miles. There are many employees who need their business to help US Airways survive.
Mary Riley

Editor’s Note: Your note certainly makes my day, and I appreciate that you have noticed the difference. As you know, virtually every other travel “expert” has long since written US Airways off, and bemoaned the fate of the Dividend Miles program. I think we know that this is the easy thing to do, because it takes no knowledge or research at all. If there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s doing a tremendous amount of research. I fully realize that these issues are easily influenced by emotions and knee-jerk comments. I’ll continue to do my research on the topic of US Airways, and again, thanks for your comments.

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