Letters – February, 23 2009

Letters – February, 23 2009

Not Feeling Particularly Privileged

I am writing to you out of total and absolute frustration with the Brussels Airlines loyalty scheme, Privilege. I have been flying on a weekly basis and have amassed a healthy points total. I decided to use them to book free flights for me and my family but they seem to have changed the rules without notice so it will now cost me more miles.

That is not the point though. The whole process is unwieldy and there is little explanation of the process, you just get blocked from completing the transaction. And trying to contact customer service is impossible, they don’t publish the email addresses anymore, probably because they have so many complaints. In anger and frustration I decided to transfer all my miles to the Goldpoints scheme which I am also a member of, but Brussels Airlines seemed to have removed this facility as well.

I notice Brussels Airlines are in the Freddie Awards and I have voted accordingly BUT the only option is to vote on the best and not the worst–it would be really useful to have the option to tell how it is rather than just not vote for the airline in protest.

Brussels Airlines’ Web site is the only way to manage miles but it is practically useless, obviously a reflection on the rest of the business. I have tried writing to the Managing Director of Brussels Airlines Privilege but received no response. Perhaps you could print this letter in your magazine and send a copy to Brussels Airlines.

Editor’s Note: We shared Mike’s letter with our contact at Brussels Airlines Privilege and this is the response we received:

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to reply.

In fact, we have been in touch with Mr. Andrews in the meantime and I’m confident we’re working through the issues raised in this letter to his satisfaction. It is true that our Web site has been having some difficulties since we migrated it to a global platform in January, and we would take this opportunity to apologize to any other Privilege members who have experienced temporary difficulties online.

However, as Mr Andrews is a Gold Member, he is now in direct contact with a customer loyalty agent here at a dedicated email address and phone line. Gold members may contact us directly at privilegegold.en@brusselsairlines.com or by phone +32 (0)70 707 946.

Regarding the ‘changes in rules’ Mr Andrews mentions in his letter, there are one or two misunderstandings we would like to clarify:

1) We have not changed the redemption level of miles for free flights since we introduced our new European product line-up almost two years ago. However, we do not offer redemptions against b.light economy tickets, as these are our cheapest tickets, and they are already comparable to low-cost fare levels. Redemption against b.flex economy+ tickets remains a very good value at a standard 10,000 miles per segment–and often starting at just 5,000 miles per segment during special promotions.

2) We have never offered the opportunity to transfer Privilege miles to the Carlson Group’s Gold Points, or for that matter to any other hotel or airline loyalty program.

I trust that this responds adequately to your reader’s questions, and–even though we’ve missed his vote this year, I sincerely hope that our efforts in satisfying Mr. Andrews’ requirements will ensure his support at next year’s Freddies!

Bye-Bye Double Miles

Looking at my latest AMEX Delta Sky Miles Platinum credit card statement, it looks as if Delta will no longer award double miles for grocery store, drugstore, gas station, home improvement store and Postal Service purchases. Double miles only for Delta purchases. Have you heard about this? It’s the only reason we use that card, which is pretty expensive.
Gretchen Edgren

Editor’s Note: As of the first of this year cardholders of Delta SkyMiles American Express credit cards no longer earn double miles on the purchases you mentioned.

Devalued Miles, But More of Them

I’m wary that programs may devalue my miles in these rough economic times. However, I also hold out a little hope that mergers may consolidate my mileage programs, leading me to a free ticket sooner.
Donna Howell

Home Bound

I currently find flying so unpleasant that I am seriously considering staying home. The added charges for redeeming mileage just add insult to injury.
Victoria Feinberg

Etihad Freddie

I am wondering how you could have voted Etihad Airways best for customer service [in the Freddie Awards]? In 13 years of very frequent flying they have the worst customer care performance I have ever come across. Try using their telephone system which hangs up on most of the options. Experience their complete lack of interest should you lose something on their planes, try the experience of having your travel agent make a mistake on a booking–even as a Gold member there is absolutely no flexibility or interest in helping you out. Am I expecting too much? No. Virgin, BA, Emirates, bmi, etc. all show far more concern for their customers. And if you are Gold on any of these at least there is some appreciation of your loyalty to them. Please do not pass the same vote this year, you only discredit your magazine.
Martin Williams

Editor’s Note: Martin, the Freddie Awards are voted on by the traveling public and we do not choose which frequent travel programs win–we simply report the findings of the voting process. Last year, those who voted for Etihad Guest as the best in customer service rated the service they received very highly. Perhaps your experience with Etihad Guest has been different, but we do not change the outcome of the votes. Time will tell where Etihad Guest rates with their members in customer service for this year’s Freddie Awards, but last year, those who voted for Eithad Guest gave the customer service they received 9.336 out of 10.

Where’s My 1K?

Below is a note I sent to the 1K desk at United. The response (outsourced to someone in India) was “we can’t do anything.” My friends said I should ask Randy at InsideFlyer what to do, and see how I might maintain my 1K status or get similar status elsewhere. I have about 300,000 miles saved up on United. What should I do?
[Letter to United] Dear 1K Desk:

I am a longtime member of United and have been Global Services or IK for the last several years. But this year presents a problem.

You’ll see from my travel record that at the start of 2008 I flew to Singapore on United. Rather, I was supposed to fly to Singapore, but when I landed in Hong Kong United had a problem and cancelled my flight; I eventually made it to Malaysia (my destination), but not on United.

On Nov. 29 I was set to fly to Pakistan on United. Unfortunately, the flight went through Bangkok and there was nothing United could do to get me to my meetings on time, so they had to cancel.

If those two trips had counted toward my mileage, I would be over 90,000 miles and I would have flown to London for the weekend to make it to 100,000. But now I’m not close.

Next year, I have trips scheduled abroad and in-country (Australia, D.C., China, Vietnam).

I would like to continue using United, but for that I need to stay 1K.

I’m hoping you can make an exception this year, with the expectation that next year I will easily exceed 100,000 and grant me 1K status. I would rather not shop around for flights and I’d prefer to stick with United, but I need some leeway on your part. I look forward to your response.
William G. Tierney

Editor’s Note: We totally understand where you’re coming from and we approached United to get a review because these types of situations are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. It doesn’t mean they will automatically grant a pardon, but at least now you know that it’s in the right hands.

Where’s My 1K Revisited

Dear Randy, after we last corresponded I was hopeful that United would come to their senses and keep me at 1K. I never heard from them. My account on January 1 lost its 1K image. And then today my packet arrived in the mail and voila–I’m 1K for next year. Thanks a million for your help. You know how much it means when you travel a lot. Best wishes and safe travels for the coming year.
William G. Tierney

Editor’s Note: Glad we could help.

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