Letters – March, 22 2011

Letters – March, 22 2011

No More LUV

Southwest’s recent changes are a major downgrade to Rapid Rewards for frequent short-haul travelers, who probably represent most of Southwest’s frequent flyers. Until now, you could spend less than $1,000 for eight cheap “Wanna Get Away” short-distance roundtrips within two years (I’ve flown several such flights recently for roundtrip fares ranging from $80 to $140), and then you would get a free roundtrip “anywhere”.

Many destinations cost $400-500 per roundtrip even with the cheapest Web-only fares. So you could easily spend around $1,000 (potentially as little as $650) and then get a $400 trip free.

Now (assuming you don’t have lots of money to waste on expensive “Anytime” or business fares), if you spend $1,000, you’ll get a free trip worth exactly $100.

Of course, Southwest trumpets all the improvements and most reporters parrot them. I’ve read many news items about this, and only one, in a little Baltimore paper (http://bit.ly/fDw14q), described what I’ve pointed out here, which is probably the most typical actual effect of the changes. Boo Southwest. Boo reporters!
Jilted LUVer

AA and BA

I just wanted to write to say how thrilled I am that British Airways and American Airlines have finally come to some kind of agreement where I can earn American AAdvantage miles for my economy flights to London on British Airways. I don’t know what took them so long, but I’m pleased as punch!
A. Welsh


I was standing at the LAX A/C service desk not too long ago and overheard the agent on the phone telling someone to please inform Mr. xxxx and Ms. xxxx (very well-known Hollywood types) that American Airlines would NOT be able to move first class passengers just so they could sit together on the flight. I will keep the names of the Hollywood pair to myself, but it convinced me AA will not mess with passengers for VIPs. Now, they did get into the airport lounge–but they were international or transcon first class passengers after all.
Madison Frequent Flyer

Where are the Miles?

I have been a reader of the magazine for many years and now the online service. Thanks for a great job keeping me informed. I have a major problem and I hope you can help me. After the NWA-Delta merger, my 168,410 NWA miles, and those of my three children (approximately another 200,000) were never transferred to our SkyMiles account. I have been sending all the monthly statements to all the different Delta departments over the entire last year but have been getting nowhere. They do not want to deal with it. They just say all that all the miles have been transferred! Please advise me how to proceed.
Dr. Panos Livadiotis

Editors’ Note: Dr. Livadiotis, we sent your information to someone at Delta and they will be getting back to you. Please let us know how it turns out.

So Long Spokane

Are they insane? Terrible–as of Feb. 1, there are no longer any United Spokane to Seattle flights. It was a good feeder (six or so daily flights) for many trips, always pretty full. And so far, no added flights through Denver or SFO. That leaves only those and one each way “seasonal” to Chicago–late Spring through early Fall.

US High Jinks?

You may already be aware of this, but if not I thought you might be interested in what looks like a deceptive business practice by US Airways. I booked a non-refundable reservation in September 2010 for a Nov. 17, 2010 roundtrip flight (ITH-LGA-ITH).

The flights were $119 each direction. I had to cancel the trip. I went to rebook this past week and first checked the US Airways website for the current price of the tickets. They were still priced at $119 each. I called US Airways to make the reservation and the agent told me there would be a $25 charge for re-booking unless I did it online. I went to the US Airways website again, logged into Manage flights, put in the reservation number and original flight date for the canceled flight, and it gave me the option to re-book. I then tried to book for EXACTLY the same flights I had just checked out and, instead of $119 each way, they were $131 one direction and $140 the other (plus, of course, the $150 change fee).

I thought there might be some mistake, so I opened another browser and went back to usairways.com and tried again, without the canceled flight. The same flights came back at $119 each way. So, it appears that US Airways is not only charging a $150 change fee to change a non-refundable flight, but also adding an undisclosed premium to the fare when someone has to rebook a canceled flight.

They do not disclose this and it’s hard to imagine what the justification might be given the $150 change fee charged for the same rebooking. I consider this to be highly dishonest and deceptive. I’ve written to US Airways customer service but have not yet received an answer. I have copies of all the dated and time-stamped Web pages with the fare information on them if you would like to see them. If I do not get a satisfactory response from US Airways, I am considering speaking with a class-action attorney. I would be interested in whatever explanation you might be able to obtain from US Airways as I doubt they will tell me anything useful.
Nelson Roth

Editors’ Note: We got in touch with Mr. Roth to follow through and he responded as follows: Thanks for looking into this. The first response I received from US Airways was the typical “you’re wrong, fares go up” type email. I then wrote directly to US Airways general counsel, Paul Jones, and received a prompt call back from a customer service representative who actually took the time to look into the matter. I have now confirmed that the explanation for the higher fares is that–while the two screens look exactly alike (i.e., both list flight and fare options for selection), the higher fare shown for the exchange for the cancelled flight includes taxes and the screen for a new booking does not. The matter would have been resolved, of course, had they simply told me that initially rather than saying the fare had gone up, but the issue is now resolved nevertheless.

Adieu the Old SWA

I had heard that Southwest was going to be making changes to Rapid Rewards, and all indications were that the new program would somehow be tied into revenue, so I wasn’t too surprised when Southwest came out with their new Rapid Rewards.

I can see why they did what they did–money. And I guess I can’t fault them for that, but I do miss the old Southwest. This new program is way too complicated and just not fun and simple like the old one.

And it’s great that Rapid Rewards members can now claim for international awards (if they have all the points that would be needed), but to tie the offer of international flights to only those members who have a Southwest credit card just isn’t like the old Southwest I used to love. Really? What happened to egalitarian Southwest?

Have you come that far Southwest? I’m not liking that. It smacks of good old fashioned money grubbing and that’s just not fun.

But, like every other frequent flyer, I’ll deal with the changes and make the best of it. I just miss the old Southwest.
Kandace Warren

You Call This a Partnership?

I am currently trying to book flights six months in advance for travel to both Spain and Morocco using Delta SkyMiles. However, the Delta award booking bot insists Delta does not fly to Morocco, which may be true; however, SkyMiles partners KLM and Air France have lots of flights daily to the country.

This is a big pain–and calling Delta only underscored that airline representatives do not have any access to partner information–which does not seem like a partnership to me!

Editors’ Note: We feel your pain. Be sure to read this month’s cover story. There just might be some information there that will help you book your award flight. And remember, if the representative you’re talking to is not helpful, thank them, hang up and call again. Good luck!

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