Letters – November, 02 2007

Letters – November, 02 2007

Trojan Horses for Frequent Flyers
Randy, while I’m happy you’re pleased with recent IT changes at AA, I’m afraid I have a different take. Third party control of inventory has always troubled the airlines. They eliminated travel agents, and with Orbitz, tried to influence (weaken) the online sector, when the likes of Expedia and Travelocity (which, for a time, was loosely connected to AA via Sabre) gained traction.

There is no doubt in my mind that the endgame these days is to increase customer trust, and by extension, dependence, on in-house booking sites. Not unlike outlet malls, another good idea gone bad (with manufacturers now stocking lower quality goods specifically for those stores, rather than unsold top line merchandise), these booking engines are Trojan Horses.

I recently tried to book a day trip White Plains-Charlotte, and back, on US Airways. Although they had recently begun three daily nonstops in that market, the company Web site continually tried to sell me connections. I finally forced it to offer me the flights I wanted, which by the way, were no different in price. I have had similar experiences on other carriers.

Intoxicated with having removed everything from food to legroom, reduced access to awards, and generally reducing the flight experience to that of a cattle drive, and gotten away with it, these guys are now heading for the barn door. At least the folks who read this publication have some ability to protect themselves, but pity the civilians…and good luck finding any deal these characters don’t want you to have.
Gary Stevens

Retired Miles

While working, I accumulated over 500,000 miles on US Airways. I had about 450,000 left, which I was going to use to travel when I retired.

I thought that I was not receiving yearly updates from US Airways because I was not flying in my last years at work. Some time ago my wife noticed that we were not receiving statements and I called about it. I was told that since there was no activity on the account, no statements were being generated. I took this at face value, never thinking that a change would be made without my knowledge.

In June, I called US Airways to use my miles on a flight. I was told by a very unsympathetic agent that my account was totally wiped out. She said the reason I had not received any correspondence was that they had eliminated mail altogether, and had gone to e-mail exclusively. How can you in good conscience assume that everyone who flies has e-mail, especially if YOU HAVE NOT BEEN GIVEN an e-mail address by the customer? I find the removal of my points very unfair and ask that my Dividend Miles be reinstated.

My Dividend Miles account number is [removed for privacy], any help that you can give me will be greatly appreciated.
Gerard L. Levine

Delta Litigation
I read with interest your article on Delta Air Lines and the class action now pending. There’s another coming their way with allegations of deceptive trade practices and “bait and switch” with their non-refundable flights.

Essentially after making an error on a telephone booking, Delta attempted to charge an additional $630 for the flight they were instructed to book. While attempting to get $630 to make the change they should have made because of their mistake, the same flight could be purchased directly from Delta for $164 one way. It should be interesting to see how many other Delta flyers have been overcharged.

We’ll keep you posted after the new class action suit is filed in Louisiana’s Federal court system.
Stephen Spring

Got the Money, Where are My Miles?
I almost opened an account at NetBank to earn US Airways miles, www.netbank.com/usairways (it may take a few days to close down the US Airways link.)

On Friday, Sept. 28, 2007, the FDIC closed down NetBank. Balances under $100,000 are insured and depositors should get their money. My guess is any miles, like toasters decades ago, are not included with the FDIC payouts.
Neil Johnson

Frustrated with Hilton
I sent the following e-mail to Hilton HHonors regarding a problem with their Web site in regard to booking reward travel. I did receive a response fairly quickly, but all it stated was that they would refer the problem to their Web team. I tried once again to book a Point Stretcher reward on their Web site, and the same thing happened again tonight. Have any of your other readers experienced this problem? And, do you think I deserved more of a response from a customer service perspective than just a shifting of the issue to another department? Keep up the good work!
David Biggs

Subject: Web Site Issues/Reward Stays

I am writing in regard to what I believe may be a problem with the Hilton Web site. A few weeks ago, I went online to see about booking a reward stay using my Hilton HHonors points for London in October. I was particularly interested to see if there were any Point Stretcher rewards available.

I went to www.hilton.com and on the home page used the Reward Stays tab and entered a request for London plus my travel dates. The next screen which came up was a list of 10 hotels, many of which showed a Point Stretcher reward available in brown. And in particular, I was interested in the London Euston Hilton for a two night stay with total points shown as needed of 42,000. Since I didn’t have enough points in my account and I needed about 10,000 more, I used the Web site to buy an additional 10,000 points for $100. I completed my transaction and waited about 30 minutes or so for these additional points to show up in my account.

After the points showed up, I went back online and made the same reward request, to only have regular awards show up as being available, no Point Stretchers. I then called the Hilton reservation line to see if there were rooms available and was advised that there was no inventory of Point Stretcher rooms available for the dates I had requested. I explained to the reservation agent the fact that rooms had shown as being available, and she said she would pass the information onto the Web site managers.

Not to be deterred, I have occasionally checked online since to see if rooms might have become available since then at the Point Stretcher level. On three different occasions, the Web site initially showed Point Stretcher rewards available! Though each time, I was not able to actually book a room.

Please allow me to elaborate. I used the same search approach each time, and at different points in the process, what shows as available Point Stretcher rooms changes to regular reward rooms. Again, I start at the www.hilton.com Web site home page. I click on the Reward Search tab and enter London and my dates of stay (October 12, to 14, 2007). I am then asked to sign in, so I enter my membership number and PIN. On three separate occasions, on different days, a list of 10 hotels has appeared on a page entitled Hilton HHonors Reward Search, with a number of hotels showing rooms available at the Point Stretcher level in brown with a button stating View Rooms.

The first time this happened, when I clicked on the next page to see the other area hotels available, the hotels on the second page also showed Point Stretcher rooms available. The trouble started when I went back to the first page to book my preferred hotel, it changed to showing only regular awards being available. Okay, so now I am getting frustrated, but figure maybe I missed a short window of opportunity. So, I try again a few evenings later, though this time I figure, I will book the London Euston Hilton immediately if it’s available on the first page at a Point Stretcher level, and I will not go to page two of list. Sure enough, it shows two nights available at the Point Stretcher level for 42,000 points! So, I click on View Rooms, and it shows a twin or queen room available, but only at the regular reward level.

So now, I am thinking, maybe just bad luck again. So I try a fourth time a few evenings later. The same thing happens. Now maybe there have never been any Point Stretcher Reward rooms available in London for the period in question. However, clearly you have a glitch in your system that someone needs to fix. I am certain that this tempting of your members with unavailable Point Stretcher Rewards in unintentional, but it is frustrating and certainly not in keeping with the fine customer service I normally receive from Hilton, in whatever form my interactions take.

I am hoping that you can advise me of why I keep having this problem and what steps will be taken to resolve the matter. In regard to my specific experience, I now have an extra 10,000 Hilton HHonors points in my account that cost me $100 that I can apparently not use as planned, that is unless you can somehow confirm a room for me at the London Euston Hilton at the Point Stretcher reward level for two nights (October 12 to 14, 2007).

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.
David Biggs

Editor’s Note: It is a problem shared with others and we agree that you deserve a better experience and certainly not the type of excuse that was made. But, we have always found HHonors to be among the very best in listening and have arranged your problem to be handled personally.

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