Letters – November, 30 2006

Letters – November, 30 2006

Travel Productivity
I read InsideFlyer with great interest to keep up with the trends in travel. Like many others today, I am looking for productivity when I travel. That began with putting everything on my BlackBerry. Another addiction, but that’s a whole different article.

I wanted to let you know about a great travel tool for the BlackBerry, Treo and most cell phones that allows you to check-in to Southwest Airlines in one click and lets you track flights in real time as well as retrieve your gate information. Again, all of this in just one click of your phone. This tool is called Skip.

In short, busy road warriors can manage all their travel online and then view it on their mobile device at a glance. There is no typing to do on the phone, just click to see your information, click to call a specific customer service number, click to check-in or click to track your flight. Skip converts e-mail itineraries from Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia and Southwest into a readable format for your phone. You can also enter any data manually that you choose. This allows the traveler to see flight, rental car, hotel and other information on the run without having to dig information out of their briefcase. The traveler can finally leave their folder full of itineraries and confirmations at home. If you get a chance, check it out at www.goskip.com. The product is in beta and is free. I hope you find it a terrific travel tool.
Amy Vargas

Editor’s Note: Amy, thanks for the info. If there’s one thing about this magazine and its efforts such as FlyerTalk and WebFlyer — we love promoting an environment where frequent flyers can learn from each other. In essence, it is not all about us talking to you. It is clear you use this when traveling and thus can give us the perspective we need when considering productivity tools for the road. Consider this our attempt to join you and others making life on the road better.

Bonuses
As time goes by I find myself skipping more and more of the promotions listing in the back of your magazine. The reason is that it takes so long to troll through the details to find items of interest to me. This applies mainly to the hotel promotions. So, here’s my solution: I only travel to certain cities on a regular basis. It would help me (and hopefully others) if you could BOLD or make RED the cities that the promotions pertain to. I can then see at a glance if there’s anything going on in San Francisco rather than having to sift through the mice type of every single item. Otherwise, great magazine. I’ve been with you for 10 years.
Name Missing

Editor’s Note: Ten years? Then truly we have grown up together in our travels. Thank you for your support and your suggestion which I don’t disagree with. You might remember years ago that we used to monthly feature a map of the U.S. and of the World in which we detailed bonus promotions from Bonus Bulletin. There were 10 cites on each map for which airline, hotel, car rental and other bonuses were listed. It sounds like we should have continued that and I’m not sure why we did not. Let me see what we can demo up to see how this might look and report back to you. As an aside, we’ve been working on updating the online Bonus Bulletin which might be your answer. We’ve tested the idea of listing bonus promotions by Google Map and have readers find bonuses that way. This could be the next wave, though it is far from being ready to release right now. You’ve got our attention and make good points. I am very sorry for the mice type, it doesn’t make us or the mouse look that good!

Who Owns What
Is it true that technically and legally, the airlines own all their frequent flyer miles and can cancel or change the terms of their use at any time (baring the fact there would be a frequent flyer uprising)?

Some say since you can buy miles, that means you can own them. Others say the reason the IRS doesn’t tax them is that ownership is cloudy.

What do you think? Any fuel for the discussion would be appreciated.
Robert

Editor’s Note: Robert, thanks for the note and I always love these type of letters. I suppose any answer I’d give you would be predicated on what the purpose of discussion is for. At the end of the day, my guess is that the ownership of the miles is simply a common legal assertion, similar to almost any other transaction in the world in that the lawyers felt the airline needed to protect itself. While I very much disagree with the later claims that changes to the programs and the miles can be made without notice and without recognizing the grandfather value of the existing relationship, I can’t argue that I’ve enriched myself despite who owns the miles.

With some exceptions, the issue of who owns the miles has been relatively academic over the past 25 years. Both owners of the miles — be it us or the programs have gained from access to the ownership and I can only assume that this shared asset continues to provide benefit and value to us all.

No Change of Heart
I don’t know if this qualifies for your stories but here goes.

On September 25, 2006, I used my frequent flyer miles to book a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago for a Bar Mitzvah on November 2. On November 1, 2006, I had a atrial fibrillation attack which means my heart went out of rhythm. It was corrected at the hospital and the doctor told me to cancel my flight as he was changing my medicine. He also told me it would take at least 10 days before the new medicine would kick in. Therefore, he wanted me to stop all activities as not to have another attack.

After I came home I called United Airlines and they told me that I would be charged one hundred dollars to put the miles back into my account. I told them what happened and would be more than happy to send proof. This was to no avail. They did say that the ticket was good for one year for a Chicago trip. However, as I rarely fly there I seem to be stuck for the one hundred dollars or lose the mileage. I would appreciate any advice on your part.
Hank Greenberg

Editor’s Note: Hank, let us be among the many who are glad your ticker is on the right timing. No matter the miles, it’s health that matters. I can’t speak for United, but my guess is that with 48 million Mileage Plus members it would be a challenge to review the types of members events that occur daily and try to proactively respond. All that aside, your request was something that almost any empowering organization should have been able to take care, even at the first level of customer contact. They didn’t. But I will. I recognize that you’ve been a valuable reader of InsideFlyer. In fact, we are still publishing today — after twenty years — because of readers like you. So, look for a check for $100 in your mail box over the next several days which will cover the expense of redepositing the miles into your Mileage Plus account. There’s a lot more to InsideFlyer than just our advice.

Admirals Club Food Change?
For the last three or four years, every time I visit the Admiral’s Club in Chicago I have enjoyed the sandwiches, panini’s, salads and yogurt parfaits made by Good To Go Food. I have also personally heard many Admiral’s Club members who have liked the food over the years, compliment the staff about it. Any frequent traveler knows it’s not easy to find delicious, fresh and healthy food in an airport setting.

When I was in the Club last week, I heard that American was going to stop selling the Good To Go Food items there this week. It seems that the company that runs the club for American, convinced senior management in Dallas that they could make more money by letting them provide all the food to be sold. I’ve tried their food as well and it tastes like the crap they use to serve on the airplanes (i.e. barely edible).

I am sending this letter because I think your members would want to know what American is trying to pull and I don’t think we should take this decision lying down. For the amount of money people pay to belong to the Admiral’s Club, you’d expect the type of high quality food that Good To Go Food has been providing and you don’t want a change to be made.

Several AA employees have told me the way to get this decision reversed is by having Admiral’s Club members complain about the change. With all the perks we’ve given up as frequent travelers post 9/11, this is a battle I think we can win.

If people would like to help they can send an e-mail to Nancy Knipp, the Managing Director of Premium Services (nancy.knipp@aa.com) with a copy to Debra Wallen, Manager of the Chicago Admiral’s Club (debra.wallen@aa.com). If it is more convenient, they can call (817) 963-1234 and ask to be connected to Nancy’s office.
An AA Exec Plat

Editor’s Note: At the risk of inciting a food fight (guilty as charged), I think we can pass along this information to our readers and try and drum up some support. We’ve always favored the little guy and side with you in that relationships count, even in the days of saving a nickel.

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