Letters – October, 28 2005

Letters – October, 28 2005

High Praise For Hyatt
Some comments on your August issue pertaining to the review of Gold Passport.

First a correction: the 3,000 point and 6,000 point upgrades for Regency Club and suites respectively if for up to four nights. Thus, if you stay the four nights, its only 1,500 points per night for a suite (vs. 10,000 to 20,000 at Starwood where you earn only two points per dollar. Three in my case as a platinum member)

Second, as a Hyatt Diamond member, I find it hard to believe (not doubting your reporting but questioning those who responded) that the program only rated in the mid-5s by the readers. I am currently a Diamond member with Hilton, Platinum with Starwood, Gold with Marriott and Diamond with Hyatt. So I believe I am qualified to state that Hyatt has the best elite program available. For starters, Hyatt’s welcome amenity is something you can actually look forward to after a day of flying. The only problem just not enough hotels in enough cities.

Thanks for listening.
Richard Gregory

We Get the Point
There is a double error in your review of the El Al Matmid program.

You wrote, “Matmid Club miles expire in three years — no exceptions, no excuses.”

The first error: As mentioned several times in the review, El Al uses points, not miles.

The second error: Only points earned by flying expire in three years. Partner points from hotels, car rentals, credit cards, etc., never expire.
Dov BenGalil

Furious at FlightFund
I currently maintain over 300,000 America West FlightFund miles and wish to secure tickets to Greece next summer. I have been informed (surprise, surprise) there are NO SEATS to Athens during my desired travel dates. I have accrued these points over three years, followed FlightFund rules to the letter and I am still unable to get tickets a year in advance. One of the agents even admitted “There are not always seats on every route.”

I think I have been misled by the program and am contemplating legal action. What are my options, and are you aware of any successful legal challenges over seat non-availability? I hate to resort to this, but I feel I have been suckered by their enticement of “free travel” to Europe.
Mike Schadek

Jargon Junkie
I just signed up and while browsing I noticed that VFF as found in “.” FWIW, I resent being called SLF, typically fly UA C from DEN to HKG, SYD, LHR, LIS and many others and have been UA 1P FF for the last 10 years. I never use ITN, have never done a MHD, don’t really want to be a VFF because of family but am jealous of 1K SWUs and HK49s. I have flown only 6 *A partners and like UD on the 744. I frequently UG Y to F (many times from B, M & K), don’t worry about EMR at altitude and find WSJ difficult in small-pitch rows. I have not yet memorized FARs, don’t know anyone at the FAA and highly respect most FAs. I always try to see my PNR and always use the UA RCC when I have the time. I really like CTOs and use only two CCs. I am fascinated watching my TA use her CRS and am not concerned whether the left seat is on ILS or VFR. I prefer heavy AC and am not yet a member of the MHC (darn!). I am cool with F/O handling T/O and enjoy ATC on channel 9. I am grateful for E+ and MRTC and am pondering a RTW soon. I am finally getting used to EGRs but don’t trust ETAs. I can find the record locator on any tix and don’t care if it’s FBW, FBY or hydraulic. I slightly fear DL’s RPU. I miss MCOs issued for CC tix and always do RT not O/W.

Regards and thanks,

Disappointed by Diners
I have been a Diners Club cardmember for about 11 years. I am here to tell you, that it is not your “father’s Diners Club” anymore. It is now the worst card to carry, and you should let your readers know that. Because I did not pay the card in full, I lost all my points, plus was charged $70.00 in fees. The card now costs $95.00 to use per year (you can offset that with points). When I called to complain about the points, etc., and how long I carried the card (people used to ask what it was), they could have cared less. Their answer was that once the card is paid in full, for $15.00 you can reinstate your points, but only for that statement period — after that all your points are gone. There is no other card that does that, as far as I know. So much for the being the best program around. Now it is the worst.
Dan Weiner

Bailout, Bailout
What can the government do to help the airlines? After 9/11, the government gave the airlines money, but let them have the money only after the airlines took out loans to pay the government their “gift” money back. Now the government could start to help the airlines by forgiving those disaster loans.
Ron Cornell

Dear 1Kvoice
After expressing my appreciation for how United handles upgrades and other matters in an email a few months ago, I am reconsidering my viewpoint.

In the last two to three months I have not been upgraded but once or twice at the hundred hour threshold, and only once or twice within the 72 hour threshold or 24 hour threshold. In the last month, not at all. I’ve had to scramble, change flights and be creative to even get a standby chance at an upgrade. But often it has been without success.

I believe I know why this has been happening. United has changed its policy and now upgrades those who purchase full fare tickets at the time of ticketing. I suspect that it now refuses to upgrade 1Ks at the 100 hour threshold, and waits until the last minute so that it can accommodate last minute full fare passengers.

I can understand the logic of attempting to guide revenue by rewarding higher fare passengers. But a lot of these higher fare passengers are already 1Ks and Premier Execs who were being upgraded to First anyway. Now United is attempting to reward high fare passengers even if they aren’t really loyal, while at the same time ignoring your loyal customers who have been loyal through thick and thin, even when they pay a higher fare some times. On a recent flight from Dulles to LAX there were 13 1Ks on the standby upgrade list. When I talk to other 1Ks I find them resentful too.

It recently happened that I was on a discount ticket to Australia, it was not the lowest fare by any means. The domestic portion of my trip was never upgraded in advance, even though I used a systemwide cert and bought the ticket long enough in advance to upgrade the international portions at the time of ticketing. But the domestic flights were not available and at least the outbound never did open up or clear. I’m not back from Australia yet, so I don’t know what is going to happen on the return, but I’m not at all hopeful since United is now using a lot of small A319s on its long haul routes domestically. Incidentally, I think it is rather foolish to use A319s on long haul flights with the demand there is for first class these days. At least United ought to be using A320s or 757s that have more first class space.

This situation is forcing me to reconsider my loyalty. I think United doesn’t have the balance in this. There are now more 1Ks than ever waiting to upgrade at the airport, and I bet a lot of them paid full fare or nearly so. But they don’t get upgraded because of United’s foolish policy of upgrading full fare, but infrequent and perhaps “unloyal” flyers to first at the time of ticketing.

I live on the east coast. If I have to sit in coach all the way to the LA area, or SFO or the Bay Area, Seattle or other west coast destinations from Dulles, why would I pay United’s higher fares, when I can get the same seat for a cheaper price on Jet Blue, Southwest (from BWI), Independence Air or another discount carrier? It certainly doesn’t make much sense to most 1Ks who think about this more deeply. And it shouldn’t make much sense to United either.

Furthermore, I am a top tier Platinum member of Continental’s OnePass program and can use Continental to get where I need to go most of the time. I get upgraded complimentary and automatically on most of Continental’s flights 100 hours out including some international flights. Yes United is convenient at Dulles, but that isn’t the only thing on my agenda. With all the travel I do, I need the convenience afforded 1Ks prior to the change in policy.

As you can see, I’m unhappy about the way United now treats it’s most loyal returning customers. If you look at my profile, or for that matter, any number of 1K profiles, who have been 1Ks for the life of the 1K program, as I have, you will probably find that they are now often not being upgraded even if they are paying higher fares. So the effect is that United is making it very easy to consider other options.

I would think that United would want to strike a better balance in this and protect the revenue of those loyal customers like myself. I realize that United is dealing with Bankruptcy and has revenue issues to deal with. But I would like to suggest that it is in your best interests not to alienate your most loyal patrons, even if they are paying lower fares from time to time. I would imagine that at least some seats in First ought to be reserved or allocated for upgrades for these flyers while at the same time allocating other seats for upgrading higher revenue paying passengers. Perhaps this could be done on a time threshold basis. For example, instead of upgrading full fare passengers at time of ticketing, do it after the 100 hour threshold after taking care of your most loyal customers that are in the system. Perhaps a combination of seat allocations and time thresholds can strike the balance. We are coming up to the end of the calendar year. While I don’t want to sound demanding, this is serious enough to my mind that if it isn’t resolved by the end of 2005, I will have to reluctantly consider revising my loyalty and of course the revenue that you need so very much, to another carrier(s). Please advise us 1Ks as soon as possible to avert this perhaps unintended consequence.

I recommend that you restructure the upgrade policy to provide your most loyal customers with the service they need.

Thank you very much,
Hal Mayer

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