Letters – January, 24 2005

Letters – January, 24 2005

Time To Lighten Up

I’ve been subscribing to your fantastic magazine for a couple years now and it has earned me countless extra points! Thanks! I would like to give you my two cents on a letter in your December edition from a Mr. George Spencer. I believe I was on the same flight, or at least heard the same flight attendant on another flight, and I had the opposite reaction.

As a six-year 1K member on United, it was so refreshing to hear a flight attendant providing the necessary safety instructions, but in a fun, upbeat format. With about 1,000 flight segments to date, hearing the same pre-flight announcement can get old after awhile. I actually paid attention and laughed along with most of the other passengers around me. Morale must be quite low at United as it is at most other airlines with the pay cuts. This flight attendant had a positive attitude (not usually found at United recently) and made the flight more enjoyable. He should be complimented for his attitude and creativity.
–Chris Jacobs

Those Darn Internets

Can you believe United Airlines and their Web site? Here it is Jan. 11, and you can’t view your 2005 activity because they can’t – for the second year in a row – figure out how to add a 2005 button for that option. If you got to the Web site now, your options are for just 2003 and 2004.

It’s the 2lst century. This is clearly indicative of United’s problems!
–Thomas Murov

The Early Bird Gets the Bill

I just returned from Ukraine, where I observed the election. I flew on Delta. I used SkyMiles to upgrade to business class. I decided to come home a day early and did not get to use business class since it was full. I called to correct the mistaken deduction of my SkyMiles account and they “offered” to only charge me $25, instead of the customary $50 for the privilege. Goodbye Delta, hello United and American.
–Nancy Polk

IF Flops on Aeroflot

I read your review of the Aeroflot Bonus program, where you make an incorrect statement.

You claim: “Full-fare economy earns 25 percent of kilometers flown; business class earns 100 percent of kilometers flown; first class earns 200 percent. You read that correctly — full fare economy essentially has its earning ability cut by 75 percent, and super-cheap seats earn nothing. The focus of the program is clearly on the bigger spenders.”

This is a misunderstanding. The 25 percent, 100 percent and 200 percent you are talking about are the “Extra” points, which do not count toward elite level status but can only be used for free tickets. In addition, members also earn 100 percent “Bonus” points for each kilometer flown, which count toward elite status and free tickets.

I know this since I’ve been a member of Aeroflot Bonus since 2000, and I’ve flown on almost a dozen free tickets since then. And I earned most of those points by flying on discounted economy tickets. The discounted tickets even earned me a Silver card for a year.
–Jon Andersen

[Editor’s Note: Jon, you’re absolutely right – it seems we made an editing error in our review. We’ve since made the appropriate correction online. Spasibo.]

Squeaky Wheel

[Editor’s note: The following relates to an exchange of letters from a Priority Club member to InterContinental Hotels, regarding what the member considered to be misleading advertisements.
The specifics of the issue are not important here. We run these two letters (out of many more) to show how a persistent customer can ultimately achieve satisfaction from a quality program like Priority Club.]

FROM THE CUSTOMER:
This is a follow up to my letters of November 3 and 14 to the chairman of InterContinental Hotels. I sent you copies of both with an explanatory note. I am now sending you the responses I have received. … I believe they recognize that they have had a problem, which they are now trying to correct. Mr. Moore was especially nice and helpful. I do hope that my efforts will help other travelers who may have had difficulty getting the advertised rate. You may note that because of the amount of time it took me to get a response I chose not to stay at the London InterContinental on this trip, but with the less expensive (and better located) Holiday Inn Mayfair. It’s been a lot of years since I stayed at a Holiday Inn, anywhere, and I am keeping my fingers crossed. The one request I made had nothing to do with money (i.e. a better rate, etc.) I asked if they would request of the hotel management that I be given the “best room available.” I trusted that does not compromise my integrity in pursuing this.
—Edward Weston

THE REPLY:
InterContinental Hotel Group
D. Franklin Moore, Jr.
VP Associate General Counsel

RE: InterContinental Hotels Ads for “Luxury Escapes” and “Weekend Breaks”

Dear Mr. Weston,

As I advised you in a telephone message to you on December 17, 2004, and confirmed in a telephone conversation with you on Dec. 20, 2004, I inquired into the source of the InterContinental ads in question. I was advised that these were corporate-level global programs originating from InterContinental Hotels Group’s Windsor, England offices.

I am advised that rates were solicited from IC hotels, and those hotels that chose to participate provided rates that were placed by IHG corporate personnel in the HOLIDEX Plus reservations system and the Global Distribution Systems used by travel agents. Once these rates are “loaded,” they are viewable by anyone with access to HOLIDEX Plus (such as IC hotel personnel, IHG Central Reservations Office agents, and Priority Club Service Center personnel) or with access to GDSs.

The promotions were also communicated to relevant personnel in IHG corporate departments. The ads are prepared by an ad agency. The participating hotels were told that they should have at least 10 percent of their rooms available at the advertised rates. I will address each of your unfortunate experiences in the order they occurred.

With regard to the ad in the New Yorker on October 27, 2005 (discussed in your letter of November 3, 2005) I am advised that the people advising you that there was no such ad, no such rate, that the London properties should not have been included, and that the ads were “old” and had been changed were all incorrect. The adverted “Weekend Break” rate was supposed to have been available at the London IC hotel.

With regard to the ad in the New Yorker on September 13, 2004 (also discussed in your letter of November 3, 2004), the brand regretfully acknowledges that the “Luxury Escapes” rate category advertised was mistakenly removed from HOLIDEX Plus. The brand advised the IHG Reservations /Guest Relations department that it would honor the advertised rate. I do not know why the guest Relations personnel with whom you spoke were not aware of this.

With regard to the ad in the New Yorker n November 8, 2004 (discussed in your letter of November 14, 2004) I am advised that the Priority Club Service Center was mistaken in advising you that the advertised “Luxury Weekend” rate ended in November.

Obviously, these incidents indicate some serious communication issues. As we discussed, there are various opportunities for miscommunication and confusion when there are a series of similar ads for promotions with similar names, different participating hotel, different rates, and different effective dates, even for the same brand. CRO and PCR Service Center personnel deal with seven brands, all with their own brand promotions and with ads appearing in various publications. Nevertheless, IHG expects all relevant personnel to be familiar with all promotions advertised to the public and acknowledges that what happened to you should not have happened.

The InterContinental brand has committed to taking steps to improve communications concerning the brand’s promotions with IHG’s Central Reservations Offices and the Priority club Rewards Service Center. As I advised you, I will recommend that the brand also review its communications procedures with IC hotels to insure that IC hotel management understands the various brand promotions and the importance of education hotel staff about each such promotion. I have advised the brand of my availability to assist the brand in its communications efforts as the need may arise.

I will pass along your suggestion that future ads of nature discussed herein mention a promotional code and require guests to mention that codes when requesting a reservation with the advertised rate. That might reduce the likelihood of confusion among the carious departments, hotels, and guests.

As I advised you, the InterContinental brand has requested that Priority Club place 60,000 Priority Club points in your account. This is enough points for two nights at an InterContinental hotel. While we understand that you were not seeking anything of this nature, we hope that you will accept this gesture of the brand’s gratitude for your loyalty over the years. As for your planned January trip to London, I understand that you have already made a reservation at the Holiday Inn Mayfair at the Advance Purchase Rate and that you understand the restrictions related to that rate. I will pass along your request that you mentioned to me concerning your reservation at that hotel. The InterContinental brand trusts that you will return to an InterContinental hotel on your next subsequent trip.

If I may provide any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Very truly yours,
D. Franklin Moore, Jr.

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