Letters – December, 28 2006

Letters – December, 28 2006

Flying in the Wrong Direction?
I and the 35,000 other traveling employees of Lockheed Martin (the world’s largest defense company) received the below notice today. At my little division of LM in New York (about 100 engineers) we have no less than a dozen Chairman, Platinum and Gold members of US Airways elite club. My air expenditures on US Airways this year are at least $7,500 and probably closer to $10,000 and I am only a Platinum. Lockheed Martin’s workforce is heavily based on the East Coast where US Airways does lots of business.

Let’s do a little math. Let’s say only 1,000 LM employees (probably low since it is 10 percent at my place) are US Airways frequent flyers. Let’s say spend about $3,000 a year on flights (again very low). The total is “what” $3 million (I would bet it is higher that that). How can an airline who is hawking credit cards at every airport and on every flight; trying to sell everything from toenail clippers to dishwashers (and giving miles) on their Web site (and making only a few pennies on these dollars), give up this revenue to another airline? These are business travelers, they are going to fly. My travel arranger has already sent an e-mail to LM corporate travel requesting they approach our other authorized airlines to see who would grant US Airways elite members status in their programs. My bet is somebody will. What corporation is next for this? My recommendation is if you are a corporate US Airways flyer now, shift to someone else before you get surprised too!!

From: Travel, Corporate (UNKNOWN)
Sent: Thursday, Nov. 02, 2006 10:35 PM
To: LM Traveler; Travel Arranger
Subject: Lockheed Martin Corporate Discount with US Airways Discontinued Memorandum
To: Lockheed Martin Business Travelers
From: Richard Wooten, Procurement Director, Lockheed Martin Corporate Travel Services
Date: Nov. 2, 2006
Subject: Lockheed Martin Corporate Discount with US Airways Discontinued
Effective immediately, US Airways has terminated their corporate discount agreement with Lockheed Martin. This action is a result of last year’s acquisition of US Airways by America West. US Airways has determined that their new business model can no longer include extending reasonable discounts on their airfares to corporate clients.

The last day to purchase a ticket on US Airways with a discount will be Nov. 27, 2006, and all travel must be completed by Dec. 27, 2006.

In lieu of travel on US Airways, Lockheed Martin travelers should utilize the most cost-effective solution with one of these Lockheed Martin approved airlines:
AirTran, Northwest, American, United, Delta.

We apologize for any inconvenience travelers may encounter with this change.

We appreciate your understanding as we strive to provide quality travel services at a reasonable cost to the Lockheed Martin business traveler.
John Burg

Whining For Nothing?
To counter the complaints about mileage redemption, I offer the following: I recently booked business class award travel for late February from Washington to Bangkok using Dividend Miles. I ended up on Thai Airways (on the JFK-Bangkok nonstop). I had several choices of routings and dates, so either I was lucky or there is a lot of whining for nothing. The US Airways call center in Winston-Salem has always been first rate and was especially helpful this time. I only wish I could use Dividend Miles to upgrade rather than having to get a completely free ticket and not earn mileage on this trip. I have never flown Thai; I flew on Singapore Airlines a few years ago and they lived up to their reputation; I’ve been told by some people that Thai is better, although I find that difficult to comprehend.

Keep up the good work.
Cliff Roberts
Arlington, VA

Editor’s note: Thanks for the information and the comments, Cliff. We especially love your comments regarding having to redeem your miles for a completly free flight rather than the upgrade with an ability to earn more miles. We’re sure our other readers can relate to that. Enjoy the trip.

A Liquid Connection? Not!
When notifying people of restrictions for flyers you might want to know of one little-known rule:

I flew Qantas from Australia, no problem, with three bottles of wine. When I tried to connect to United Express to fly from LAX to SBA I was asked if I had any wine in my checked baggage.

I ended up renting a car.
David Moore

AAustralian AAdvantage?
I just booked an AAdvantage award for travel from Austin to Australia using AA miles. It was painful. I had enough miles for a first class ticket. I had to signup as a Qantas Frequent Flyer and look through their inventory. I then had to phone in the booking to American because such bookings are not possible online.

I got my seats but with one little twist. The last leg of my trip was in coach (from LAX to AUS) on Sept. 6, 2007. I was told no award seats were availble in first class. I got off of the phone and looked up booking online. My travel dates were Aug. 20, and Sep. 6. I could book a first class AAdvantage award from AUS to LAX and back using the same flights for 45,000 (mileSAAver awards).

I called back the AAdvantage line and they told me that I must have made a mistake. I went back online and printed out the possible booking. The flight in question: 1308 from LAX to AUS on Sept. 6, 2007.

What a scam.
Thomas Bizzell

Mileage Run Article Triggers Action
I enjoyed your article on mileage runs so much that I am spending 60,000 Worldpoints to go from Las Vegas to London Gatwick on Continental Airlines on Dec. 29 returning Dec. 31. I was 9,932 miles short making it to Platinum Elite Plus. Roundtrip Las Vegas to London is 12,150. The wife gave me one rule before I looked into my adventure…You can only spend $500.00. Well, Worldpoints buys the roundtrip ticket to London. I pay $147.00 in taxes and fees. Marriott Gatwick is $158.00, for which I get 10,000 bonus points (third Marriott stay paying with my Marriott Rewards Visa Premier Card) Gatwick Express, roundtrip $40.00. Dinner and one day tube pass on Dec. 30 $120.00, $34.00 for extras! Wife happy… I arrive back in Vegas at 6:45pm on Dec. 31st. Talk about coming right under the wire!

Love your magazine!!
Kevin Streit
North Las Vegas

Editor’s note: Kevin, you made our day, good math, all the right reasons for the mileage run. And you know, the wife is right — she let you go!

Downgraded Elite Frustrations
I am writing out of severe frustration with Northwest’s WorldPerks elite program. I have 4.4 million miles in WorldPerks, including 1.6 million flight miles. I was a Gold level, and then Platinum when it was later introduced, for 17 consecutive years. In 2005, I was unable to travel due to medical reasons, and therefore only flew six trips.

Northwest downgraded me to a base member for 2006, completely stripping me of any elite status.

I have appealed this decision many times, only to repeatedly receive “form” letters telling me that their elite program is for loyal customers, which they claim I am not one, due to only taking six trips on NWA in 2005.

I know that several airline programs grant lifetime elite status to members attaining one million flight miles, and mentioned this in my letters to WorldPerks. However, their response has been to reject my appeal each time. I have tried to communicate with the highest level of management as possible, but my letters are handed down to mid-level management to respond negatively. They did offer me Silver status if I bought two domestic tickets costing $1,500 or more in a 90-day period.

I live in MSP so my alternatives are somewhat limited. This year I will probably fall just short of Silver elite on NWA because as a base member, I am constantly only able to book a middle seat, so I choose a different airline, am forced to take connecting flights, just to have some comfort on three-hour flights.

Is there anything I can do to get NWA to recognize a longtime loyal customer? I would appreciate your advice and/or assistance.
R. Carlson

Editor’s note: Having been in a similar situation, we understand your frustration. While we have no power over WorldPerks decisions, I think maybe we can get you to the right “ear.”

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