Letter

Letter

Dissapointed with Delta

I’m Chairman on US Airways, but have to travel between Jackson, Miss. and Washington, D.C. often. The easiest way is the Delta direct flight between JAN and DCA and usually the cheapest is Southwest between JAN and BWI. Recently, I used Delta miles for a free roundtrip DCA and JAN. The return to DCA was cancelled (due to weather — which I don’t believe as it’s a historically low-volume flight) 15 hours in advance! Delta could not provide me with a new flight until 12 hours after the original flight so I ended up just buying a ticket on Southwest at the gate and leaving the Delta agent with her mouth still spouting off nonsense.

After I got home, I was able to get a Delta phone representative to agree to refund the 25K miles and the $75 rapid redemption fee since they inconvenienced me so.

HOWEVER, the refund did not come and I called back and the new story was that at most they could refund half the miles and not the $75 fee. I went around and around with the customer service supervisor about how that’s not what the original offer was but it was to no avail.

Any advice? I realize I flew half the ticket so a 12,500-mile refund is reasonable BUT why would they promise me a full refund and then change their mind? Moreover, the first customer service representative that promised me the full refund said he would put notes in the record that would attest to the full refund but according to representative #2 it was not done.

Anybody else ever get entirely frustrated by such nonsense — especially when the Delta flight was cancelled due to “weather” and I just hopped on a Southwest plane right at the next gate… which the weather didn’t affect whatsoever. And WHY can’t Delta admit that the flight was cancelled due to low volume?

Grr!!
FlyerTalk Member Gradystreet

Editors’ Note: Delta seems to be again inbetween their full employee empowerment and no employee empowerment and while i might argue wit hthe assumption that 12,500 miles is reasonable because you did fly half the award, I have to be reasonable to honor the extent of your other expenses with Southwest. However reasonable as this situation may be for you, they seem to be the one begging for a merger with others, while you and I have have other choices. At this point and knowing that the line is pretty long for these types of situations, I’d take what they offer and yes, Grrr and bear it.

Frustrated with Frontier

My wife and I have about 70,000+ miles currently with Frontier and can’t ever seem to use them. To California for a wine trip this April, nope. To St. Louis for a Cardinals game and visit family in July, nope. To Mexico in December ’08 exactly 331 days before our trip, nope — already full. The 331 days is the maximum amount of days you can pre-book with rewards. We called that morning.
It is crazy and very frustrating. They need to add more reward seats to domestic flights. When they were just getting the program up and going you could get seats, now Never!! I know of three other couples here in Cheyenne, Wyo. and my wife’s parents in Parker, Colo. with the exact same problem as us. We’ve all noticed the problem slowly increasing over the past two years. Two of them have already switched to different credit cards (Frontier’s MasterCard) because they can’t ever use the miles. I suspect that we are next.

For business travelers who can get into the upper tier levels (Ascent and Summit) it seems to be a great program because they can book seats for extra miles with no seat restrictions. However, for “normal” family vacation type travelers the program is pretty useless. They have reduced the seats available for rewards to so few that you can never use your miles. Even if you can be fairly flexible with your dates it usually doesn’t matter, we’ve tried the day before and day after with no luck in availability. Proving that it is truly a supply and demand problem.

We have been EarlyReturns members since the beginning and we were big supporters and fans of Frontier Airlines. They are a victim of their own success. The planes, the flight schedules, most employees, etc. are all great. But the EarlyReturns program is very frustrating for non-elite status flyers.

I would rate it a D minus for “normal” passengers on the basic level. We have been Ascent members in the past, in years that we flew more often, but you lose it if you drop below 15,000 miles in a calendar year. (I think that is the limit anyway).
P.J. Wilber

United, Hardly

I felt compelled to write to you wondering whether I missed these facts in my reading of your magazine over the years or whether it was possible that you and your team actually never pointed out the severe deficiencies of United Airlines policies in using award flights. I have just completed booking an award ticket to Europe for my daughter using a free (50k) award from Los Angeles to Barcelona with outbound connection through Frankfurt and return connection through Zurich. In the process I learned of three policies affecting all such award flights, one of which places enormous jeopardy on the passenger…so much so that it’s enough cause to abandon any loyalty one has to United Airlines, in my opinion:

1) Once issued, you cannot change the connecting city of a flight sequence.

2) Once issued, you cannot change the carrier of a flight sequence. Even though your starting and ending points remain the same, without a fee.

For example, if you want to fly LAX-BCN and are ticketed (because it was the only available sequence) on Swiss through Zurich to BCN, you are not allowed to fly LAX-BCN on any of the other three flights (LAX-FRA-BCN on Lufthansa or United Lufthansa or on the LAX-MUN-BCN on Lufthansa). United considers this a change of routing and charges for such a change, unlike other airlines, such as American.

3) Once you’ve departed, you cannot change anything, without total loss of the ticket. In other words, once you’ve departed you cannot change the return date or time. If you miss your return flight, due to auto accident, illness, etc. you no longer have a ticket. United Airlines policy requires you to purchase a walk up one way international fare. PERIOD. Of course, that ticket would likely cost more than the entire roundtrip fare had you purchased the international ticket. Every other airline (to my knowledge) allows this change of day/time, most without charge, and some with a nominal fee.

Policy 3 alone is disincentive enough for me to not want to accumulate United Airlines miles for fear of being royally betrayed by them after departure. For an airline that has suffered through severe financial crises, and is trying to rebuild image and profitability, these policies must have been made by madmen who are sabotaging their own opportunity for success. Please share these vital conditions of usage of United Airlines awards with your readership (after verifying them), so others who are almost certainly unaware of the peril their voyages may be in will be forewarned enough to express their dissatisfaction with these policies by abandoning their loyalty to United, along with me. Thank you.
Mark Stein

Editors’ Note: United allows you to make changes to the date and time without an additional fee, as long as the routing remains the same. If you make changes to the routing, there is a $100 change fee per person traveling on an award. The rule about not being able to make changes to the itinerary once travel has commenced is not so much a rule mandated by United but rather Star Alliance. If all the flights are on United equipment and are coded as a United flight, you can change the return for a $100 fee. Other carriers (American, Delta, Continental), allow you to change your return once you have commenced travel on an award ticket and the fees vary by airline. But we hesitate to state that this would include changes to the itinerary other than date and time. Some airlines are more likely to waive fees than others, but they all have similar restrictions. Bottom line, you did what you should have done — you questioned the rules and asked them to accommodate you — but the programs hold all the cards when it comes to the Terms & Conditions.

Call for Better Service

I have not tried any Web site for booking an award ticket, because, as you say, they have great drawbacks in terms of what a creative, flexible and really helpful agent, whom you can understand (sic!), and who gives a damn can do for you. Last year, unable to find two tickets out of LAX on the first leg of our trip to Rome, a Delta agent flew us to San Diego first, NO EXTRA CHARGE, from where there were two Saver award seats to our European connection!

This year, two outstanding United agents got us tickets on exactly the route we had selected on an open-jaw flight next October, and three Saver awards to Budapest for my son’s family for September! Even though calling incurs a fee (a mere $15 a ticket with United), you can use their services time after time until you commit to your itinerary. Please do not bruit this about, or the airlines might wise up and charge you each time you call an agent! And when you get a lousy agent, simply ask for another one, or hang up and call again: it’s worth it. If you get a good one, ask for his or her supervisor and praise them to the skies!

By the way, do you know about the weird United rule that you can’t use a 100,000 mile Standard award on certain European flights? The reasoning is so arcane I can’t reproduce it for you…something about you can only fly on actual United flights for that level of award, NOT on their alliance airlines. Go figure!

Also, please pass this along if you haven’t already: if you have Economy Plus access, be sure to fly the long legs on European flights on true United flights; other airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss, etc, DO NOT HAVE ANY SUCH ARRANGEMENT, and if you purchased from United, you are chopped liver when it comes to getting good seats with them. It really pays to study their itineraries online before you call. And have your seat selection, courtesy of seatguru.com, of course, ready when you make your rez.
Dr. Allana Elovson

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