Letters – November, 18 2010

Letters – November, 18 2010

Dear Airlines

Yes, all of you! I thought I would write you a letter and tell you how disappointed I am! I’ve flown on you, stayed at your partner hotels, shopped in your shopping mall, used American Express, your partner, or used your branded credit card, and saved my miles. But you seem to enjoy making it difficult to use them WHEN I want to, WHERE I want to.

I know you need the money from “full paying” customers, but I’m not stupid! I read the news. I KNOW you get paid big bucks for all those mileage relationships, such as when AMEX buys blocks of miles, and you get to sit on the money you received.

In view of that, how about freeing up seats that are being held back by your “revenue department”? It’s months away, the plane is empty. How about showing some consideration and letting me use my miles NOW, instead of going to your Web site every day for months to see if seats have finally been “released”?

Or give some guidance or timetable as to when you will release them! Even your poor harried reservation agents don’t have any clue as to a pattern of when seats are released. Do you really have a scientific method for releasing the seats, or do you use a dart board?

I know the standard line is that “more seats than ever are being given away for miles.” But that’s not the point. If you have the miles, you should be able to get the seat. Miles are a currency, and I am ready to pay. But you won’t accept my money. How would you like it if you went into a store with a check or refund voucher “like cash” that the store had issued, and the store said “we can’t accept that form of payment today, we are only taking real money today!”?

You ask for our loyalty; I’m asking for a little fairness!
David in Florida

Not MaxJetM

Thanks to the British Airways Chase credit card offer last year my wife and I were able to experience an international trip on British Airways this summer … and boy do we miss MaxJet.

We decided to take advantage of the Points and Cash option and booked Club World from Houston to London. We also booked World Traveller Plus coming back to Houston from Rome to compare the service (BTW, Houston is a hidden gem if you’re looking for award availability to London on BA–they operate two flights a day for the oil execs). Putting aside the exhorbitant taxes BA charges, which we knew to expect thanks to reading this magazine, we were unimpressed with the service, particularly in Club World. The seats, though lie-flat, weren’t particularly comfortable, the flight crew seemed determined to foil any attempts to attain privacy through the use of the seat dividers, and in a very odd display, they actually awoke us just as we were dozing off to inquire if we wanted more juice or water.

World Traveller Plus was actually slightly better, though still not as good as the MaxJet product we flew on a few years ago.

On the plus side though, BA does make it easy to open jaw. Instead of booking a roundtrip, they just booked us on two one-ways–simple and straightforward.

What ever happened to MaxJet? They had a fantastic product, and the all-in cost was just slightly higher than the cost of an “award” flight on BA once you factor in taxes.

Perhaps I just answered my own question.

Upgrade? Yes? No!

I am a Delta Platinum Elite member and back on Nov. 9, on the LAX-JFK Delta flight 610, I was upgraded to first class at the airport on the 767-300 ER, which has Business Elite seating. I was upgraded because there were two no shows at check-in for first class and the flight was full.

As you probably know, these upgrades are not processed until the gate agents close out the flight at about 30 minutes prior to departure. Unfortunately, after I boarded along with another Platinum Elite traveler who also was upgraded, about 15 minutes before departure we had to move back to our coach seats because two late first class passengers had the flight reopened causing us to be bumped back to coach. I was really angry about this experience and when I wrote Delta about the issue they said that they would investigate internally but nothing further happened.

I thought that this was an interesting upgrade experience and wanted to share this with the InsideFlyer team.
Davin Pokoik

Aeroplan Flight Bonuses

I quite enjoyed your recent review of lifetime programs in “Very Important Flyers”. However, I wanted to clarify the issue of bonus miles with the Aeroplan program. Bonus miles (50 percent Elite, 100 percent Super Elite) are one of the options that members can choose under the “Select Privileges”. While many people would view this as an obvious choice, the program is designed to offer maximum flexibility for members to design a package that works for them.
Ryan Hoult

Editors’ Note: Ryan, thanks for pointing out our error and we do indeed need to clarify this. Although elite flight bonuses are not a standard feature of the program for all elite members, the bonus is accessible to all elites through the Select Privileges program.

Priority Club Dilemma

I have a subscription with you and would like to make a remark about the Priority Cub Rewards promotion: Sweet dilemma; free nights or double points.

There is a trick here: It’s not nights but stays (second stay!).

So I spent now three nights at a Holiday Inn plus two nights at a Holiday Inn Express and will not receive two nights free, but only one night.

This means staying 10 days at one hotel would get you NOTHING!

Last year the same offer was for nights and not stays and this is not a transparent offer!

Editor’s Note: R.C., we agree that the promotion is a bit confusing, free nights or double points or miles and the double points or miles are available worldwide while the free night is not available in Asia Pacific. And you had to choose either a free night or double points or miles, and if you picked the free night you could not earn points for your stays, etc. There was a lot to take in. The thing to remember is to always check the fine print and a “stay” in every hotel program means checking in and checking out–no matter how many days there are in between.

Down South America Way

I’ve now booked two award flights to South America. I didn’t have any problems when booking an award ticket on LAN using American AAdvantage miles, but booking an award on TAM using Continental OnePass miles was a bit trickier and required some patience and calling back to the OnePass service center a few times. It turns out that TAM Airlines doesn’t release award seats at all until three months before your travel dates. This information isn’t available on the Continental OnePass Web site, and some of the representatives I talked to didn’t even know this–they just told me there weren’t any seats available on TAM Airlines on the dates I wanted to travel (I called to book a flight five months before my travel dates).

I was trying to book a roundtrip coach ticket from Denver to Brasilia for dates in January 2011 and was only able to find availability from Denver to Sao Paulo. I contacted Gary Leff, BoardingArea blogger and award booking expert at bookyouraward.com, to see if he had any suggestions. He said that January is the high season in Brazil and TAM’s award availability isn’t the best, but that TAM doesn’t open up seats on domestic flights until a few months out (he was right). He suggested I book the flight to Sao Paulo and check back later to see if any flights open up. Which is exactly what I did.

When I was within the three-month booking window, I called Continental OnePass and was able to add on segments from Sao Paulo to Brasilia and back and wasn’t even charged a change fee. The representative I talked to said that as long as I wasn’t within three weeks of the flight date, there would be no charge to add on the segment–I was only charged around $20 in airport fees since I’d tacked on another airport to my itinerary. I had no difficulty at all booking the flights and even had a number of different flights to choose from. If I’d waited until three months out, it’s possible that availability from Denver to Sao Paulo would have filled up so I didn’t want to wait that long for TAM flights to become available. And while I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to find an award seat to Brasilia, at least I knew I’d be able to get close to my destination and could purchase a flight if I needed to. But it turns out there was availability after all–I just had to wait and call back. Thanks goes to Gary Leff and his expert knowledge of the ins and outs of award booking!

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