Letters – May, 28 2008

Letters – May, 28 2008

Take Two Flights and Call them in the Morning

Not that you need yet another story of an airline’s illogical practices, but… I flew from PHL to MIA on US Airways to work with one of my clients. The client and I agreed that I would travel down on Sunday and return Thursday evening. My work concluded earlier than expected such that I could leave Miami on Wednesday morning. US Airways had a few nonstop flights to choose from, all with available seating.

Knowing there would be a change fee, I called the airline and first inquired about flying standby instead of changing my reservation and paying the $100 fee. Well, I could not fly standby except on the same day I was originally scheduled to travel, Thursday. That meant staying in Miami through Wednesday and paying for another hotel night. So even though US Airways had flights with empty seats, I could not have one without paying a $100 fee plus the increase in the fare.

So I inquired about changing my reservation, and the cost would have been $340 including the $100 fee and the fare increase.

I then asked about the cost of a new, one-way ticket. That was only $280! So that’s what I purchased — a “savings” of $60.

That left me with a credit for the unused return flight. To use that credit, it had to be used by me (only), had to be used only in the same direction between the same two airports (i.e., only from MIA to PHL, not from PHL to MIA, or any other airport). And of course, when and if I did want to use it, I would again be subject to the $100 fee plus any increase in the fare at that time.

So US Airways frustrated me, cost me more money than needed, and generally left a bad taste in my mouth, again.

Why couldn’t I just be allowed to fly standby on Wednesday? Too logical I guess, even with the $50 fee they charge for that privilege now.

Thanks for listening.
Steven I. Butler

UA vs. CO

United vs. Continental. I have been both a 1k and a Platinum member of the respective programs. The big plus and minus you missed [in your recent “Merger Mania” cover story]:

– I like United’s upgrade policy more because you can lock in or guarantee an upgrade well in advance for long flights by using your confirmed upgrades.
– If you change/miss flights on Continental you have virtually ZERO chance of an upgrade because the first class seats are filled already.
– United blocks exit row seats for premier members. I still fly Continental occasionally (I live in Houston) and even with zero status anymore, if I check in the first minute you are able to online, I get the exit row seat… it should not be that way.
– I quit flying Continental when I got stuck on numerous regional jets without first class seats (try flying nonstop Houston to Toronto in a cramped regional jet and not in exit row).
Randy Heaton

Atlanta Loves Delta

Living in Atlanta for the past 40 years, Delta has been our airline, and over the years we have accumulated nearly three million miles between my husband and myself. We have nearly always been able to get the trips we want, but I need to add that on many of them we planned way ahead, and called the requisite 331 days out…for Hawaii we called at midnight of that day! Other trips have been planned with less time before the flights, and though we have found a way to get to wherever we wanted, it involved less than perfect itineraries, like plane changes in New York or wherever, or flying the day before (or several days after) our first choice. Sometimes we flew into a nearby city.

I don’t think we have ever actually paid for a trip to Europe since 1989, and I am grateful to Delta for the SkyMiles program. By the way, although we are elite members, we are not Platinum, and have not been, so that is not the reason for our success. Planning ahead as much as possible is the key.

Sometimes my husband’s business trips come at the last minute, and thus have a high price. We have also been able on occasion to use miles for a less popular destination that he needs to visit.

I only have comments regarding Delta’s program, but using their miles we have also flown Air France, Alitalia and Continental. Overall we have loved the program, and we have always been able to use SkySaver. Since it is now possible to do “half and half”, if a trip we really wanted required one way to be SkyChoice, at least we could split the difference with the miles… a nice option.
Paula in Atlanta

No Problem

I have never had any real difficulties with any frequent flyer program. We fly mostly overseas and I secured free tickets last year (always at the lowest mileage rate) to Hong Kong and Bali (via Cathay, an American partner) and Papeete (via Tahiti Nui, also an American partner). My wife flew three years ago with Continental, and I just got tickets with the same airline, to Israel, always an extremely tricky proposition. We have also flown to Australia with United, Delta to Thailand and Nepal, Northwest to Cabo, and domestically to Alaska exactly when all flights were full with cruise ship passengers.

Maybe we have been lucky, I do not know. The only flights we have had difficulties on have been the local hops from Gainesville, where we live, to Atlanta, or to Miami, the hubs for airlines in this area. But then we are accustomed to driving 90 minutes to Jacksonville, for all connections.

Small Problem

I am sorry to hear some travel advisors advocating eliminating frequent flyer programs. My husband and I have accumulated about 700,000 American Airlines miles in the past 18 years and we have also received some free seats on Delta.

The benefit of the miles has given us the opportunity to enjoy many wonderful vacations. If you are flexible and book in ample time you should be able to get the seats you want.

The down side is the charge to reinstate you miles is $100. I cannot justify this expense when the tickets are electronic.

American also charges a $75 expediting charge if the tickets are purchased in less than 21 days. While not a perfect program, it is still a good program. So don’t give up on frequent flyer miles — they are a good value!

In-Flight Closed Captioning

Airlines today are charging fees and such for every little thing they can possibly get away with, which is mostly whatever they wish. There’s a fee for better seating (which should be reserved for handicapped patrons, and given free of charge), fees for booking a ticket over the phone, taxes, fuel-surcharges, extra baggage, even for being overweight… the list goes on and on. In-flight services have nearly ceased to exist, and if they’re there, guess what, you have to pay extra.

Most airplanes today have very nice TVs onboard to help passengers pass the time away. But in order to hear the TV, they make you purchase headphones. What if the passenger is hearing impaired or deaf? So sad too bad, because none of the TVs have Closed Captioning to accommodate the disability. Having Closed Captioning would mean money lost for the airlines just so a few passengers can enjoy the simple pleasure of watching the news, featured movie, or wait a minute, watching the pre-flight safety video. Not only is this unfair, but also very dangerous, and let’s face it, just plain sad.

You know as well as I do that if passengers had the opportunity to read captions on the screen rather than fork over another $3-$5 for purchasing the cheap headphones they so kindly offer, many would elect to read.

Yes, times are tough, and ways to beef up revenue is necessary, but shame on the airlines for not accommodating the hard of hearing and deaf community. Wouldn’t it be cheaper in the long run to offer Closed Captioning with every TV along every flight, than to be slapped with a discrimination lawsuit? Think about the money lost then…
Hannah B.

I Heart AA

Last year I flew over 130 flights, earning mostly in the American program, flying Alaska Airlines. I quickly blew through the Gold and Platinum levels and earned Executive Platinum. On the phone they treat me extremely well and make sure my miles have posted. They have also rescued me several times when flights have been cancelled.

In the fall, I booked a first class seat to Africa in late December using miles and flying on American and BA. On the way back there were no award seats on the flight I wanted and I was going to have to lay over in Chicago on New Year’s day overnight! They waived their rules for me and got me on the flight I wanted in first class. Although I am rarely actually on an American flight, I always get an upgrade when I am and I really appreciate that. I crossed one million lifetime miles last year and am on my way to two million and lifetime Platinum status — one million miles earned me lifetime Gold status.
Deana Maggard

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *