Letters – March, 30 2007

Letters – March, 30 2007

No Gold For Service
I’m in the service and just returned from a grueling, horrific one-year tour of Iraq. I’m a loyal frequent flyer of AA. I earned my Gold AAdvantage membership a few months prior to my deployment and now it’s about to expire. Because I was in Iraq for a whole year, I didn’t get to enjoy the perks of the Gold membership. When addressing this issue with a Gold AAdvantage member service rep, I was told to either purchase the $300-400 extension or do the Gold elite challenge. I don’t think I’ll make the challenge because my unit is supposed to deploy again in another four months with this surge, and training involved in a deployment will take most of my weekends. Only to not enjoy the perks because of a year in the sand box. Plus, that extension price is flat ridiculous. I’d like to take my business elsewhere to a legacy carrier that is more understanding to service members. I still have a soft spot for AA because I’ve been flying them since I could first afford my first plane ticket five years ago. Do you have any contacts in AA that could help me?

Editor’s Note: I am standing at attention while saluting your service to this country. Thank you on behalf of everyone here at InsideFlyer and all our readers. You’ve got a soft spot for AA and I have a soft spot for readers and members of any frequent flyer program who really are interested in being loyal. No need to take your business elsewhere, I have arranged for you to have the next three years as an AAdvantage Gold member which I hope will hold you over until your safe return … and then some. As my father taught me to say … carry on soldier!

No Return?
As a member of multiple hotel rewards programs, I am writing about a perpetual problem specific to the La Quinta Returns program that I have spent hours on the phone trying to resolve. The La Quinta representatives completely agree with my point of view, but no one seems to know how to fix the problem. I have contacted La Quinta Guest Assistance by both e-mail and standard mail with no satisfactory resolution to this problem.

The problem I refer to lies with the lack of a system for tracking points about to expire. Many of the other programs do not have an expiration date for accumulated points, but those that do have a systematic system via the Web page allowing members to view a comprehensive record of activity including the date that points will expire. In addition, for example, the Choice Privileges program reminds members by email when points are about to expire.

In an effort to build enough La Quinta points for my daughter’s graduation in June 2007, it has been very disconcerting to see points vanish every few months without any knowledge. I have spent hours on the phone with Returns representatives who have equal difficulty trying to track the number of points that will be expiring on a particular date.

It seems that a chain as large as La Quinta could employ a technologically savvy person to develop a systematic program that would allow members to view such details of their account. The current approach could be viewed as covert and underhanded.

Another suggestion that I would like to offer in conjunction with this is the concept of offering members the option to redeem expiring points for a Gift Card to be used at a future time for a La Quinta stay. This would keep the money in the business while giving members some flexibility in using their points for more spontaneous travel.
John Klein

Have Miles, will Pay
Years ago I accumulated several thousand miles on United. Today I live in a market that is not served by United or one of its partners. I got an e-mail yesterday that told me I would lose my miles if I did not add, redeem, swap etc. by the end of the year. I noticed that one can redeem United miles for hotel vouchers with Radisson and Marriott; however, one needs to have an Elite status to do so. Is there any site where I could link up with a United Elite flyer, transfer my miles to him/her and pay a token service charge for them to redeem the miles for the certificates I’d like to get?

Editor’s Note: That might be a real risk on your behalf and surely by the end of the day, you’ll likely end up with nothing at best. I always suggest adding to those miles with some sort of partner activity and then trading an actual award with another frequent flyer who lives in a United or partner city. I’m telling you, the conversion rate for what you are thinking would not be pretty — I know I would not do it.

Getting Weighed Down
I’d love to get your opinion regarding some trouble I had this past weekend while traveling on American Airlines from San Jose to Saint Louis with a connection through Dallas. When I boarded AA flight 1274 bound for Dallas I proceeded to my window seat assignment. The grossly overweight woman sitting in the center seat had to get up and move so I could sit down. When I was seated the woman seated next to me could not sit without the armrest up and occupying half of my seat. I realized that I would not be able to tolerate this for the three-and-a-half hour flight time, so I got up and went to the front of the airplane to talk with the flight attendant. When I asked about American’s policy regarding overweight passengers protruding into neighboring seats, the flight attendant responded that “American does not have a policy.” She also said that the flight was full and that there were no other available seats and that I was welcome to speak with the gate agents, which I did.

The American gate agents also were unaware of what American’s policy is regarding overweight passengers encroaching on other passenger’s seat space. However, they were helpful in assisting me to board a different flight to St Louis connecting through Los Angeles. However, that flight had an uncomfortably short layover time and (literally) if I had been 90 seconds later to the gate I would not have made the connection. This would have been a real problem if I had not made it to St Louis in time.

This situation brings up several questions of which I do not have answers. I know that Southwest airlines has a policy to charge appropriately overweight passengers for two seats (something I wholeheartedly support!). However, what are other airlines policies? Is it fair that I had to take a different flight because of an overweight passenger intruding halfway into my paid-seat space? And something I thought about later … What happens if two adjacent overweight passengers cannot fit next to each other on a completely full plane? Who gets bumped and who decides? It seems like American Airlines “head-in-the-sand” approach to this issue may drive some passengers away, including me.
George Goss

Editor’s Note: We’ll research the policies of various airlines as related to this and report back to you as I truly do not know the immediate answer to this. Initial thoughts: I do not think it was fair to you, although I understand that sometimes these conditions are medically-related and something we all might keep in mind, along with how we would feel if we were in their position. Again, I do not know the answers, but know where they are.

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