Letters – April, 25 2006

Letters – April, 25 2006

Bring Back the Bennies
Someone needs to start an expose or a class-action lawsuit against US Airways so they will start recognizing their responsibility to provide their frequent flyers the perks they said they would when first enrolling. It is one thing to say you can earn all these levels (Chairman’s Preferred) and then when you try to collect on the benefits of that level, they confuse the issue by saying that, for instance, we haven’t allocated those seats for upgrade.

Well, then, why do you ask me to call seven days in advance for an upgrade? You still have 15 seats to “buy” in first class, but you can’t upgrade. And this is after spending massive sums of money to just get the Dividend level. What they are failing to tell the frequent flyers is that there is such a huge liability present with the potential award recipients, that the only way they can skirt the issue is to deny the awards on some trumped up excuse.

Wake up US Airways, and probably others, and service the folks that have been faithful to you. You created the plan and the rewards to entice people to fly with you and now you are “putting on the blinders” when it comes time to pay off.

Of course you want more revenue, but pay up and quit leading us down the garden path.
Tom Plaskett

Online Oddity
I was hoping that you would be interested in doing a story on my experience with Continental OnePass. I think it is something all frequent flyers should be aware of. I have given Continental several opportunities to explain how the situation I describe below could happen. Continental has just shifted my call from department to department and tried to explain that someone was making and releasing reservations at the same time that I was.

My situation is that I was online, logged into my OnePass account which has a balance of over 700,000 miles, searching for reward tickets for my wife to fly home to her grandmother’s funeral. While logged on to my account I was unable to find any 12,500 per segment seats on the search criteria I entered. While searching, my Internet connection went down and I was logged off my OnePass account. My connection came back up and I went back to the Continental site. However, I did not log into my OnePass account; I just went to reward travel search. When I entered the same search criteria, several 12,500-mile seats were available. I thought this was strange but assumed I entered something incorrectly before. I logged back onto my OnePass account and re-entered my search and to my surprise no 12,500-mile segments were available. I logged off and entered my search criteria and the low cost segments were available. I repeated this process seven times each way (14 entries, seven logged on, seven not logged on) and got the same results described above.

One might think that if you have miles, Continental wants you to spend as many as possible. That can be accomplished by having only high-mile tickets show up for those with lots of miles in their account. I ended up calling Continental reservations and getting the low-mile reward tickets. However, last year I bought five reward tickets for 50,000 miles each because the 25,000 mile tickets were not available. I cannot help but wonder if they were not available or just not available to people with miles to spend.

I have screen shots of the search criteria and results described above and would be more than happy to share them with you. I have offered to share them with Continental, however they have no interest in seeing them.
Stephen Metoyer

Value Rating?
Wouldn’t this be more fair and give a better view of people’s true opinions if they were allowed to give a “Value Rating” to as many programs as they actually have knowledge of — and a “not applicable” or “pass” rating for those they do not have knowledge of?

I belong to 6 Frequent Flyer programs and 6 Hotel programs and they all have some definite advantages and disadvantages. I travel extensively and my experiences have been just the opposite of many of the awards you give (Starwood for example is the WORST for actually crediting the points you earn without having to be asked to over and over — and their customer service is about the worst in the industry when you need help.) Starwood often does not honor their promise of giving you a room for points if a room is available — and no help after you have paid for that room! Yet I see Starwood winning this thing year after year!

And while a big bonus for a flight to Asia might be my number one pick one year, it might mean nothing to me the next year if I am traveling to Europe that year.

What makes many programs most valuable is the PARTNERSHIPS they form and I do not see anywhere in your awards where that is valued.

It just seems that for such a “coveted” travel industry award, you would have a little more control over WHO is voting for WHAT and give those people a chance to express a value rating for each of the programs they belong to — or have belonged to. You may be able to control “ballot stuffing” by email addresses (though many people have MANY valid email addresses) but by eliminating the opportunity for voters to give a poor value rating for poor programs, you aren’t getting a fair picture of these programs.
Dan Block

Editor’s Note: Dan, I really don’t understand your concern. You currently have the ability to rate any program good or bad depending on the Value Vote you give them. By not allowing voters to cast votes for more than one program within a category, we think we elicit better results as we force the voter to consider which single program is doing the best for them.

Out of the Loop?
I was intrigued to receive an email which directed me to the Freddie Awards from my Marriott Rewards program recently. As these were something I had never heard of I followed the links. I found your magazine is the principal sponsor of this seemingly inwardly focused awards program.

I have traveled all over the world in the past although more recently only within Europe, but I had never heard of the awards and I am totally at a loss to understand the reasoning behind them. I have never to my knowledge seen your magazine in any airport lounges or hotels.

Is this something that is peculiar to the U.S. and the frequent flyers there?

It is intriguing to note that there has perhaps been some strategic voting to raise the profile of some lesser-known schemes and companies. How do you verify the independence of such an award scheme, and are the companies listed ones who pay for advertisements in your magazine?

Needless to say I shall not be voting, but if I did I would be voting for Airmiles — the U.K. scheme which does not appear to deserve a listing.
R. Jackson

Editor’s Note: Mr. Jackson, as a frequent traveler you are no doubt overwhelmed with messages from airlines and hotels. Sounds like the Freddies got lost in the noise. I’m glad to hear that, thanks to a growing number of travel loyalty programs helping to get out the vote that the Freddies have finally appeared on your radar. The reasoning behind them? It would be hard to name a single more influential element of travel over the past 25 years than the introduction of frequent flyer programs. And with the estimated 180 million members worldwide, the Freddies seek to allow the members of such programs to be heard and allow them to name which of the estimated 160 programs worldwide are indeed doing great things for their members.

The Freddie Awards are not particular to the U.S., and, in fact, we have voters from more than 130 countries worldwide. As for lesser known programs; well, that’s one of the beauties of the Freddies in that its not a popularity contest but rather a rating of value and you may just be surprised where the value comes from these days. The balloting goes through dozens of audits to ensure the validity of the results and while we’re disappointed you have chosen not to vote, if you value your miles and points, then this truly is worthy of your time. As for the Air Miles scheme — true, it’s not listed but only because it is not a frequent traveler program.

Informed Thanks
Thank you for your work on the Freddies. The results of the voting provides me with a lot of great information. And not only for myself, but also you’re giving others a lot of great information. And the more informed the flying public is, the more they will make informed choices when they fly. And that can only improve our airlines, by punishing the bad ones and rewarding the good ones.
Mark Terry

Editor’s Note: Mark, the goal of the Freddies is and always will be to acknowledge the efforts of those programs who truly have increased the value of their program for their members year by year. As well, it would be our hope that no one uses the Freddies to “punish” the bad ones. Simply voting for your preferred programs should send the correct message to the rest.

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