Letters – January, 06 2012

Letters – January, 06 2012

Happy Customer

Today, I received four American Airlines systemwide upgrades as a thank you for achieving Lifetime Platinum AAdvantage (two million mile) status. Without the help of InsideFlyer, I would still be in the middle row in the back of the plane. Thanks for your great publication.

I did sign up for the AAdvantage Executive MasterCard in my final push for the two million miles. The $450 annual fee is steep, but it offers various perks when renting a car, no foreign exchange fees, Admirals Club membership, double miles on American Airlines purchases and a host of other benefits. There even was special coffee and dessert at a local upscale java joint hosted by AA and Citibank! The perks all are valuable and having this card in my wallet will direct all of my travel to American.

Renewal time will be in a year and the $450 annual fee will definitely catch my attention. Hopefully there may be a few other perks, such as access to fly-by security or a couple of 500-mile upgrades that get added to the list. The $450 makes me feel like I belong to a special club and I am certain American wants us to continue our membership. There is a new manager of AAdvantage named Maya Leibman and she seems to be a sharp business person and in touch with her customers. It should be fun.
Neil Johnson, AAdvantage Platinum, West Hollywood, Calif.

Dear Mr. Petersen

As a subscriber to InsideFlyer, I hope you will please analyze and critique British Airways’ new Executive Club Program. As a frequent flyer for over 30 years, I do not recall any airline ever making such dramatic changes in its frequent flyer program with the unintended objective of seriously undermining loyalty. Among the highlights:
1. British Airways has on most, if not all, long-haul flights (especially between the North America and Asia and Africa) doubled the amount of miles required for an award ticket when compared to what was required prior to Nov. 16. Simply review the charts of required miles on partner airlines prior to Nov. 16 and then determine what is required today. For example, a roundtrip (or two one-way) business class ticket on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines from North America to Bangkok or Singapore required only 100,000 miles prior to Nov. 16. Today, that same roundtrip ticket, assuming availability, is between 200,000 and 300,000 miles.

There are hundreds of examples of city pairs between North America and Asia, North America and Africa and Europe and Asia/Africa, where the required miles have doubled or tripled. With the exception of domestic flights on American, and flights between North America and selected cities in Europe, all long-haul flights in all classes of service require two to three times the miles required prior to Nov. 16.
2. British Airways, unlike all other airlines, refused to publish the new mileage requirements prior to Nov. 16. The reason is obvious: there would have been mass bookings of flights.
3. British Airways requires, in most cases (e.g. North America to Bangkok/Singapore) twice the miles on Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific as required by American Airlines.
4. British Airways refuses to publish a table of mileage required between regions of the world. Aside from its most frequent flyers, anyone viewing such a chart would fly on a competing airline and cut their Chase/British Airways card in half.
5. Stopovers are no longer allowed.
6. Fuel surcharge fees and other fees now apply to partner airlines when these charges only applied to British Airways flights prior to Nov. 16.

Over time, only British Airways’ most frequent flyers and infrequent flyers will stay with the airline. Anyone else with any sense will fly anyone but British Airways if frequent flyer flights are an objective. Even those who received 100,000 British Airways miles with Chase will realize the bonus is worthless when required miles for long-haul flights have, in most markets, doubled or tripled.

Only a management team that either does not understand customer loyalty or intends to defect to Virgin Atlantic in the next few weeks would have concocted such a program that will really discourage tens of thousands of Executive Club Members from using their Chase/British Airways card and/or switch to a competing airline.

I also suggest you review British Airways’ published responses to the critiques of its program. British Airways management must believe that its airline is a magnet for passengers who are morons.

I believe that readers of InsideFlyer are looking to you for leadership in criticizing British Airways management for replacing one of the industry’s best frequent flyer programs with what is now the worse program in the entire industry. Indeed, I dare say that if you do not write such a critique, you will lose credibility with your readers who will wonder whether you are afraid of antagonizing an airline that could be providing you with special favors. Indeed, I am surprised that you have been silent on this subject when your website is quick to feature comments and articles on subjects that are not even remotely as important as the new British Airways Executive Club Program. Just maybe, a strong critique of British Airways from someone with your credibility will be sufficient to have British Airways correct its mistakes and bring its Executive Club Program more in line with the program of American Airlines and other oneworld members. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Peter LeVine

Note from Randy: Peter, I appreciate your note. Just as background, I’m the guy who funded much of the SaveSkyMiles and SaveDividendMiles efforts that pushed back changes to both the Delta and US Airways programs, so I think it is fair to say that I don’t care about “antagonizing an airline.” There’s a lot to digest and when I look at any change, I take my time looking at how, why and where it may be going, as well as understanding the change in its current competitive environment. Toward this goal, just last week I met with Andrew Swaffield the Managing Director of the new Avios. As you might be aware, the member effort at fighttheairmileschange.co.uk has been unable to exact any changes so it’s a mighty tall task to assign it all to me. Nonetheless, I’m looking at the changes and will report back to our readers about my conclusions. I appreciate the faith in my efforts.

Dear Kingfisher Airlines
Re: Shocking experience on flying your airline.

To begin with, let me express my shock as to how Kingfisher Airlines could be given five star status. I am amazed–five star status must stand for harassment or deceit because Kingfisher Airlines truly stands for these two. I booked a return ticket. When I went to the airport at Kolkata, and got the ticket printed from your counter, the print out which came out was faulty and the letters were hardly visible. I did not face any problem due to this but it truly reflects badly on the brand name of Sir Vijay Mallya who is said to stand for quality.

When I boarded the plane, I requested some ear plugs from the air hostess and was informed that they did not have any. The food that was served on board was truly disappointing. I was also amazed to find that there were no cold drinks on board and I had to suffice with just water as only tea/coffee was available.

One of the primary reasons for choosing your airline was the in-flight entertainment system but to my utter amazement it was not working. It is sheer fraud on your part because I had booked a Kingfisher Class flight and an in-flight entertainment system is a part of these flights. During the Mumbai-Goa flight I was served a sandwich but to my utter amazement there was no ketchup. The same was the case in the return flight from Goa-Mumbai. Also in flight IT 513 Mumbai-Goa, there was no leg space compared to flight IT 512 and there was no in-flight entertainment screen at all.

If Kingfisher Airlines is truly a five star airline then these petty issues should not even arise. But I am sorry to state that in your case, these issues are being repeated time and again.

With regards to my claim of harassment, flight no. IT 513 from Mumbai to Goa was cancelled. You gave me a re-routing option and I was booked on Jetlite Flight 9W 2151–a Jetlite flight–a low-cost carrier! If I wanted to travel on a low-cost carrier I would have chosen some other airline, which would have cost me Rs 2,000 less per ticket and I would have saved Rs 10,000 on the five tickets I booked. Also, Jetlite, a low-cost carrier, had much better leg space then Kingfisher! Due to the reputation of Vijay Mallya only, I used to cherish traveling on Kingfisher even if I had to pay Rs 1,000 extra over other airlines. But this experience has made me take a stand to never fly Kingfisher even if the flight is free. I call upon you to refund the amount I paid when choosing in my innocence your airline instead of purchasing cheaper tickets from a low-cost carrier–I was unaware of the trauma I would have to face for making this mistake. I do not have the resources to fight against your big airline as I am a plain common man but I will try my level best to spread the word through Facebook and Twitter that Kingfisher is worse off than low-cost carriers and deceives customers by making tall claims while adhering to none of those claims.

Please remember that just calling passengers “guests” is not enough to make them feel worthy. They should be given the facilities that a guest of Sir Vijay Mallya would expect.
Anant Nevatia

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