Letters – October, 27 2006

Letters – October, 27 2006

Drying Up
I have logged in over one million miles on Delta and currently have over 800,000 banked. Each year for the years 1999-2004 I was able to get award tickets to South America for my wife and I without a problem. However, starting in 2005, I was told there were none for the 35,000-mile category but I could get them for double the miles. Same happened this year. And I just tried again for summer 2007 and the same thing happened.

I know you write time and time again that the awards seats are out there, but I just see them drying up.
Harry Goldman

Editor’s Note: Harry, thanks for the note and unfortunately you join others who are noticing a change in their historical award redemption patterns. What I think is happening here is the full effect of Delta’s bankruptcy. It was just over a year ago that Delta finally filed for protection from creditors in bankruptcy court. This followed a year of uncertainty and failing efforts of Delta to right themselves in a difficult industry environment. During these two years, I know from both the official stats that Delta publishes and from the flow of questions I get from members of SkyMiles for advice about how to save their miles, Delta has led the industry for most awards redeemed. Nice stat, but as your experience bears out, it has made it more difficult for members to find awards at the saver redemption level.

We expect these problems to continue for at least another year and then to level out as Delta is then able to complete their long-awaited effort to simplify both their program and their redemption.

We do hear that members seem to have pretty good success booking South America on Continental using their SkyMiles if you haven’t tried that solution yet.

Lufthansa Lags
I try to avoid complaining about airline programs, except to the programs themselves (when it is merited). But your recent praise of the Miles and More program led me to this comment.

I have not experienced worse customer service from any airline program, and I am a member of many of them. In general, I find that Lufthansa normally credits my miles to Lufthansa rather than United, even though I specifically request that they be credited to United. This puts the burden on me to keep all the documentation, check the statements, and so on. When I find that this has occurred, I find it extremely difficult to get Lufthansa to release the miles. Most recently it took Miles and More almost a year to do so.

I took a trip last April 2005 from Washington to Frankfurt to Johannesburg to Capetown and then back on the same route. The Washington-Frankfurt legs were not the problem. The Frankfurt-Johannesburg and Johannesburg-Capetown legs were flown on a South African Airways plane, somewhat to my surprise, and I have given up on ever getting miles out of that from anyone. On the return trip, South African Airways mistakenly cancelled my flights back on Lufthansa. After running around at the airport, I was able to get flights reinstated. But subsequently both Lufthansa and United have refused to recognize the fact that the flights were flown in Lufthansa aircraft with Lufthansa crews making announcements in German and in general, behaving like Lufthansa. Obviously, this is a fair chunk of miles, but, more important, it cost me 1K status. Anything you can do to get United Mileage Plus to recognize that Lufthansa and South African Airways (which at the time was not yet actively a member of the Star Alliance) to communicate facts accurately would be appreciated, so I can get my 1K status. Better late than never!
Gary N Horlick

Editor’s Note: Your specific example makes it easy for me to scold these Star Alliance members to shoot for better communication amongst themselves. We will go to bat for you regarding your 1K status and please let us know if things are better late than never.

AirScrip vs. AirScript
In your article about the 25th anniversary of the frequent flyer programs, is it possible that United’s initial program would have been called AirScrip, not AirScript? Chits representing money are called scrip. It is a common error but I was chair of a marching band that sold scrip so I know the correct spelling.

Fascinating article which reminds me of the discovery of Antarctica. Nathaniel Palmer of Stonington, CT is credited with being the first American to spot Antarctica and at the time had the distinction of being the first person ever. But, Bellinghausen from Russia was there first according to his ship’s log, but he did not return to Russia for two years to make his announcement and Palmer beat him to the punch. Sounds like American and United in May, 1981.
Karen Anderson

Editor’s Note: Great note. Those I have asked are telling me that their memories aren’t as good as they used to be and just can’t remember if the “t” was there or not.

Kudos Marriott
I am writing to describe what I consider to be one of the most exceptional customer support experiences that I have experienced within the travel industry, and it directly involves Marriott Hotels. I have been a long-time member of the Marriott Honored Guest Program, and I am currently a Gold (long-term Gold, onetime Platinum) Member of that program. I have always enjoyed exceptional accommodations and customer support from this program, both at the domestic and the international levels, having stayed at multiple locations within the United States, Europe and the Middle East (including long-term stays at the Cairo, Egypt Marriott). A recent experience with the Marriott Key Bridge (VA) exceeded all prior experiences (taking nothing away from any of the others), and I am hopeful that Marriott will acknowledge the individual efforts of all concerned and commend accordingly.

Due to the death of an immediate family member who was a retired military officer, a memorial service and funeral was scheduled at Arlington Memorial Cemetery. As the family member most familiar with the Washington, D.C. environment, I assumed responsibility for making all family hotel reservations. As all family members were arriving from areas far outside D.C., with many visiting the nation’s capital for the first time, I felt that the Marriott Key Bridge was an ideal choice because of its proximity to both the district and Arlington cemetery, and because of several previous favorable experiences with this hotel. Several reservations were made well in advance with all of them involving weekend rates, requiring a Saturday night stay.

Unfortunately, the reservations were made without knowledge of an eventual memorial scheduling conflict with the five year observances of 9/11, which forced a one-day delay in the funeral scheduling and effected travel plans for all attendees accordingly. When I attempted an online change to the reservations, I found that the rates were effected significantly and that effectively all attendees were now “priced out” of their means. A survey of other hotel chains provided similar results. I called the Marriott Key Bridge and asked to speak with the property manager (Ms. Sharon Lockwood), who returned a call to me personally within fifteen minutes. I explained the situation to her, and she indicated she would research for me and advise me as soon as possible. The very same afternoon, I received a phone call from the reservation manager at the hotel, advising me that Ms. Lockwood had adjusted the rate structure to require a “Sunday night” stay rather than Saturday and maintained the original rate for all rooms. Clearly, the hotel had us at a disadvantage, particularly as the hotel was showing “sold out” status at this time, but they chose instead to be customer friendly!

Throughout our stay at this hotel, we found the hotel to be most ambitious in their efforts to accommodate our family in every way. This had nothing to do with our particular circumstances, but seemed to be the standard within the hotel. Ms. Lockwood and her staff are clearly focused on accommodation and excellence! The lobby concierge constantly provided tour assistance and guidance for guests trying to maximize sightseeing adventures. The concierge lounge was absolutely superb, a cut well above the industry standard today. All in all, this hotel did everything imaginable to turn an otherwise grim time into an enjoyable and memorable experience-one to remember, rather than to forget!

Finally, due to some post-stay billing confusion, for which I accept a share of the cause, I once again turned to Ms. Lockwood for help. As before, she intervened and reconciled the problem within hours, again personally calling to advise me of the status. There is a photo archive in the main hallway of this hotel, which depicts the history of this property as one of the original Marriott properties. It is an intriguing legacy, and the Marriott Key Bridge is now living up to that legacy in outstanding fashion!

I was proud to vote again this year for Marriott customer service during InsideFlyer’s 18th Annual Freddie Awards and I was not at all surprised to see them emerge as this year’s winner. I can assure Marriott that this recent experience has secured my vote for several years to come!

Congratulations to all and very special thanks to the Marriott Key Bridge!

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