Letters – September, 29 2005

Letters – September, 29 2005

Devaluation at Delta
I just received an email from Delta that they are merging the Frequent Flyer and SkyMiles programs at the end of 2006. Of course, this means a mad dash (relatively speaking) of trading old miles, since they will be immediately devalued (this is especially the case with first class).

As a long time Medallion Member with too many Frequent Flyer miles unused (about 400K), this is a watershed event for many.

Please check into this and let’s see whether this change will “fly,” inspire revolt, or just lead to plain resignation by frequent flyers in the face of Delta’s implosion.
Mark Troen

Joe Knows
Once again, Joe Brancatelli shows us why he is the best part of your magazine (“Deja Vu All Over Again in Newark,” Sept. 2005). He tells us about the future. He gives us his opinion, but he backs it up with a ton of facts (or is that two tons?). And he writes in a style which is clever and interesting.

Now, I must say that as a lifetime member of Continental’s Presidents Club, I wish Continental well. And I think their explosive growth in the international market will see them through the tough times in the domestic market. So I think there is one more possibility: JetBlue and Continental may decide not to go to war with each other, and may decide just to let each other make nice profits even in markets in which they compete. That would make sense, rather than competing to an extent which would hurt them both. But airlines, good sense, profitability — those words just don’t belong in the same sentence. We’ll have to see if Joe is right about competition between JetBlue and Continental. If not, my crystal ball doesn’t always predict the future, and even having a ton of facts is no guarantee of predicting the future.

(With regard to recent changes at Southwest Rapid Rewards) I know the changes in the Southwest program will be very big in your next issue. I cannot resist adding my own comments. Southwest has long maintained that their one-year limit on their Rapid Rewards credits was due to their desire to reward people who fly often, and not for those who fly occasionally over a long period. Now, they seem to have backed off a bit — perhaps due to criticism from Randy Petersen — and now offer a two-year period instead of one for the validity of their credits. Ah, c’mon, Southwest, make it three years, like the other airlines! Show us that you’re as good as the other airlines. Due to airline routes and schedules, many frequent flyers must fly more than one airline, and sometimes it takes three years to accumulate the miles you need to collect a reward because you are spread out over the various airlines.

But now, to the big one. Yes, the beginning of capacity controls at Southwest. Oh, my! At least with blackout periods, we knew what we were dealing with, and we understood they needed those seats for busy times. Hey, I never had a problem with blackout dates. But to fly out of the airport with empty seats — and leave your loyal customers on the ground because of capacity controls — that boggles the mind. With capacity controls, you don’t know what you’re dealing with, as the number of seats available is not revealed, and more seats may open up at the last minute — or may not. I hate capacity controls. And now Southwest — an airline very dear to our hearts for many reasons — is going to have capacity controls. This is sad. And inconvenient to the loyal flyers of Southwest.

May I suggest to Southwest Airlines that loyalty works two ways: your flyers are loyal to you, and you to them. Southwest has been very good to their flyers — outstandingly so. People rave about the service they get from Southwest. And the fares are great, too! But putting in capacity controls when you could have used blackout dates instead, well, that’s going in a very wrong direction. I hope the management at Southwest will rethink this thing, and make their program the very obvious best in the industry. Treat your most loyal customers right, and they’ll come back to you and fly Southwest. (A few first-class seats plus routes to Hawaii would also help.) Restore blackout dates, and abolish capacity controls. And to the other airlines, consider the same move.
Mark Terry

Don’t Put Me in Coach
Great magazine, thanks. In your last issue you mentioned that Continental has increased the number of first-class seats in their fleet, recognizing the value that their frequent flyers provide. I would suggest that InsideFlyer examine the reduction in first-class seats that Delta has recently brought to the table. In many markets they have instituted coach-only service without any notice to their elite SkyMiles members. We like to think of it as “Song Service” at premium prices. Thanks.
Jack Riesselman

Hard to Feel the Luv
(Southwest Rapid Rewards has made) a terrible change! The extension of credit expiration from 12 months to 24 months is most likely in response to the recent reduction and then elimination of the online-booking bonus credits. The addition of capacity controls makes the Southwest Rapid Rewards program one of the worst frequent flyer programs in the U.S. If they need to add an award “seat finder” on their Web site to help members locate dates and flights when award seats are available, you can be sure that your hard-earned awards will be hard-to-use when you want.

Southwest should change their ad slogan to “You are now RESTRICTED to move about the country.”

I just got off the phone with Continental Airlines. I am a silver elite (have been for about three years). My wife is also a Silver Elite on CO. We were both scheduled to attend a convention in New Orleans starting 11/6. I got notified today that the convention has moved to Orlando. I called CO to try to move my tickets to Orlando. I did not want any refund. I just wanted to use the value of the tickets toward the tickets I now need for my wife and I to go to Orlando. I know that I will have to pay more to fly Houston to Orlando than Houston to New Orleans. I was fully prepared to pay the difference, but I thought that they would surely waive the change fee. However, I was told that I would have to pay the $100 change fee because my flights were after 10/31.

I was told to try a customer service number (the original “no” was on the elite 800 number). I called the customer service number and was again told NO. I was told that CO has resumed flights to New Orleans; therefore, they had no reason to give me a credit since my flights were after 10/31 (even though they were only 6 and 9 days later). They also told me that it was not their fault that my convention was moved.

I am almost too livid about this to speak. I have been a subscriber to your magazine almost since its inception. I have never written before, even though, like all other frequent flyers, I have had more than my share of incidents that warranted letters. However, this time I have drawn the line. How can they expect anyone to safely go to New Orleans this November? ABSURD. Remember, I was not asking for a refund, just to get a credit to use for the tickets I now have to buy to Orlando from Houston.

Can you help?
Steve Megregian

Editor’s Note: Steve, your note points out one the most insensitive weaknesses of most airlines these days-they have no soul. I agree with your every single point and will work with my contacts at Continental to get someone at that airline to really think about the answers you have been given. While I can’t do this for everyone, I recognize your long-time status as a subscriber to InsideFlyer and will be paying your change fee if we can’t get someone at Continental to review your particular request. Like Bobby in the letter following this, I am very fortunate to have readers such as yourself. Thank you.

Seventeen Years!
Randy, I (just) burned four awards to Hawaii in First Class with Delta. Each award cost 75,000 miles for two passengers (eight people total). I would not have had them without you throwing my frequent flyer statement into my windshield in front of my friends and saying, “That ain’t nothing!” And all that happened within 85 yards of the front door of the Anatole Hotel. Wow, was that a call to garner more Delta miles.

Actually I love that story, and here 17 years later I will be in First Class thanks to nobody but YOU. Thanks!

Where has time gone? Triple miles (1988) was 17 years ago!
Bobby Finken

Editor’s Note: Bobby, I too recall that day. And to think you were already a subscriber before that incident. That’s a long time to be a subscriber and the letter before this one is from another long-time reader. I truly am the one to thank you and Steve. I don’t know if others realize just how devoted a readership we have with this magazine. Now, let’s go back to that day 17 years ago. If I remember correctly, because you live in Dallas you were strictly devoted to AAdvantage. My point in your then collective mileage balance in the Delta “Frequent Flyer” program was to broaden your availability of award options and other value. Today, I am quite sure there are not many that can claim to be going to Hawaii in first class for two passengers and only spending 75,000 miles. I’ll continue to challenge our readers one-on-one as I meet them and look over their mileage managing ways. You’ve been a great student over the years and I’ve learned just as much from you. Again, thanks. I’m just sorry I did not predict the change to Delta Frequent Flyer miles. Aloha.

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