Letters – November, 16 2011

Letters – November, 16 2011

United mileageplus Takes the High Road

Randy, further to your two most recent editorials regarding the promise which was created by Continental Airlines to its loyal (yet dwindling) Infinite Elites 15 years ago, it appears that the new United MileagePlus has chosen to take the high road.

I was just advised by the OnePass service center that a decision has been made that Infinite Platinum Elite members will be grandfathered into MileagePlus 1K. Although the specific decision directly effects only a very small number of members, it speaks volumes as to the commitment of the new combined program to honor its OnePass commitments even though there is technically no legal imperative to do so … just a commitment to its members and to doing the right thing.

Kudos to MileagePlus and of course, to yourself and InsideFlyer for championing our cause both in 1999 and in the present.
Mark I. Stein

Thumbs Down, United

Within the last three months I have received in the mail 10 solicitations for “The New United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card” from Chase. Ten! These appear basically identical except for the maximum number of bonus miles I am offered with the card. Three do not mention bonus miles on the envelope. Five offer me up to 35,000 miles and two up to 40,000 miles. I have received other solicitations for MileagePlus-linked cards offering me up to 50,000 miles.

I do not have any precise idea of what the ramifications are of banks giving away such hefty volumes of miles and it could be that the situation is not as bad I am tempted to think. But I do think about it and fear that all these premiums can only be diluting the value of miles and aggravating the congestion for redeeming them. And I don’t like it. By the way, I have not taken up any of these offers.

And while I am at it, let me offer another thumbs down. I have focused on United Airlines’ MileagePlus program for about 25 years. While it has certainly degraded, I remain generally pleased with it. Over the years I have had plenty of experience with United’s business class service and have enjoyed some memorable trips in it including some of the best meals I have ever had on planes. One dinner with sturgeon on a San Francisco-London flight stands out. This year, I had a surprisingly unpleasant experience with it. I flew from Dulles to Sao Paolo, Brazil and used miles to upgrade from economy to business class. The main course of the dinner I was served on board consisted of beef, asparagus and potato. The beef was a large, ugly lump of meat that was overcooked, dry and so stringy that I could eat only a little bit of it. The asparagus managed to be both under-cooked and partly burned at the same time! The potato was okay. This was worse, really worse, than food used to be in economy class in the good old days! So my upgrade miles still buy me more space, which I appreciate, but seem seriously devalued in terms of the meals.

Thank you for listening.
Pete Maclean

My Miles, Not Company Miles

I was recently asked if it’s fair that a company should make me spend miles earned on company travel on travel for the company only. When I travel, as far as I’m concerned, I’m “working” for 24 hours but only getting paid for eight. If I’m away from my family because of work, I’m working. The least a company can do is let me keep my miles/points. If they don’t, then I don’t travel.

Disappointed in AA

As an American Airlines frequent flyer, I am disappointed with the direction the AAdvantage program is going. I have been with AA for 15 years but now I think I will just start looking for the cheapest airfare. American is usually higher than other airlines so a cheap ticket on another airline will cover the luggage fees.

As to loyalty, most airlines only really care about the high-spending first class elites, the rest of us are just something they have to put up with.

Delta F

I give Delta SkyMiles an F grade. Delta SkyMiles, like their competitors, advertise that you can get a roundtrip domestic award flight for 25,000 miles, but the NORM is 40,000 miles. And now, Delta is spending money to advertise on TV about how caring Delta SkyMiles is. Marketing is not the way to fix the lack of 25,000-mile seats. This is a problem that has been around for years.

Aer Lingus Not Smelling Like Roses

I’m elite Gold with Aer Lingus. The airline is totally unprofessional and offers poor service. I’ve spent around 30,000 points with them this year and am about to fly back from New York City. This will be my last flight with them after the fiasco I had a few days ago trying to get my flight changed–it took me one hour on an international call to finally persuade them that they should allow me to change the day of my flight for #230 instead of the #600 they wanted just because I could not get through on the phone to the web reservation team… never again totally crap.
John Lyons

Dynamic Awards

Whenever I want to buy tickets to go to my local Major League Baseball team’s games, I know that the cost of my tickets will vary quite a lot depending on the demand for that particular game. Generally, I like this feature because I feel like I can sometimes get a bargain.

But I don’t feel the love for “dynamic pricing” with frequent flyer miles. I am much more inclined to feel cheated. I don’t like not knowing what my target miles are. I’m not a very frequent flyer, and not a business traveler, so every mile I earn is hard-earned. I want to know how many miles I’ll get for my flight and exactly how many miles I’ll need for an economy flight to Europe or Asia.

If the redemption of my miles becomes a moving target, it will take all the fun out of it, be much more stressful when it comes time to find an award fight and I’m SURE I won’t get a bargain. And I shudder to think what will happen with stopovers and open jaws with award flights. Will each segment be viewed as a separate award and members have to pay more miles?

I hope the programs don’t all change to dynamic pricing, but I’m afraid that they will–maybe from their point of view, it makes sense—but from my point of view, it sucks.
Meghan McDonald

Avoiding Wyndham

I lost points in the Wyndham Rewards (formerly TripRewards) program, and consequently continue to avoid all properties that are involved with it.

There are so many competitors with good products and services where points clearly “do not expire” and are not otherwise devalued. Even though this action to expire my points might be “legal” and further the intentions of their fine print writers, and heavy handed anti-customer attitude, customers do make choices. I don’t expect them to change their policy any time soon, or to reinstate me.

When looking for a points program, potential customers should look for policies where the points do not expire or at least where there are other ways of easily receiving points without having to purchase them.
Tom B.

Dial Back with Delta

I recently needed to book an award flight from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro and could use either American AAdvantage miles or Delta SkyMiles to book the ticket. Both airlines partner with Brazilian carrier GOL but American Airlines charges 25,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket within South America whereas Delta charges only 20,000 miles so I chose to redeem SkyMiles. But Delta SkyMiles agents don’t seem to know that GOL is an airline partner. I called one agent who said there weren’t any flights available between those two cities, even when I asked her to look for flights specifically on GOL. She said no, there weren’t any flights available. But I knew there were flights because I had already called American and they had found multiple award flights on GOL for the days I wanted to travel. So I called Delta again. Another SkyMiles agent said that Delta didn’t fly between those two cities. I asked her if she could look for flights on GOL and she said she had never booked an award on GOL and didn’t think they were a partner in the SkyMiles program. But she put me on hold and checked and eventually was able to find award tickets.

Does Delta even train their customer service representatives? They don’t seem to know all of the airline’s partners.
Amanda T.

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