Letters – September, 29 2006

Letters – September, 29 2006

Oldies
I have quite a lot of Eastern Airlines and Pan Am mileage points. I’ve been very ill for several years, and only just now have time to open my file cabinets. I believe both these airlines are out of business. Can my mileage points be transferred to any partners, or redeemed in any way, or are they just lost forever? I hope this isn’t seen as a stupid question, and if it is, even though you’re laughing, would you please reply? As I said, I have a lot of miles in each plan and I’d like to not have them wasted. Thanks a lot.
Kathy Williams

Editor’s Note: OK, I’ll confess. I have not laughed at your situation, but I darn near cried. As you are aware, these are programs long gone. Here’s what happned. Your Eastern Frequent Traveler program miles actually became miles in your Continental OnePass program. At this point it would be rather hard to trace their heritage, but they both shared the same program toward the end so you likely have a Continental account.

As for Pam Am, it might be tricky. All your Pan Am miles would have been absorbed into your Delta SkyMiles/Frequent Flyer account. That also was a long time ago and the tricky part is trying to find out if both accounts shared the same address. If so, odds are that the miles were combined and you actually have them today. What I don’t know is if your illness (and I do hope you are much, much better) might have lingered long enough that the miles you were given from Eastern and Pan Am have now expired because of inactivity in your accounts. In most cases, you would have needed some sort of transaction in your Continental and Delta accounts every three years or so to retain your miles. I’d suggest checking those two frequent flyer accounts and I can then assist you from there.

A toast to your returned health.

Having Clout
I would like to see you address what the frequent flyer community can do as a group to get the TAS and DHS to add profiling to the security system. As a group, frequent flyers have some clout and I think we should use it. We all know how poor and inefficient the present system is. I also believe the majority of us would pay to get the Frequent Traveler program up and operational. We have nothing to hide and if the truth were told the government already knows more about us than anyone would care to admit. One look at our credit card statements and they know where and how often we travel. What motels and restaurants we frequent and what rental car we use and how many miles we drove on our last trip. That said, I don’t care what they know if it makes my travels more secure and less troublesome. This liquid ban is a joke. We have all seen people take water on planes. They don’t check every gate and every flight so one wonders how much contraband is in their shaving kit?

The TSA and DHS (Dept. Homeland Security) are allowing the terrorist to win by giving in to scare tactics and the ACLU.

What can we do to unite? Surely, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Please let me know if you address this issue, I read your monthly magazine (have been a member for years, great job)but don’t get online and am not active in flyertalk. However, I am definately interested in your thoughts.
Dick Henning

Editor’s Note: I hear you loud and clear. We too have similar concerns and that’s why we have become a founding partner of the new Alliance of Business Travelers (abt.travel). To be effective these days, you need a constant voice, one that not only can galvanize the issues at hand, but be in the face of our government at their place of business. The ABT will lobby hard for the rights of, and changes to, travel, which we all seek. We are hoping for big things from this new organization.

Past, Present, Future
I first enrolled in a frequent flyer program over 20 years ago. TWA had a Frequent Flight Bonus Program and it earned me a free trip to London on TWA. A few years later, I traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, free of charge on Continental on the maiden flight from Newark (starting in Los Angeles). My next free trip was in business class to Europe (on Swissair), which was truly civilized compared to the cattle class, as legroom reduction was an annual ritual of the airlines during the 1990s. After that, traveling from my home in Los Angeles to another continent almost required front of the plane service. Starting in 2000, I traveled to the east coast monthly to assist an aging parent and became a Premier Executive on United, complete with short security lines and frequent upgrades. My mother moved near me in Sunny California, so the monthly travel to the east coast is history. I really want to thank InsideFlyer for being there over the years, as I evolved from a young lad on a budget or a weary traveler trying to make the experience as pleasant as possible.

Regarding my future travel situation, things are evolving. I have never had a bad experience on Southwest Airlines and they have always got my top dollar, last minute, business travel. It seems the company treats their employees well and the employees are appreciative of their employment and they can help customers without 20 levels of management approval. If only Southwest could team up with Maxjet or Icelandair, or perhaps add 1st class service to ATA, I would be a regular. Reliable, no attitude domestic service combined with comfortable service to Hawaii and Europe, and the Big 6 would be in big trouble, the likes of which they have never seen before.
Neil Johnson

Editor’s Note: We’re honored to have been along on your journey.

More or Less Choices
Another issue not mentioned. The (Free Companion) Visa Zone Fare seems like a decent deal, especially if you are planning on using it during the “peak” season for your destination. A word of caution to those who are thinking about upgrading to the Platinum Visa, this free companion fare is the most difficult ticket I have ever tried to book. You have to call the 1-800 number (to India) and try to find a “T Class” fare. I don’t know when T Class was invented, but it is impossible to get a seat on just about any flight. I have tried to check united.com for a T Class fare before calling, but come up with everything (Q,W,V, etc) except T. So, Buyer Beware! If you go for this “free” deal you’re going to have to work for it.

My Recommendation — Diversify, use what airline suits you best at the time you need it and collect every airlines’ miles. I belong to just about every major alliance program (Star Alliance, One World, etc) out there, United works best for some trips, American and Delta for others.

Disclaimer: I have had the Visa Credit and Check Cards for 4+ years. It wasn’t until Choices were introduced that I encounterd problems.

Also, I have a theory on the lack of Saver fares. I think there are so many of us out there trying to cash out miles that we are just eating up the few seats available. United may just be trying to prevent a “run on the bank” (Chase)by limiting seats.
Susan Simpkins

C-r-A-z-y Choices
There is one section of the FAQ that helps us all see how “Choices” stinks and that section is the one with some math, where an example of mileage redemption is given.

They give 2 examples. These 2 examples show that there is NO “either/or” redemption option. That is, you cannot call up and say, “Spend choices, not miles, on this ticket.”

(Also, you cannot say, “Give me miles, not choices, for this action I have taken [flying, shopping, whatever.]” So you have no choice in what you earn either.)

The math examples clearly show what their other deliberatly misleading “answers” dance around:

Choices and miles are now all one bowl when it comes to redeeming for anything.

And the quantity in that bowl is reduced in a very bad way IF your “miles” balance is more than your choices balance. When that happens, miles suddenly don’t count as much as they used to and so Choices must be used too! That way choices are reduced AS WELL as your miles.

(Have 30 miles & 20 choices. spend 25 miles. 5 miles remain but since choices was 20 at start and 20 choices is less than 30 miles at start, they then ALSO take 15 choices if you spend 25 miles. End? 5 miles & 5 choices NOT 5 miles and 20 choices you’d expect. They will ALWAYS take choices out whenever the miles balance is more than the choices balance, even if you have enough miles to get an award and should not need to touch choices. Cr-A-z-y!)

My math example is just the short version of their 2nd example, below.

Look over the 2 math examples and you will see that it is possible to spend 40,000 miles & choices to get a 25,000 mile saver reward.

Here’s the examples, from the UAL Choices FAQ page:

Can I redeem Choices for Saver, Standard and Upgrade awards?

Yes, you can redeem Choices for traditional awards, because the Choices you earn are also reflected in your Redeemable Miles balance. However, your Choices will be used last and only if necessary to complete such redemptions.

For example:
1. Starting balance: Choices: 20,000 Redeemable Miles: 55,000
2. Book a Saver Award for U.S. domestic travel: 25,000 Redeemable Miles
3. Ending balance: Choices: 20,000 Redeemable Miles: 30,000

Your Choices balance is not reduced, because Redeemable Miles are applied first and your Redeemable Miles balance still exceeds your Choices balance.
4. Starting Balance: Choices: 20,000 Redeemable Miles: 30,000
5. Book another Saver Award for U.S. domestic travel: 25,000
6. End balance: Choices: 5,000 Redeemable Miles: 5,000

Your Choices balance is reduced because your Redeemable Miles balance falls below your Choices balance, requiring that Choices be redeemed to complete the transaction.

So that’s how you lose both choices and miles. Time to Fly out of this program.
Sandy Wood

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