Letters – June, 23 2008

Letters – June, 23 2008

Suck it Up and Enjoy the Ride

I read InsideFlyer monthly, as I have done for over a decade. Although I don’t read most of the letters submitted, I am amazed at the negative tone of many that I do read. Personally, my experience with the various programs has been nearly universally good. I first joined in 1982 or 1983, when American started things cooking. I have been, and am, a member of at least six more programs. In all those years, I can only remember about three occasions when I could not obtain either an upgrade or a business or better ticket. And that reflects nearly a quarter of a million dollars in free, or discounted, travel.

While I have normally had more miles banked, about three million currently, than most, it did not always require excessive miles to go places.

True, there are tricks to getting seats, but most are regularly described in this publication. So what’s the beef? I know that for me, the programs have afforded much pleasure and reduced price travel, and at little or no cost, and no real excessive effort.

I for one, think they are wonderful, and would ask, what would be the alternatives to something for nothing? I am currently planning my third trip to Africa, using miles, and expect that I will get there just fine. Suck it up folks, and enjoy the ride.
Dick Van den Bosch

No Miles for Grounded Flights

I am a Platinum level flyer on American Airlines and had a flight cancellation last Wednesday when AA’s MD-80’s got grounded. Instead, they put me on a US Airways flight. I sent them an email asking for mileage credit as well as segment credit for the flight, which in my eyes was fair. Here is their response, which I found quite interesting:

Dear Brad,

We appreciate your recent email to AAdvantage Customer Service.
We are sorry to inform you that it is not our policy to credit
AAdvantage mileage for segments that are not flown due to operational
problems beyond our control. The flights were canceled by the FAA. While
we understand that AAdvantage mileage is one reason customers
specifically book trips on American Airlines and other program
participants, we cannot credit miles for travel that did not occur or
that was conducted on a nonparticipating carrier. We are sorry for your
inconvenience and wish you had been able to travel as planned.

Thank you for contacting us regarding this matter. If you have any other
AAdvantage issues or questions, please do not hesitate to let us know.
Bill R.
AAdvantage Customer Service
American Airlines

I wonder if Mr. Arpey knows how “customer service” is treating his loyal customers?
Barry Chaiken

Grateful Flyer

I have never understood all the complaints about the lack of availability of award travel tickets. I have been a Gold Elite with NWA for the past twelve years, and before that, accumulated over one million miles with AA and AS. In total, I am approaching the four million mile mark — not a lot by some reports that I have seen, but sufficient for my needs.

Over the years, I have used miles to give both of my daughters business class award tickets to Europe as wedding presents, taken an annual business class to Europe myself, and acquired many award tickets for domestic travel for members of my family. During all that time, I have never been required to use more than the minimum number of miles necessary for the planned trip.

Of course, I don’t try to go to London or Paris in June or Hawaii in January. Most of the transatlantic trips have occurred in October or April, and sometimes the routings have been a little bizarre (I am currently in Romania and the routing to get here was MCO-BOS-MXP-BUD-TGM on a combination of Delta, Alitalia and Malev airlines) but I have managed to get to where I wanted to go usually on the exact dates that I wanted to travel. And the NWA representatives always seem to be able to find some available routing.

My current trip is the first time I have ever encountered a problem with award travel and it was a little unusual. In attempting to secure the routing described above, I was told by NWA that their agreement with Malev did not allow free travel beyond Budapest. So, I could get a roundtrip business class award ticket between MCO and BUD for the exact dates that I wanted. But, I had to purchase a roundtrip coach ticket between BUD and TGM. It cost me $237. Big deal!

So, perhaps the situation would be different if I lived in another part of the country. But when I lived in Dallas and Seattle, I had no problems either. All things considered, I am extremely grateful to the airlines for the frequent flyer programs. I’ve been able to provide my family with many happy memories of trips taken that they (and I) might never have otherwise been able to afford.
Frank Nowicki

Web Site Blues

Perhaps you can get Citibank to do something about its Diners Club Web site and Club Rewards Web site. After years of complaints from numerous card users, Citibank refuses to upgrade their Web site to allow easy integration with Quicken and other money management software programs. When I called customer service just last month, they said they continue to work on the problem. Additionally, the Club Rewards Web site was down for more than a week requiring customers to call Citibank for assistance. Once it went live again, it was incomplete. Now, is this the way they expect to keep customers, particularly as most of us move to online commerce?

Breaking Ties with United

In last month’s WiseFlyer, Larry Yungk commented about United withdrawing the priority boarding for the Star Alliance Gold members. I was a Star Alliance Gold (50,000 miles plus) from 2000 until 2007. My travel destinations changed and United revised schedules, which benefited other travelers, but not me, from my neighborhood airport (LAX). So I have switched to American as my first choice in travel. And I do admit, a billing problem on one ticket put me in touch with the United call center in India where I was called stupid by a customer service agent after being on hold for an hour. That may have redirected my energies to other airlines.

About a year ago, United decided to offer early boarding to “first class, 1K and Global Services members” instead of “first class, 1K and Premier Executive” customers. As a Premier Executive, I was now in Boarding Group 1, instead of the first group. In the big picture, it didn’t matter, as I travel light and won’t pay the full fare first class price. Let the big spenders go first, I thought. Unfortunately, “Global Services” sounded to me like the equivalent of “United Employees.” A few times the gate staff at LAX changed the subject as soon as I commented about the change; they probably have heard it so frequently that they had a canned reply. Nevertheless, this was one of many items that caused me to delete united.com from my favorite Web sites.

Aloha, ATA and Skybus stopped operations this week. The idea of a major airline (United) offending one of its best customers seems odd to me. Because of this change, and some other issues, I don’t even think of United.com as a place to shop for travel. United also discontinued the 6pm nonstop from LAX to London Heathrow. As incredible as this sounds, American was willing to accept my money (paid business class) on its 6pm nonstop to London.

If I travel in the Southwest U.S., I fly Southwest. The reliability of their service is amazing. (I will pay a premium for Southwest, because I know they will get me there with amazing reliability.) For long haul flights, I travel AA. Oneworld benefits are awesome.
Thanks for your great magazine.
Neil E. Johnson

Thank You, LHrelate

I would like to publicly thank LHrelate in the Lufthansa Miles & More forum at FlyerTalk.com.

Last month, my father passed away. We had planned a trip to the Netherlands and Italy with a cruise on the Mediterranean this coming May. After his death, my sister and other family members decided to still go on the trip because he loved to travel and would not have wanted us to stay home. But we changed our plans slightly — to not go on the cruise and to
come back a few days earlier.

My sister was able to cancel her AAdvantage award tickets without too many problems — my stepmother paid the fee to get her miles back into my father’s account and American told her that she could use the remaining miles. My sister got lucky and after a few tries could get an earlier award flight back.

But we ran into a brick wall with the tickets we’d purchased for flights between Amsterdam and Rome that needed to be changed — one way was on SWISS with the other on Lufthansa, bought through Expedia. With most of our flights, we decided that we would just lose the money for the return segment because by the time we paid the fees to get the flights changed, it wouldn’t be worth it. But with the flights that my father and stepmom weren’t going to be able to take, we asked for a refund.

I realize that we bought tickets the cheapest way possible, and those include restrictions — but to the point of not giving money back months in advance for a flight for someone who is no longer alive? When we were unsuccessful with Expedia and SWISS to try to get a refund, in desperation I posted a thread on the Lufthansa Miles & More forum on FlyerTalk and asked for help. Within minutes, I got a response from the Lufthansa lurker on FlyerTalk, LHrelate.

She was able to take our flight information and perform miracles. In a couple of days, a very nice woman from Expedia called my stepmom and said that if we could fax my father’s death certificate, they would refund all the money they had spent on the flight. I can’t thank LHrelate enough.

My husband and I were not so lucky with our flights — we paid an additional $492 to change our flights back from Europe on NWA/KLM. When I’d asked the NWA phone rep to talk to a manager about waiving the change fee, considering the circumstances of my father’s death, I was told that managers do not speak to the “general public” (substitute “general public” with “terrorist” and you’ll get a sense of her obvious disgust at the thought of the likes of me). The entire call was extremely upsetting and in stark contrast to the experience we’d had with LHrelate. I wrote NWA to ask for a refund but got a form letter refusal.
Linda H.

No Problem

We belong to many frequent flyer programs and have had great restults using our points. This past year we took flights to Houston, Phoenix, Scotland and Italy during peak seasons using Delta and Northwest points and never had a problem. I have never understood the complaints. People need to plan ahead a bit but Delta and Northwest have been great to us.
Lowell Thompson

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