Letters – November, 26 2008

Letters – November, 26 2008

FFP Fiscal Fears

I fear three things. #1: Devaluation of our existing miles. With Northwest and Delta merging and Northwest already having the Worst Frequent Flyer program (after they forced the Saturday night stay and tried to set the precedence for others to follow), I expect that Delta will adopt that as their standard and the dominoes will follow … along with all the other forms of devaluation we have become accustomed to.

#2: There will be a mass run to use miles as people try to avoid the rocketing ticket prices and become ever more fearful that they will either lose their miles from bankruptcies and/or won’t be able to use them due to capacity restrictions. Between the decreased flight capacities and the inevitable decreased frequent flyer seat load, it will be even MORE difficult finding a frequent flyer seat. The concept that “there are no blackout dates” but there are many dates/flights where no frequent flyer seats are made available is as dishonest of a marketing ploy as there is.

#3: I believe that there will likely be more failures. The industry is so mismanaged that turbulent times will lead to more failures.

Nothing Left to Fear

I have no fear. I can see the priorities of most airlines and I just reluctantly accept it. They are no longer worried about customer service or offering loyalty programs that keep people coming back by choice. I collect miles for all my flights, but usually can’t cash them in for free flights.

And even if I could, they are not free due to new charges. Instead I focus on hotel loyalty, since most flights also have a hotel stay. I am loyal to Starwood first, then Hilton. I have a Starwood AMEX too for added point accumulation for work and personal use. Both have nice chains and the best benefit of all…? If there is a room available you can have it. No blackout dates and restrictions like the airlines. No capacity cuts like the airlines. A loyalty program that is worth something. The airlines could learn a lot from them.
Dan S.

United Merit

My name is Barry Bettelyoun and I want the brass at United Airlines to know of the kindness and professionalism, and the uncommon courtesy, I witnessed in the last week of June 2008. Our flight was cancelled from Dulles to Kuwait because of a bad thunderstorm in Chicago the night before.

While in the terminal looking for my gate and flight number, I stopped a lady who worked for United, Linda Alphonso. When I asked for help on the flight number and gate number, she took me by the arm and walked me to the gate and then to the United staff who were waiting for the flight and told them, “This is my friend Barry, and he is going to be on this flight so take care of him.” She specifically asked her friend Claudette Reyes to take care of me and to help me enjoy the flight.

I am from Kyle, S.D. and travel to Rapid City, 100 miles from my home. I am a private contractor and business owner of a small growing company named Native American Environmental. At the moment I was taken to the gate by a gentle hand I thought, United has the best flight staff going. I immediately felt at ease and very comfortable. So my hat is off and I give a big salute to Linda and Claudette. Thank you for making me feel taken care of and thank you for your professionalism. If more of the other airlines could select staff like Linda and Claudette, United would have some very stiff competition. The rest of the flight to Kuwait was very enjoyable and relaxing so again THANK YOU. I look forward to flying United again.
Barry Bettelyoun

Dear Mr. French

[Letter to Ed French, Senior Vice President, Marriott Rewards]

I am sending this to you at Marriott headquarters after contacting the Bearcat address only to discover that you are not located there.

I received your letter advising me of a possible termination of my PLATINUM status. As indicated by my Marriott Rewards number, I am a long time member of the program. I am a Marriott timeshare owner and was a limited partner of four hotels. My wife and I have spent many nights at Marriott locations from Hawaii to Austria to Hong Kong. We have accumulated almost two million lifetime points.

As a shareholder in Marriott, I have attended Marriott meetings in Washington. Mr. Marriott thought my advice for the betterment of the program you now supervise was worth giving me stock in Marriott at one of the stockholder meetings.

I was awarded lifetime Platinum status when John Dasburg and Lynn Roach Hilderbrant were the decision makers at Marriott, and this Platinum status has continued for many years. I have been a good faithful Marriott customer–an ambassador of the Marriott Rewards program. I could not tell you how many people I have assisted in joining the Rewards program or buying Timeshare property. Randy Petersen of Frequent Flyer Services made me the go to guy on the Marriott Rewards program.

As I have now retired and moved to California, my stays have declined and my Marriott Visa does not get out like it used to. I am staying at LAX this month and then on to Munich at the Courtyard. I have reservations at Vancouver next year and have been using some of my hard earned points, which effects my stay total.

As you have lowered the requirement for my retaining PLATINUM it indicates you have some understanding of my current position, along with the decline in business and the current economy. I ask only that you reconsider my reinstatement of Platinum level for the rest of my short life. What would it cost…a few Cokes in the lounge or an upgrade to an otherwise empty room. You would regain the benefit of a loyal ambassador of Marriott Rewards.
Edward G Winrow

Editors’ Note: Edward, we got in touch with Mr. French to follow up on your letter and discovered that your Lifetime Platinum status had already been reinstated. Congratulations. You can go have that Coke in the lounge now.

Bye-Bye Miles, Hello Cash Back

I am a long time member of the mileage guarantee program, so I am covered for bankruptcy or out of business conditions with the legacy carriers. My biggest fear is that the airlines will continue to add “handling charges” while at the same time raising mileage amounts for awards AND reducing available seats (at least far enough out to make plans). I know many people who have given up on miles and are going to cash back credit cards because of those three concerns.
David J. Kingsley

Fee Fears and Bag Tears

My greatest fears are the new fees to redeem miles, the restrictions of redemption, the lack of excitement (no checking of bags–a United flight I took was 40 minutes late because I doubt if anyone checked–so imagine 137 passengers shoving big roll aboards AND a personal item into overhead bins). And headaches once you’ve redeemed that enviable Honolulu flight. And the lack of availability of mileage itineraries. Let me use the miles for hotels, please! I still have to get there–I just don’t want to do it on the airline’s terms–6am flights and a ton of connections as I lug all my earthly belongings, sans liquids, to get anywhere!

It’s hard to plan, and I am nervous about taking a vacation much beyond my usual jaunts because I am grateful to have a job and don’t want to jeopardize anything right now, even for the sake of miles.

Burn Baby Burn, Maybe

I have a significant mileage balance and will watch closely for program degradation. I am a member of the best frequent flyer program in the country at the moment (WorldPerks) and it is merging with Delta SkyMiles later next
year. I will be watching closely and burning miles if it looks bad.
Frank Ritchotte

Fewer Airlines/Flights = Fewer First Class Seats

I fear it will be harder to upgrade to first class since there are fewer flights and also the airlines could change the rules to make it more difficult, in an effort to force us to buy first class fares, which I generally won’t. Also, the Delta/Northwest merger may result in less competition, so airlines may again make it harder to redeem awards, figuring that we have fewer options to turn to in the form of switching to another airline.
Lloyd Gill

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