High-Flying High Jinks
I note with interest readers’ reactions to comments and remarks made by flight attendants, and would like to share a humorous experience that I had in South Africa last year.
We were flying a local discount carrier, “Kalula.com” (MD-80) from Johannesburg to Cape Town. During the taxi from the terminal building to the runway, our flight attendant went through the buckle-up instructions and the discourse on emergency landing procedures, including the location of lifevests, etc. Then, without the slightest change in voice or inflection, she said: “In case of an emergency landing over water, we request that all those passengers who know how to swim please move to the left of the aircraft; for those who can’t swim, thank you for flying Kalula .com.”
A great ice-breaker!
Last week I was looking for a flight from the West Coast to Europe to attend a wedding at the end of May.
My first call was to Northwest (absolutely nothing came up on the Web site), as I have more than a million miles there. I was told flat out that between May 15 and Sept. 15, my only chance to get a flight was to go with a 100k-mile Rule Buster award. There was not even an attempt made to look if anything was available at regular award levels.
Essentially, this is an unannounced blackout period, and a fairly brazen and outrageous approach this airline is taking.
Next was United. Here too, I was told that a rule buster would give me just about any flight combination I wanted.
However, the agent offered to look for any standard award options, and low and behold, came up with something. It was a rather circuitous route, but at least I had an option. He also recommended that I do not ticket yet, and call back a few times in the next few days to check if anything opened up. I did, several times, and every time the very friendly agents came up with a better arrangement. I ended up with a very respectable reservation considering the short notice and time of year.
That’s what I call service, and customer orientation.
Well, I will keep this in mind and certainly avoid Northwest wherever possible.
I was bowled over the other day by the Hertz announcement that the “59 minutes” free return policy was being replaced by a FULL extra day rental charge if the car is returned 25 minutes late. This is a very big change and should help their competitors a lot.
[Editor’s Note: It looks like Hertz is batting one for two. They introduced this new change to the rental policy but called off its proposed $2.50 “reservations fee” on all North American car rentals due to outcry from consumers and corporate accounts.]
Getting Back On Board
I am a former subscriber to InsideFlyer, and I don’t know why I let my subscription expire. Over the last three years, with your help we have taken over five wonderful vacations from the information in your magazine. Now, your updated Web site is terrific. I want to subscribe again — last time I subscribed I received 1,000 Starpoints. What are your partner bonuses now? We favor American Airlines and Starwood. Thank you.
[Editor’s Note: Catherine, these comments are music to the ear of any publisher, thanks for your past and now … future business. As for the miles, we’re actually phasing them out as bonuses. Economics is one of the factors since we can easily pay over three cents per mile to offer them as incentives. Multiply that times 1,000 bonus miles/points and you get the idea. We are hoping of course, that you will reflect on the value of our advice and enjoy many more vacations in the years to come … and call it even.]
I write to you in hopes you can correct what I believe is a great injustice.
Enclosed are copies of correspondence between JW Marriott, my husband and myself over the last year and half. In addition, a copy of an article in InsideFlyer and also a note from a reader.
To make a long story short, at the end of my husband’s business travel career he wrote Marriott to request lifetime platinum status, which was denied. After several back and forth letters he asked for lifetime gold; again denied. He meets all but the number of lifetime nights to be granted the status. Now that he is retired, he will not have the opportunity to gain enough nights to achieve this. He would like the lifetime status to enjoy the stays we will have during retirement vacation travel. He has always been a loyal Marriott person, and if Marriott can see fit to give away lifetime status to brand new members, seems they could reward a long time loyal member the same.
I put this in your hand to see if you can intercede on Leonard’s behalf.
Thank you in advance for any help on our behalf.
September 11, 2003
Mr. William (Bill) Marriott Jr.
President Marriott Hotels
One Marriott Place
Washington, DC 20058
Dear Mr. Marriott,
I want you to know that I am a proud business traveler who has enjoyed staying at Marriott hotels over the years. I have found that Marriott Hotels treat their guests with respect and make them feel welcome and very much at home.
I am writing to you to request that I be granted one of your lifetime honorary Platinum cards; I have been told that to qualify for this card you must achieve in several categories. I have been told that I more than qualify in all categories except one. I have accumulated over 3,000,000 points; I have been Platinum for several years. But, I fall just short in the total nights stayed.
I am 65 years of age and I am going to retire in the next couple of months. I am the proud owner of one of your Time Share unit at Marriott Desert Springs I, in Palm Desert, CA, and I have been a loyal Marriott supporter for many years. I am lifetime gold with American Airlines (almost 2,000,000 miles). I have kept my loyalties to just a very few companies that I choose to be my travel partners. Just so that you are aware, I was one of the original people to take the Marriott Visa. I have always liked your Marriott Rewards program and it has been an incentive to me to continue to support Marriott.
I would like to have the lifetime earned so that when I travel and continue to stay at Marriott’s for my leisure travel I can get the recognition that I feel I have earned. I know sometimes in life you have to ask for what you think you earned. So I am asking for you to grant me the lifetime Platinum reward.
Thank you for your consideration in this matter.
As you state in your Elite Member Handbook “your loyalty as one of our most valued guests certainly deserves our utmost appreciation” I am now asking you to show your appreciation for my years of loyalty to Marriott.
September 23, 2003
Mr. Leonard Atkins
4413 Signature Drive
Corona CA 92883
Dear Mr. Atkins:
Thank you for your letter of September 11 regarding your Marriott Rewards account. Mr. Marriott requests that I respond on his behalf. We are always pleased to hear from out most loyal members.
We appreciate your business and continued loyalty. We are delighted that you have enjoyed the benefits of the Marriott Rewards elite program. We have established an emeritus status without an expiration date. The upgrade occurs on an annual basis and is an automatic system update that we cannot override. You must achieve all of the requirements to receive emeritus status. Presently, you have stayed 536 lifetime nights, platinum emeritus status requires 1,000 lifetime nights. Therefore we are unable to grant your request for emeritus status.
We value your comments and continued loyalty.
Regional Hotel Liaison
Mr. Marriott’s Office
[Editor’s Note: This is one of those tough calls to make. You’ve got to respect any program like this that does want to reward members on a specified criteria without exception. This makes the benefit that much more valuable to those who do qualify. But then there are situations like your husband’s in which it seems he did give Marriott really all his business during his years of active participation.
The question is; How does a program measure that kind of loyalty when you have 20 million members?
Of the benefits this program offers, my guess is that the difference between the Silver and Platinum bonus points (20% vs. 30%) is not all that important to you, and that the free local phone/fax is not that big a deal either. The arrival gift is special since it’s always smart to take the bonus points, but if push comes to shove, I’m thinking you and your husband could possibly forgo that as well.
This leaves us with two of the most valuable benefits separating Platinum/Gold from Silver Elite:
Room Upgrade: When you check in they upgrade your room whenever they can at no additional charge. Suites not included.
Guaranteed Lounge Access/Free Continental Breakfast: At participating Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Renaissance Hotels & Resorts, and Marriott Conference Centers locations, Platinum/Gold members enjoy light snacks, beverages and complimentary continental breakfast in their Concierge/Executive Club lounges. For those locations without a Concierge/Executive Club lounge, members can enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast on weekday stays, Monday-Friday just by showing a membership card and room key in the hotel restaurant.
Since suite upgrades are no longer part of the program, I’m thinking you can bargain for room upgrades by dealing directly with the General Manager of the hotel or with the program concierge upon check-in — without being Platinum/Gold. I say this because many a guest has perfected the art of the upgrade, without any status.
As well, I think you may be able to wrangle the front desk into the “concierge” pass and get access to the lounge with the Silver Elite level of membership you will continue to have with your Marriott Visa. I know this is not what you want to hear, but I’ve got to side with Marriott on this one despite the pain of knowing that you did give Marriott a lot of loyalty.
But don’t give up. Other hotel programs might soon be upping the ante and awarding mid-tier elite status (Gold) with new credit card offers. This might be something Marriott matches.]