Letters – March, 17 2010

Letters – March, 17 2010

Subscriber Number 31
Randy, I have been a continuous InsideFlyer subscriber since its inception. I was told when I renewed the second or third time that I was the 31st subscriber to your magazine. I always read InsideFlyer cover to cover. The first few years it was mostly old news, since I astutely kept up with all the programs. You took a big risk and for the first year or two I wondered if you would make it.

To coin an old saying, “You’ve come a long way baby.” You have worked hard, done a wonderful job and deserve a lot of credit. I am always pleased to see you quoted in so many newspapers, magazines, etc. You know your stuff, no BS, no exaggerations and no bias. You and your excellent team truly represent the traveler. Keep up the great work.

Anyway, you saved my rear end several times, e.g. I had accumulated quite a number of National Car Emerald Club points and never used any since I was renting cars every week. I missed the notification in their newsletter about a special promotion for Radisson and Hyatt awards at incredibly low redemption rates, 300 a night instead of 3,000. (Which I believe had to be a mistake.) I read about it in IF on the very last day of the promo and cashed in everything. I redeemed about 30 days at Radisson and about 20 at Hyatt at any hotel worldwide. Stayed at some wonderful properties and resorts in London, Australia, Hawaii, etc. and included family and friends on some of the trips. Had to use them all in a year as I recall.

As time went on, programs and promotions expanded, became more numerous and complicated, so I relied on you to fill in the gaps of the ones I missed, and there were many. I retired in 2001 but still am addicted to accumulating. Maintained a 1K status for 12 straight years on United, missed it one year, but re-qualified again for 2010. Have at one time been top tier on almost every airline and major program hotel program. Have achieved lifetime status with United Premier Executive, Platinum American AAdvantage, Platinum Continental OnePass and Silver with Delta SkyMiles. I have accumulated about 10 million miles over the years and redeemed about five million. I worked for a great company that allowed us to keep our miles and points. They recognized that travel could be an ordeal, which not only took us away from our families, but resulted in missing important family occasions. I was always fair and honest with the company–never took any unnecessary business trips or booked a higher price airfare or hotel just to accumulate more miles or points. I did take some weekend and holiday trips and hotel stays to gain extra nights and segments for special awards.

The airline and hotel programs have evolved and changed over the years, but the main purpose has not changed: create customer loyalty. I believe that it is just as effective now as it was 30 years ago. Even more so with the advent of world alliances, credit cards and more schemes to earn miles than I could have ever imagined. I would not be surprised to see brothels in Nevada offering miles and even double miles for certain dates. Over the years I have taken some incredible trips using miles and points, and many times without using miles or points, but special promotions–with many gleaned from InsideFlyer. For example, using no miles, I flew my family of four to Hawaii on Northwest segment certificates and then used points for a week at the Maui Marriott. Took a two-week trip to South Africa, including air with Pam Am and 10 hotel nights with a special promotion from Holiday Inn. I recall this was the top award achieved by staying 60 nights during a January-April time frame. Used Eastern Airline certificates for first class air to Puerto Rico and a two-week cruise to the Caribbean and the Orinoco River including a side trip to Angel Falls. Used miles for two separate first class round-the-world flights for myself and my wife. Used miles to send my son and his wife on a honeymoon to England and Scotland with first class air, five star hotels and Jaguar car rental for two weeks.

I also received two first class domestic tickets via your insurance program when Midway Airlines went bankrupt. Most interesting is that I never took one flight on Midway. I believe they had a sign-up bonus of 10,000 miles and then a rich partner payback of 1,000 miles for each car rental and hotel stay. Accumulated over 80,000 miles without ever buying a seat!

Anyway, enough of my expounding, it has been a great run for me and could not have done it without your magazine. Hope to continue to do much more in the coming years. All the best to you and your great team.
Alex Morze

Have Credit Card, Will Travel

I have had similar problems with several airline credit cards that I find extremely perplexing. One would think that “travel” credit cards often would be used to charges for travel related services. Yet those are the kinds of charges most often declined by my airline credit cards.

Several years ago I charged flights to, and hotels in, Paris with no problem. Then I attempted to purchase tickets to a Diana Krall concert in Paris during our scheduled visit and the charge was denied. I quickly switched to my AMEX card and the charge went through with no problem.

Subsequently when I contacted my United Airlines card I was informed that they thought my attempted charge was “probably fraudulent.” I have had two additional similar experiences with different airline credit cards and have canceled the cards each time when the credit card company refused to acknowledge that my effort to make travel related charges should have raised no red flags.

The credit card service centers seem totally unwilling to discuss the issue and even contacting them in advance of making large purchases has not been totally successful in preventing them from arbitrarily denying charges.
Phillip Cushman

Up and DownM

I’ve had both good and bad travel experiences lately. It was VERY hard to redeem a reasonable number of miles for travel from South Florida to LAS. In first class there were plenty of revenue seats available, but not for miles, even at high amounts (Delta, Continental, US Airways).

For paid tickets, has anyone noticed that the big carriers seem to be offering low fares but for weird, long trips? (For example, something like Fort Lauderdale to Cincinnati, to DFW to Vegas, at a low fare but for 16 hours of flying time.) Why do they offer that? Does anyone actually buy it, or is that just the computer patching something together?

JetBlue’s new program has ups and downs too: more availability, but at a price (very similar to easy saver, and miles saver type awards) if you are willing to spend a LOT of miles, you can get the seats. But then again, with JetBlue, you better be going where they fly, because with their limited hubs, you have to go way out of the way.

However, I still have to say, that most of the time, JetBlue does the best at getting almost everything right (except the meltdown when they changed reservation systems, and if there is a surprise snowstorm!)

And I know that Hilton has received a lot of flack lately with their points devaluation, but their program has been unchanged for so long, and there are so many brands in the Hilton group, I don’t think it is unjustified.

But my biggest complaint, AS ALWAYS, is the failure to release seats that are available for awards, even though AMEX and others, such as in the Delta/Amex program, have poured money into the airlines. If I have the miles I should get to fly. After all, the airline has been paid; they are NOT giving a seat away!
DJK in Florida

So Happy, United

I was happy to see United introduce one-way awards. I hope it is good for United–they need all the good they can muster–and it certainly looks good for me. How good depends on all the little conditions involved which I have not examined yet.

I use miles mostly for upgrades and buying trips for friends so may not actually use one-way awards a lot. However, knowing they are available feels very valuable. In the past I have wished for them for one particular reason: wanting to make a roundtrip in first class but finding award seats available in first for only one direction so having to resort to coach. With one ways, I can fly first in one direction and coach in the other. I do expect to use them for other reasons as well, perhaps patched-together round-the-world travel.
Pete Maclean

Honorable Hilton

My wife and I just spent a nice weekend with our children at Hilton’s Checkers hotel in downtown Los Angles. We used points to pay for three nights and it couldn’t have been nicer.
Now if I could just get HHonors to honor their deal with American Express and give me Gold status after hitting a 2009 spending threshold, I’d be even happier.
Bill McCloskeyM/i>

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