Letters – April, 22 2008

Letters – April, 22 2008

What the Heck, US Airways!

Since I’ve moved back to the West Coast I’ve changed my airline preferences because of scheduling. I initially flew the bulk of my segments on American. I still believe they are the best of the major carriers.

But they are too rigid and difficult to deal with as a frequent flyer. And their boarding privileges are for Executive Platinum and Platinum only. Since all flights from California are quite long, even Exec Platinums often don’t get upgraded. They just don’t care about their most frequent flyers. Or they don’t show their appreciation, anyway.

So I started flying US Airways and Continental. The Continental seats are so narrow an average size man like myself, 6 ft., 200 pounds, is uncomfortable. And you know you are going to change planes in Houston. That didn’t use to be such a big deal until they opened Terminal E. Now it’s a disaster getting back and forth from C to E and vice versa.

US Airways, on the other hand, has been quite pleasant to deal with. But now all of that has changed.

With their recent announcement that they will no longer honor a 500-mile minimum, they are on my radar screen for a change. Phoenix has to be one of the worst hub airports I have ever dealt with. Adding to the confusion is the separate employees groups of US Airways and America West. Most of the latter still wear portions of their old uniforms and their pride.

But the combo group is just not working. Codeshare tickets leave you scrambling for seat selections without your preferred status. US Airways just wants to sell you a ticket. They don’t assist with anything other than taking your money. There is no online check-in available when they codeshare.

Basically, they make it clear they want your money and the rest is just too bad! I wrote them an email today telling the airline that if they persist in changing the 500-mile minimum, which basically cheats all California flyers as we change planes in Phoenix, that I’m just dropping them.

Their customer service focus is all about their affinity credit card holders. The heck with the folks who spend time on their planes. Well, the heck with them too!

American and Continental will be seeing much more of me.
Mark Adams

Equality for All Miles

Now that airlines are once again making profits, they feel free to eliminate miles accrued by those who are not regular business flyers. This policy is discriminatory against the many people who either do not have the time to fly regularly or lack the financial resources for frequent air travel. This category of traveler often winds up with miles in several programs, none of which ever reaches the level of an award because the airlines purge their miles from their accounts after a few years without program activity.

However, with rising fuel prices, cutbacks in travel by air and current economic conditions, airlines would do well to encourage those in the flying public who need more time to achieve award levels, especially due to increases in miles required for flights, to maintain loyalty to the airlines and programs to which they belong. Their actions may become counterproductive if they treat certain customers as less valuable than others.
Paul Seaver

Editor’s Note: Paul, airlines tell me they are listening to you and others like you, which is why they continue to introduce non-travel partners into their programs. And as they are quick to point out — this type of activity makes your miles continue for many, many years to come.

Just Say No to Mileage Credit Cards

I have stopped using airline affiliated charge cards. I am better off with a Discover getting one percent on everything and five percent on lots of things. I have the money in my pocket and I do not have to fight for a seat. I can buy one with the cash back I am getting, or spend it on anything I like.

The airlines keep charging more miles for cheaper tickets. They have lost my loyalty.
Lester Cohen

Editor’s Note: Lester, you may not have to move to Discover for those same options. Look into the United Choices program and the new Delta Pay with Miles program. You get the basic one percent for any seat you buy like you describe, but unlike Discover, there are many other ways to earn miles so that all your savings toward airfare is not dependent on your credit card bill!

On a Wing with a Prayer

Here’s a good frequent flyer story. My next door neighbor is a devout Catholic whose daughter we had employed as a part-time nanny after she graduated from college and was “finding herself.”

Her daughter was planning to drive her very old, questionable Toyota Corolla from Boston to Portland, Ore. for a wedding. Our neighbor was concerned about this plan because she was sure the car was going to break down and the daughter was a very pretty, very petite young woman who might be just a tad too trusting.

My wife asked if there was something we could do to ensure the girl’s safety. I said, “We can use some of my Northwest miles and get her a ticket.” My wife told our neighbor about our offer and the neighbor came to me when I got home and told me that she had prayed that morning in church that God would find a way to get her daughter to Portland some other way. And that afternoon, she’d heard from my wife that her prayers had been answered.
David Lax

Editor’s Note: David, you’ve given me my biggest smile of the day. Love the story — and for all those out there who may not believe in miracles — even God is a fan of frequent flyer miles. Might I applaud your generosity as well. You are the very type of reader we are proud of having.

Bad Business

Let’s call it BAD BUSINESS!

For the past 12 years in a row, I have been a United Mileage Plus Premier Executive Member. Before that I had Premier status for two consecutive years. I was truly a loyal member of UAL’s mileage program and would go out of my way to travel on anything Star Alliance.

In 2007 however, I lost a close family member and my curtailed travel only accumulated 23K actual miles. Should I be astonished that United demoted me to a regular member with NO status?

It seems to me that when you have a loyal customer for 14+ years, you do not throw them away in a second’s notice.

Wondering if all airlines are no longer wanting to hold on to select travelers? I am tempted to cash in my 325K Mileage Plus points for award travel, and take my future business elsewhere.
Ben Olson

Editor’s Note: Ben, I’m thinking your free fall into the ranks of the unwanted is more a mistake/error than their common practice. I have myself been the recipient in the past of what is often referred to as a “soft landing,” which when not requalifying for a specific elite level will mean you are gifted at a level below before being drummed out — unceremoniously! United has what is referred to as a Premier Associate that they often use for this purpose when not being able to identify why a member is no longer very active in the program. And perhaps a fellow frequent flyer you might know has an extra Premier Associate membership they could honor you with since they are available for nomination at various levels of United’s elite membership.

As well, with the number of years you have qualified you might be close to their Million Miles and Beyond program that awards you Premier Executive status for life once you have flown one million miles with United. Check your lifetime totals for this before pulling out all stops to leave them. While I’m sure you could qualify for a status match from other airlines, let’s see if we can get you to the right person to review your account. While you’re one of nearly 50 million members with United, you’re quite special to us so we’re volunteering to assist you in staying with United.

We’re Not Just Miles and Points

Thanks for publishing my letter this month — smoke in the cabin…

An old friend found me by reading the article.
Brad

Editor’s Note: What are those odds? We are happy to be of service and this is just another reason to read InsideFlyer and to exchange “Letters.”

Lending a Hand

Hello. I just read the March magazine. On page 20, Alice Hempel is trying to help a friend leave an abusive marriage. I would like to chip in funds as well. Do you have any further info? I was once in that situation myself.
Kathleen Karsko

Editor’s Note: Kathleen, I’ve heard from others as well and have decided to donate more funds to this effort in the name of our subscribers. Appreciate your offer, but consider this one to be on us!

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