Letters – July, 21 2011

Letters – July, 21 2011

Merger Magnitude

As a long time Continental Platinum member, the United/Continental merger so far has been terrible for me. Over the last month I flew United from New Orleans to Hong Kong via SFO and another trip from New Orleans to San Francisco, only to be insulted by United personnel. They have no knowledge of the Continental Platinum member status.

I watched numerous first class seats on flights being filled first with United elites and traveling companions from my coach seat. Last week, I flew to Argentina via Copa Airlines and was treated like royalty!

On returning to my office this week, I instructed my partners to refuse United bookings and demand Continental, until this merger mess gets worked out to a respected client basis.

As an added protection, Delta recently agreed to match our elite status for two years by sending a copy of our elite card or statement. While Delta is not my favorite, in this crazy business travel world, it’s smart business to hope for the best and prepare for the worst!

Airline mergers are the worst. Unions, different employee classes (pilots, flight attendants, baggage/ground)–there are lots of personalities who can make the transaction difficult for customers.
Tom S.

Waxing Elite

When answering the recent Air Poll on WebFlyer.com, I was torn between upgrades and bonus miles as my favorite elite benefit. In the end I saw that bonus miles actually is not that big of a deal for many voters but I am still at the stage where I love to see that number grow.

Also, I have only been Executive Platinum on AA for a year and am still figuring out what I like best in terms of benefits. For example, it has been REALLY nice to be the last one or one of the few people on standby to get added to a flight, when I have been able to make it to the airport earlier than expected.

As a long time Platinum member I had gotten used to upgrades not going through, not being confirmed from the standby list etc., because there were too many Executive Platinum members ahead of me. Now, I am loving life and feel quite spoiled actually.
Take.me.away [milepoint]

RR 2.0 Too Complex

The new Southwest Rapid Rewards system is complex. Better to have a fixed number of points based on distances 0 to 500 miles: 5,000 points, 501 to 1,000 miles: 10,000 points each way and so on. The rewards based on actual fares is complicated and is a moving target and makes planning for travel more difficult.

Southwest often advertises fares based on distances, similar to the one they have now $40 for 0 to 450 miles; $80 for 450 to 1250 miles … why can’t they do it for award tickets?
hyho61 [FlyerTalk]

Better Way to Upgrade

My travel is frequently coast to coast and I try to fly US Airways. I fly US Airways because there are nonstop flights from SFO to PHL. I believe there is less chance for luggage to get lost on nonstop flights and the flights generally take three to four fewer hours. I would say that my ability to upgrade to first class with miles is about 50 to 60 percent successful. I’m not sure if that is good or bad but the routine of calling every day to see if seats have been released for an upgrade is frustrating. I sometimes think that the effort itself is not worth the trouble. On the other hand, having the miles and not using them is wasteful. I wish there was a better solution. I might suggest that instead of costing 10,000 or 15,000 miles to upgrade, US Airways could make it 20,000 miles and do the upgrade first come first served. Just my thoughts.

Chairman Upgrades

I fly primarily on US Airways and have been at Chairman level for a few years. I can safely say that in that time I have been upgraded more than 50 percent of the time domestically. I have yet to score an upgrade for Hawaii or Europe however.
C. Jones

Rapid Rewards Contempt

I hate most everything about the new Rapid Rewards system. The only things I like are 1) that there’s no hard expiration, and 2) that they haven’t yet changed the earning rate for hotels (i.e., the loophole that you earn the same Southwest points for Hampton as for other HHonors brands, even though you earn 1/5 with all other airlines, hasn’t been eliminated yet), but I fear the latter may be simply because the systems for interfacing with the hotels haven’t been redesigned yet.

As a traveler who always books in advance on my own dime, there is no incentive anymore for me to do paid travel on Southwest if a flight on a legacy where I have status is available. The only value left in Southwest for me is earning with partners only, then flying only on awards. But even in many cases, especially last minute travel, legacy awards are easier for me to find (at reasonable cost) than the new RR 2.0 awards. When I have to pay double at legacy airlines, I can often get a business/first class seat for the same miles. But when I have to pay more than double with RR 2.0 for a late-booked flight, I don’t get any better seat for it.

I particularly hate that it’s impossible to know how many points you have to save up, since you can’t know the cost in points until you go to book the flight (since the cost in points can change from day-to-day as much as the cost in dollars).

I miss the comparative simplicity of previous versions of Rapid Rewards, and the ease of making last-minute changes to the flight time without raising the reward cost.
sdsearch [FlyerTalk]

Delta Schmelta

Oftentimes I see Delta’s SkyMiles program denigrated in these letters. Just as many times I see it complimented. Allow me to offer why I don’t plan on flying Delta any longer.

Recently I redeemed 160,000 SkyMiles for my family to fly from SMF to MCO, in coach of course. At 40,000 miles per person, I could have saved by using my AA or UA miles but Delta had the schedule and the larger equipment, both of which I prefer. After a date change to the booking, those free seats went from $10 for each after the redemption fee to $160 each–the original fee plus the $150 per ticket change fee.

Three of the seats were under one record locator. The fourth was under another locator as I didn’t have enough miles for all four tickets in one account. Since I carry the Delta-branded American Express card in my name, I was able to avoid the baggage charges for three of our four bags.

Even though my wife was traveling on the same flights as the rest of our family, because she was in a different record, she had to pay the $25 first bag fee because she doesn’t have the DL AMEX. When I explained that putting her under my record locator would have meant transferring 40,000 SkyMiles to my account to avoid the baggage fee, which made no financial sense, I was reminded that regardless she could only check the bag for free if she was under the record locator of the card holder. We were out another $50 (one bag checked each direction) and had now spent $690 for our four “free” domestic tickets. Add in the $95 fee for the AMEX card for the year, and we were at $785.

While I realize the policies of other airlines are similar, I have found those other airlines to be much more flexible and customer service oriented. Twice this year I have had to make changes to tickets, once on AA and once on UA. Each time my reservation was changed without a fee (and without status on either carrier). Twice this year I booked domestic roundtrip awards on AA and UA for 25,000 when DL wanted 40,000. And twice this year I booked one-way awards on both AA and UA for half the miles of a standard roundtrip award. Delta allows one-way awards but at the full roundtrip amount.

With our 160,000 miles liquidated, and DL getting nearly $800 from us for four free tickets, we won’t allow them to get any more. Our flights will be on UA and AA from now on and purchased by their branded credit cards.
Kevin Murphy

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