Letters – January, 30 2007

Letters – January, 30 2007

The Frequent Flyer Credit Card that Hates Frequent Flyers
I’d been a Diners Card holder for many years, but when the program changed last year and I could no longer transfer points to my favorite airline, US Airways, my husband and I applied for and each received a US Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard. The benefits were great, and it didn’t take long to see the miles add up. The problem was with Juniper Bank, which administers the card. Whenever they saw a card purchase that was out of our area, a bank representative would call us to verify that we still had the card, and that the charge was legitimate. Unfortunately, we would be away from home making those charges, there was no one at home to take the call, so the bank would put a hold on the card. Picture this: I’m in London, Canada, attending my nephew’s wedding, and all the ladies are spending the day at the spa. It’s time to leave and my credit card is refused in front of the entire group. Imagine my embarrassment as my sister asks me if all is well. I try to explain that unless my husband just bought a car, this is not about my credit limit. I’m not sure she or anyone else believed me.

On another occasion when my husband was out of the country, Juniper called me at home to verify his rental car charge. I verified the charge, but they still put a hold on his card! Imagine how he felt when his card was declined for a $7 charge at an airport food concession.

Then there was the rental car in Ireland. When I booked it, Avis advised me that many credit card companies’ collision policies are not valid in Ireland, and that I should check with mine. I called MasterCard, who referred me to Juniper, who referred me back to MasterCard. I called Juniper again, and no one there knew anything about car rental coverage in Ireland. Finally I called Diners, and they of course answered all my questions immediately.

Oh, and did I mention that Juniper is not set up for downloads to Quicken?

Bottom line — I’m a frequent flyer who travels weekly. I have friends and family internationally, and I spend a lot of time away from home. I need a card that respects a frequent flyer, and not one that questions every out of area charge.

I just applied for a US Airways Dividend Miles Visa card, after confirming that it is managed by Bank of America. I’ll be canceling my MasterCard, and if I never do business with Juniper again, it’ll be too soon.
Rosemary Lavoie
Cape Canaveral, FL

They Still Don’t Get It
The airlines still don’t get it. After reading your editorial about SkyMiles, I felt compelled to write you about my recent experiences. I hold Chairman’s Preferred status on US Airways and Platinum Elite status on Continental.

US Airways has always had all of my business since 1990. Every year since 1990, I was in the highest level of frequent flyer whether it was Priority Gold, Priority Gold Plus or Chairman’s Preferred. Beginning in 2004-05, US Airways had a brainstorm and decided to remove 16 of the 24 first class seats in order to add 27 coach class seats on its 757s. The change made it virtually impossible to find a first class seat to the West Coast even if you were willing to pay for a first class ticket. My response, I moved to Continental where there was no problem in obtaining a first class seat. US Airways lost over $24,000 in business.

US Airways’ next assault on its preferred customers came at the beginning of 2006, when US Airways had another brainstorm and discontinued carrying over excess segments for its premium customers. The rationale? Dividend miles needed to “enhance” the program to add a third “Platinum” tier to the program. The result? I transferred virtually all of my business away from US Airways which as of the date of this letter amounts to about $31,000.

Not to be outdone by its competitor in 2006, Continental had a brainstorm of its own. Starting in March, Continental decided to block the entire bulkhead row of seats in first class until day of departure. The rationale? They needed the entire first row to accommodate “disabled” passengers. I have flown virtually all U.S. domestic carriers. While carriers usually block two seats on the aisle in first class, only one blocks the entire bulkhead row. When I contacted Continental, I explained to them that I specifically buy a BusinessFirst fare, usually $1,500 per trip, so that I can select the bulkhead row. Continental’s response? That was their “policy.” My “policy”, as I explained to the representative, was to cancel all of my BusinessFirst tickets in the system, which numbered around six at the time. I rebooked all of my flights on Northwest Airlines, which was more than happy to accept $9,000 of my business. Indeed, the Northwest representative assured me that for the amount of money I was spending; I could have any seat in the aircraft I wanted. Since March 2006, Continental has not received any business from me. And because of SkyTeam, I am still able to maintain my premium status with Continental and take advantage of it on Northwest.
Stephen G DeNigris, Esq.

Frequent (Complaint) Filer
Sometimes I feel that I am a “frequent flyer” when it comes to filing complaints against US Airways. I do, however, feel that problems at this company need to be reported in order for improvements to be made. Since I use an airport where US Airways is a major carrier, it is my “selfish” motive to see continuous improvements in this company. [See letter below being sent to US Airways.]

I am filing a complaint against US Airways for the disregard of company policy concerning Preferred Class upgrades by your employees. On Oct. 31, 2006, my wife and I were taking a nonstop flight from Las Vegas to Philadelphia (US#748, leaving at 10:45pm). We were at the airport 2 1/2 hours prior to departure time. The ticket agent at the counter informed us (upon our request) that “first class is full”, but she would place us on standby status for first class. Just prior to boarding, a man standing behind the departure gate (dressed in a biker’s outfit: tight black T-shirt & a bandana on his head) also announced over the intercom “first class is full.” Upon taking off, however, I noticed that the first class cabin was occupied by no more than four passengers (out of eight seats). In reality, there were actually several seats available in the first class section. For some reason unknown to us, the agent at the departure gate made no effort to upgrade us even though we were probably the first ones in line for a first class upgrade. Sitting barely three rows behind the first class section, I had the misfortune of staring at those empty seats throughout the entire trip. As a result of this episode, I came to realize that all the rules and policies concerning the Preferred Upgrades are purely nonsense since they were neither applicable nor followed by your employees.

The gate agent simply lied about the availability (or lack of it) of first class upgrades on that flight. It was fraudulent for US Airways to claim in their policy that “preferred members enjoy unlimited complimentary upgrade opportunities…”

Can anyone in this company convince us that we should try to maintain our Silver Preferred membership in the future if benefits that we were entitled to were simply ignored or refused by your front-line workers?

All those “segments” and miles that we had accumulated annually (by flying US Airways instead of other airlines) were actually an illusion! In other words, that US Airways had engaged in “fraud” and “false advertisement” to deceive customers!

Unless there is proof that those unoccupied seats in the first class had been assigned to passengers who conveniently and collectively failed to show up, it’ll validate my suspicion that US Airways had purposely deprived us of a complimentary upgrade as stated in your Preferred Upgrades Policy.

Thank you for your prompt attention in this matter. We would appreciate a reply/response concerning this matter in the near future.
Andrew Lum

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