Letters – September, 23 2010

Letters – September, 23 2010

Stem Cell Starwood Points

I *love* Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points! They are truly the “stem cells” of the points and miles world, since you can convert them into so many programs. I have used Starpoints on a couple of occasions to top off an account in another program, in order to get an award.

Indeed, by doing a triangular trade (long ago), I managed to turn SPG points into HHonors points by converting them to Delta SkyMiles in order to have enough SkyMiles to do a special redemption to HHonors points (but that’s not an efficient use of Starpoints if done as a regular thing).

US Airways Better?

Is US getting better or am I just lucky? Just went over 100,000 miles for the year, almost all of it on US metal, and in my last dozen flights or so (in two weeks span) have noticed some pleasant changes:
– Meal selections on my four recent transcons seem to have improved. I’ve seen many of these items before (chicken quesadilla, etc.) but it seems like the quality has gone up a notch. Salads not rusty or wilty any more. Had a pasta carbonara last night that was actually quite good. Dessert cookies always served warmed.
– Service overall has been really top-notch across the board. The FA’s do still pass the quiet parts of the flight with a crossword puzzle but it seems like the ones I’ve encountered lately spend more time actually working than doing the puzzle.
– Planes seem a lot cleaner, to the point where I’ve commented to my companion on it. My US961 last night was quite a treat, as the forward lav didn’t smell like old pee. I thought only a few of the best foreign carriers were ever able to get the pee smell out of the lav until then!
— Frequency of pre-departure drinks has increased, and in-flight drink service brings two wee bottles, not one (which has never really been a pet peeve of mine–I can figure out how to ask for another rum if I want it, but it’s a nice touch).
– I no longer have to remind the ticket agents to put the Priority tags on my bags on the occasion that I check a bag, and the Priority bags come out first, every time I’ve used baggage check.
– Little stuff too like trash-free seatback pockets. I had a bunch of flights around the 20th-29th where the new magazine wasn’t released yet but I still got magazines with the crossword puzzles not done which means either someone is replacing the magazines more frequently or people are doing the puzzles less often; boarding announcements made in the clubs, etc.

Some of these changes are really little, but things like plane cleanliness and quality of meals are pretty big, and not cheap to deliver. I’m wondering if US is putting some of their recently earned profits back into the operation, or if it’s just good luck that has had me on clean planes with good, happy crews? There are some employees like the wonderful FA on US3789 who always makes time to do a quick water service on the short PHL-DCA, and I’m happy every time I see her on my plane. But I am wondering if there is a trend at US towards a better hard and soft product, now that they’re making a little money?
DC Patti

Transfer Headache

American Airlines was terrible in transferring miles from one AMERICAN account to another AMERICAN account! One of us had enough miles to upgrade to first, the other did not. For a fee, you can “transfer” miles from one person’s AAdvantage account to another, BUT you have to wait SEVERAL days while they supposedly “buy” the miles from a clearinghouse! If you have enough miles for one of the people in your party to upgrade, you must book the first ticket, then hope the other upgradeable ticket is still available for the second person.

And, of course, if the price for the ticket has gone up, you must pay that higher price!
David in Florida

Wish List

I’m a United Global Services member and although I certainly am grateful for the recognition, I do have a “wish list” of items as a member.

First off, I would really like more systemwide upgrades. And how about a concierge ride to the connecting gates so I can have just that much more time to enjoy the airport lounge? A fast track through immigration/customs and security would also be nice—a quick exit always makes my day.

Most of all, I’d like to know exactly how I’m qualifying for Global Services–so because of that, I’d like transparent criteria for qualification. How can I shoot for the target if I don’t know what the target is?

Like I said, I’m happy for the recognition, but it doesn’t stop me from dreaming.

Wish List Two

I’ve been an elite-level member in one program or another for over 11 years, so I know what I like, what I don’t have and what I’d like to see as an elite member.

I really think that American AAdvantage should loosen up a little and give Gold level members complimentary upgrades, and while they’re at it, waive the change fees for Gold members.

The same goes for Continental–waive change fees for Gold. American, Continental and US Airways should waive electronic booking fees for elites. And I’d like all programs to offer anytime award seats at the miles deduction of saver awards with a co-pay of say $100 or $150. If the seats are available, this will give the airlines some cash and would be popular with frequent flyers because they won’t have to spend double their miles to get an award seat.

Delta Doing Good

I just have to say that I’m really enjoying the trial Diamond Medallion benefit I’ve been experiencing at JFK. The “meet and greet” service has helped me get through immigration in record time on more than one occasion. I just get off the plane, see my name on a sign and I’m whisked away to the front of the line. Yippee!

I’ve heard this is just a trial, but I hope it becomes a regular feature of the program. It’s little things like this that can make your day as a frequent flyer. Well done Delta! Keep it up please!
Jonathan S.

Priority Club Chases Down Customers

I recently signed up for the new Priority Club Rewards credit card from Chase and I have to say that this was a momentous occasion for me brought on by what I feel is a very good co-branded credit card. You see, I’ve been on the sidelines for quite awhile about what card to get. Sure, I love my miles, but when it comes to credit cards, it seems like the hotels are giving their members a better deal overall.

I really hate paying a lot just to own a credit card so that rules out a lot of miles credit cards. This card is only $49 a year but I feel like it’s a wash since I’ll get a certificate every year that I own the card for a free night in any IHG hotel–that includes the really nice hotels–I like that! I also like the fact that I won’t be dinged for international credit card fees.

And the 30,000 points to sign on and the first year fee waived isn’t a bad thing either. Overall, I like the benefits that have been pulled together for the card and am looking forward to many happy days in an IHG brand hotel.
Sheena Marks

“Loyalty” Program?

A “loyalty” program is supposed to make the customers feel wanted and appreciated so they’ll keep coming back. (Isn’t it? Or did I miss something?)

Aeroplan is designed to REALLY irritate the customers. In fact I dumped my Aerogold card about 10 years ago because EVERY time I tried to book reward travel I ended up in a fight with them.

These days it’s marginally better, but even earlier today I tried to book a domestic ticket two and a half months out and found the cheapest redemption was 50,000 points (plus fuel surcharge, etc.) with a 6am departure, when there are at least six later flights available on revenue tickets that still get me there at a decent hour. So why am I still apparently loyal? Because at the moment there is no realistic alternative for the places I need to go.

But just wait. It really puzzles me why a business would put so much money into a “loyalty” program that alienates so many people who try to use it.

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