Letters – May, 20 2010

Letters – May, 20 2010

Oh Delta, Where Art Thou?

Delta has shown no loyalty to its longtime loyal frequent flyers. Those hardest hit by layoffs in Detroit and elsewhere get their frequent flyer status downgraded by Delta Air Lines even if their job loss and interruption in business traveling proves to be temporary.

It is not enough that the combined Delta and Northwest Airlines raised most ticket fares during the economic downturn, but the airline also has downgraded many elite frequent flyers, eliminated upgrades and raised prices in airport clubs.

I spoke to many travelers who had been Platinum and Gold Elite or Medallion members prior to being laid off. After 10 years of loyalty and frequent travel with Northwest Airlines, all it took was three to six months of being laid off and reduced business travel for them to lose or be downgraded in the their elite frequent flyer status.

What this means is fewer frequent flyer points awarded for travel, fewer upgrade opportunities–and the ultimate slap in the face is a higher charge for the World Club or Crown Club than those who did not lose their jobs. Those hardest hit have to pay $50 more than others to rejoin the airport clubs.

One traveler reported that he “used to give Northwest or Delta the benefit of the doubt.” If their fare was the same or even close, I would choose Northwest because the frequent flyer points, the greater opportunity for upgrades and the availability of the airport club to wait for my flight. Sometimes I would be willing to pay $30-50 more for a Northwest flight because of the miles, upgrades and airport club.

Now I choose Spirit first, not only because of the lower fares, but also because of the downgrade in status and slap in the face given by the new Delta after many years of loyalty to Northwest airlines.

I have spoken to many others on Spirit flights who feel the same way and used to be loyal Northwest or Delta frequent flyers.
David Wunder

Much to Be Desired

AirTran’s A+ Rewards program leaves much to be desired. Try finding seats that qualify [for an award]. If you can find a seat, it will be available only on their least expensive flights to their least popular destinations. Forget about flying cross country to Vegas, San Fran, Seattle or their Caribbean destinations.

Unless you need short distance and uninteresting flights, like from Boston to New York, find another program with a different airline. Their credit card customer service is also lacking. I earn between 8 and 16 points per month.
Dave B.

Awarding Behavior

After reading your article from the head of Hilton I just have to comment. As a Diamond Elite last year I made Hilton my #1 place to stay. The employees at the hotels made every stay very pleasant. And the head of Hilton seems to be doing everything to make travelers want to stay at Hilton.

All this would seem to make it an elite program. EXCEPT!!! Customer service is very good at the lower levels, but when you get into the heads of their customer service that all goes away.

I had a problem last year that took four months to resolve and only because Frequent Flyer Services got it taken care of for me. According to the head of customer service, Hilton is not responsible to make good on any offer that is on any of Hilton’s sites.

Then I encountered a second problem with customer service. In December, I talked to customer service to see if I could get a waiver so that I could keep my Diamond status. Their response? “Diamond is too important to let just anyone maintain status, Hilton does not make mistakes on rates and offers. It is the customer’s problem and Hilton has no liability.”

I explained that because of the problem, Hilton has lost more than 20 stays from me and over 100 stays from the people in my group. The response was that we should find another hotel group because Hilton has only happy customers–and if we aren’t happy feel free to change programs.
Ed Ploughman

No Minimum Fare?

I’m writing in reference to the SkyMiles certificate redemption program. According to the letter I received with my Companion Certificate, it stated… “no minimum fare requirements to purchase.”

However, when I went into the redemption site, I was advised that only flights of the lowest three fares of the flight schedules are eligible for redemption. In some cases, there were no options because all flights offered cost the same. I offered to pay the price of more expensive flights but was denied.

This is the first time over the past four years or more that I ran into this restriction. In essence there IS “A MINIMUM FARE REQUIREMENT.”

In addition, you do not have the “freedom and flexibility of more flight options” when you are denied using the certificate from all scheduled flights, regardless of price.

Was there a previous notification to SkyMiles members about the policy change? Because as of now, the benefits printed on the certificate letter (in BOLD print I might add) is misleading.
John S.

Editors’ Note: John, we looked into this for you and found information in the terms and conditions about the various companion certificates at this link: http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?2499

In the terms and conditions, it states that travelers are limited to seats in L, U and T class of service. You can find this in the restrictions section for each type of certificate.

It does seem that the letter you received with your certificate led you to believe that any fare you purchased would allow the use of the companion certificate. But only the Reserve card allows a first class companion ticket in A or D class of service.

We are assuming these are the types of companion certificates to which you are referring. It may be that the letter was generated by the credit card company once you renewed the card.

This could explain the discrepancy between what the letter says and what Delta says. It does state in the terms and conditions at the bottom of each type of companion certificate that “the fares, schedules, offers and rules are subject to change without notice.”

This might not have been the news you were hoping to hear, but hope this has been of some help.

Letter to United Airlines Customer Service

I am writing on behalf of 10 of my friends who traveled from Charleston, S.C. to Chicago.

We were scheduled to leave Charleston on Sunday, April 25 on Flight 7250 at 6:40pm. Mid-afternoon on the 25th we were notified that our flight had been cancelled.

United was unable to book us on any flight out of Charleston until Tuesday April 27th. Or any other flights on Sunday or Monday out of any nearby airport.

At least four of us were on the phone with United at any given time. One member of our group, Mr. Firsel, did manage to secure a seat on United Flight 7280 out of Columbia, S.C. leaving that evening, Sunday, April 25. That flight had been delayed until 8:15pm. (More on this flight later in this message.)

Our group (not Mr. Firsel) made calls to United’s competition, and found seven seats on a Southwest flight and three seats on an American flight leaving on Monday morning from Raleigh-Durham. United’s cancellation of our flights caused us to incur additional charges from Hertz of $300 and hotel rooms of $95 each.

Back to Mr. Firsel. Upon his arrival at the United gate in Columbia, Mr. Firsel inquired about flight 7280 and was informed that there were at least 26 seats available on the flight. But when our group called United earlier, we were informed that only one seat existed. At departure of flight 7280, Mr. Firsel counted 26 empty seats. The 10 of us could have been on that flight had United provided us with the correct information.

I would expect United to provide some form of compensation to my friends and I for having to incur the additional expense and time to drive to Raleigh. Had we been given the correct information, we could have driven to Columbia and flown out Sunday night.

Also we believe that all of us, except for Mr. Firsel, should receive a credit for the unused portion of our tickets from Charleston to Chicago.
B. Fishman

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