Letters – April, 14 2009

Letters – April, 14 2009

Miles? Redux
Letter from British Airways Executive Club to Ernest, who wrote a letter that appeared in InsideFlyer March 2009: I have just been advised there has been a manual credit added to your account, so the miles should show up in your BA account in about two weeks.

I’ve also been told that there are many possible reasons why the miles
weren’t automatically generated, but we noticed there was a “Promotion
Applied” to this order, and many merchants (Target, for instance) will not
award an affiliate rebate (miles) on any order that has another promotion
applied (similar to the “only one coupon can be applied on an order”
phenomenon in the off-line world). And, if the promotion was from another
Web site, it could very well have taken precedent over the eStore affiliate
link with Target and not tracked back to us.

Hope that helps. And, happy that I could get this issue resolved for you.
Ron Rhoads

Editors’ Note: Last month we printed a letter from Ernest, who was hoping to get 1,000 British Airways Executive Club miles he felt he was owed from an online promotion with Target. We shared his information with our British Airways Executive Club contact in London and he got us in touch with a very efficient marketing manager in the U.S. who we know Ernest heard from. Ernest, enjoy those miles! Glad we could get you to the right person.

Disappointed in British Columbia

I was just searching the Web for any announcement or other discussions regarding Aeroplan’s changes with respect to seat availability and seat restrictions after a frustrating discussion with Aeroplan. I came across your article with a representative of American Express and their satisfaction with the Aeroplan program. Aeroplan was praised for its new policy, which made every seat available and offered reasonable rates–as little as 15,000 points for short-haul flights.

I am curious if American Express and any of Aeroplan’s current cardholders are aware that Aeroplan has clearly recently changed its policy regarding seat availability. Seems the new slogan is “Any seat available–for a price.” And a hefty one at that. I’ve lived in a remote community on the coast of British Columbia for four years now. I’ve never had a problem with advance booking (a month or so), finding flights around B.C. for 15,000 points–the going rate that they advertise for short-haul flights in Canada.

Recently, I tried to book four months in advance for a short-haul flight. Their new calendar feature, while an improvement, showed results that were a little alarming. It turns out that, for the next eight months, only Sundays and Mondays (with the odd rogue day, less than a dozen) were available for travel at the widely advertised 15,000 points.

With the new calendar feature you can scroll ahead and see that month after month, any days other than Sundays or Mondays were not available for the short-haul price of 15,000 points. If that wasn’t frustrating enough, an Aeroplan Elite member tried the same dates with substantially better results.

What’s this? Now, not only are there restrictions that are clearly based on travel timing (clearly not based on availability!), there are priority points and there are “bargain” points. Last time I checked, every dollar I spent was worth the same amount. Shame on Aeroplan for this incredibly disappointing change, no advance warning and shameful slight to travelers during harder economic times!

Apparently Aeroplan help centers have little advice to offer and Aeroplan has certainly been silent about this change. Unless this changes, Aeroplan redemption is nearly meaningless to myself and many other travelers. I will most certainly be seeking other means of travel reward accumulation and, like many other Aeroplan Visa and MasterCard subscribers, will be reconsidering my credit card choices. Aeroplan’s change will most certainly be reflected in credit card memberships that partner with them.

Fine Print

I have been an InsideFlyer subscriber for many years but, until today, have never corresponded with you. This message is prompted by a particularly unpleasant telephone conversation I had today with an American AAdvantage customer service supervisor.

I called with regard to the offer (below) for double elite-status qualifying miles for travel between March 18 and June 15. The offer arrived in my inbox on March 18, the first day of the eligible travel period. I immediately registered. However, when I later read the terms and conditions I noticed a further requirement, buried in the middle of the tiny print at the bottom of the page: “Offer applies only to new reservations booked between March 18, 2009 and June 15, 2009.”

In other words, one must not only TRAVEL during this period, but the RESERVATION must also have been made during this period. No advance notice was provided regarding the offer. Since I have already booked six reservations for travel during the qualifying period, I was upset that they would not earn double elite mileage. After speaking with the AAdvantage customer service supervisor, I was downright angry. Let me give you the highlights of our conversation:

* I indicated that the bold print regarding TRAVEL was inconsistent with the fine print regarding RESERVATION DATE AS WELL AS TRAVEL. He said this was a “marketing strategy,” and that no exceptions would be made to the controlling fine print.
* I said that this was misleading, unfair and would only anger American’s best customers. He said he had already received calls from elite travelers about this, and that he could offer two options: (1) Travel using the reservations as already booked, thus remaining ineligible for double miles, or (2) Cancel the reservations, rebook them and become eligible for the offer.
* I asked if this meant that the usual change fees would be waived under these circumstances. He said NO–that each re-booked reservation would result in a $150 change fee plus any applicable additional fare. I was astounded that he actually described this as an “option”!
* I said that I receive nice messages from AA every year when I re-qualify for Executive Platinum, thanking me for my loyalty and business, but that AA’s tune changes dramatically in situations like this. He said there was nothing he could do about that.
* I asked for the email address of Rob Friedman, President of AAdvantage Marketing Programs. He said Mr. Friedman could not be reached by email or phone.
* I said it was clear that continuing the conversation would be futile and a waste of both my time and his. He did not disagree.

I have qualified for Executive Platinum status for many years, have regularly given AA most of my business, and, generally, have been satisfied with AA’s service and the AAdvantage program. I know that times are tough for all airlines, but the policy described above, together with the way in which it has been implemented, simply does not make sense. I gather from reading InsideFlyer that you are well-connected with the senior executives of frequent flyer programs. Might you be willing to intervene with the folks at AAdvantage and get them to see the error of their ways?

Many thanks in advance for whatever assistance you can provide … and, in any event, keep up the good work with InsideFlyer
Peter A. Winograd

Editors’ Note: Peter, we feel your frustration and have been in correspondence with someone we know at American AAdvantage who says that you will be contacted directly by AA. Unfortunately, we can’t promise that the outcome will be exactly what you might wish for. Promotions such as these often have stipulations similar to the one you mentioned–after all, the reason they are running the promotion is to get new business. But please get in touch with us again to let us know of the outcome with your further conversations with American. We’re sure they do not want to lose your business.

Dear United

Letter to United Airlines from one of our readers:

This promotion upsets me. I support United almost every week as I travel, travel, travel, even during this economic downturn. I book my tickets well ahead. You even get to use my money well ahead of delivering the travel.

And you have the gall to put in the fine print that the extra EQMs in the new double EQM promotion only applies to new tickets bought after March 19 through June 15. I’ve already booked my tickets for that period of time. You people don’t know how to take care of your most important customers in some things.
Hal Mayer
1K 2 Million

Editors’ Note: Hal, you aren’t alone in your disappointment. Many Mileage Plus members found themselves in the exact same situation and United has responded by allowing members with bookings made before March 19 to qualify for the double EQM offer. You will need to call Mileage Plus customer service at (800) 421-4655 and mention code MPW999 to be eligible.

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