Letters – July, 19 2010

Letters – July, 19 2010

No Hoarding Necessary

I enjoyed the article on the value of frequent flyer miles. I only wish that it also valued upgrades. It pretty much confirmed that what I do makes sense. I travel Seattle to Singapore six or seven times a year. I am using United. If there is a better program for me than United, I haven’t figured it out–but I am open to suggestions if anyone knows a better plan!

The total trip, through Narita, is just over 8,000 miles or a little over 16,000 roundtrip. Six trips gives me almost 100,000 frequent flyer miles, and with a little domestic travel, for a number of years I have gone over 100,000, making me one of their “1K” members. Being a 1K member gives me three anywhere in the world roundtrip upgrades, and double credit on frequent flyer miles for each trip. With the double credit, I get enough miles for upgrades on another three trips to Asia. Voila! All six trips are upgraded.

So far, there has always been some kind of promotion that has allowed me to be able to upgrade if I do a seventh trip. I also get two one-way regional upgrades every quarter I travel 10,000 miles. Since I go over 10,000 miles every quarter, my domestic travel is also covered for upgrades.

For me, it would make no sense to use my miles for free trips. I need to pay for the trips to get my 1K status. And six business class trips to Asia a year for the cost of coach is great.

I am able to plan my trips way in advance, and I am somewhat open on the travel dates, so I always get my upgrades. I am old enough that I can’t imagine traveling coach for trips as far as Singapore. Anyway, when I look at the price of business class, I feel my miles are worth at least three cents each when used for upgrades, probably a little more. United will sell them for just under three cents, but I don’t really have a need to actually purchase them the way my flying works out. I get the amount I need every year for free! No hoarding for me.

United Standby

Near the end of April 2010, United implemented a $50 charge to go standby on the same day (only Global Service and 1Ks are exempt–Premier Execs, Million Milers and below must pay). They say, “to continue offering our customers flexibility and choice in their travel experience, and to make planning easier, United implemented changes to our same day stand-by policy, which will simplify the pre-departure process, and increase our ability to maintain our on-time performance.”
1) Gate agents say this policy makes their task of departing on time worse not better, because they have to process a credit card for everyone that wants to standby, whether or not they get a seat.
2) Half of United’s flights are operated by United Express contracted carriers and if a passenger connects to another flight, another $50 fee is required to take an earlier flight on each subsequent leg.
3) My experience is that 35-50 percent of the United Express flights depart and arrive late. Having missed or nearly missed too many connections due to chronically late United Express flights, I have learned that if there is an earlier flight within 90 minutes of my booked flight, it is prudent to try to take it on standby. United is now wanting me to pay an extra $50 because of their lack of dependability!
4) As a business traveler, it is not uncommon that flights I take are overbooked resulting in requests for people to take a later flight for compensation. What is the logic in letting an earlier seat depart empty, and then an hour or so later compensating passengers for an overbooked flight? I predict United will get fewer $50 bills from standby passengers than they will give out in compensation to bumped passengers.

On the other hand, I will happily pay $50 to protect myself on an earlier standby flight if United will pay me $50 for every late flight they subject me to. And while we are at it, for every time United changes my schedule after booking, how about letting me change one for no fee?
William Sandras

Inattentive Flight Attendant

I flew on US Airways flight 792 from the Bahamas on May 29, 2010. I was seated in the A cabin. I was offered something to drink after all the passengers were boarded although it was not a full flight. After receiving something to drink the flight attendant did not return to pick up our glasses. We took off and my glass of water was still in my hands, and this includes all of us that were seated in the A cabin, which were only six passengers.

After we took off, I waited for forty minutes before I could have gotten something to drink again. I had to ring the call button before she came and, of course she came with an attitude, I guess maybe because I broke up her conversation she was having with the other flight attendant. I had to wait another six minutes while she went to the bathroom and, of course, I was served with an attitude again. After she served the cabin, the other flight attendant came back from the back of the cabin and continued conversing again with total disregard to the passengers.

The captain made an announcement that there was some turbulence ahead of us and put on the seat belt sign. No one came through the A cabin to do a seat belt compliance check and the bin and one of the beverage carts in the forward galley were not secured. Meanwhile, the flight attendants sat on their jumpseats having their conversation. I was so nervous and just kept staring at the bins hoping and praying they would not come out of place and injure me or any other passengers.

Most of the time that I’ve flown with US Airways there is always something. If not a safety issue, it is the unfriendliness of the flight attendants or the check-in agents. I only experience this with US Airways and I’ve had enough so I decided to bring it to your attention.

I hope you look into this matter with some urgency before someone gets seriously injured.
Concerned Passenger

Award Success

I was recently able to get three tickets on Star Alliance. I had 160,000 miles in United and 80,000 from my American Express Rewards Gold Card, which I transferred to Continental, and was able to redeem three tickets on the same itinerary on Star Alliance using miles from different airlines.

We are flying on June 23rd from Greenville, S.C. to Washington, Dulles on United, continuing to Munich on Lufthansa and arriving in New Delhi.

I am flying out of Mumbai on July 9th and making a stopover in Frankfurt, and arriving in Newark N.J. on Lufthansa on 13th July, continuing on Continental to Greenville.

It was very easy to book this award, I have an open jaw and a stopover and the connections are good too. I have a million miles on Delta, and have not been able to get Saver Awards since the merger with Northwest.
Vikram Gandhi


I joined the Hilton HHonors Program in December 1987. In January 1991, I accepted their offer to become a member of their Senior HHonors Program and paid a fee of $100 to enroll myself and my wife as lifetime members. The program offered the following benefits:
* Upgrade to an executive floor and when available; exclusive lounge access.
* 20 percent discount on dinner in a designated restaurant.
* Early and late check in and out.
* 25 percent bonus in HHonors basic points.

In July 2007, I received an email from Hilton HHonors saying that the program was being discontinued due to declining membership.

When I took the matter up with Hilton head office, I received a response that it had been discontinued due to “a decline in stays by Senior HHonors members” and that it did not make economic sense to continue the program. The decline in stays was to be expected as from January 1999 Hilton ceased offering the lifetime membership which meant that membership was bound to decline as members became older and did not travel so much.

What concerns me is that a lifetime membership means just that and my payment of a fee was a contract that I did expect to be honored even if it did not suit the other party. Today one sees too much of this lack of morality whereby corporations seek to evade their contracts because it no longer suits them.

When I complained to Hilton’s head office they issued my wife and I a Gold VIP membership card that offers many of the benefits of the Senior HHonors card and was acceptable to me. Unfortunately that card expired recently and I was issued a regular card in its place.
Mostyn T. Lloyd

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