Letters – May, 21 2012

Letters – May, 21 2012

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

American AAdvantage announced a special offer (BOSEQ) on April 3, awarding double elite qualifying miles for roundtrip Dallas/Ft. Worth-Boston travel from April 3 through June 30, 2012.

I had already purchased, prior to April 3, a roundtrip DFW-Boston ticket for travel in early May (see my message to AAdvantage below) and was not happy that it would not qualify because the purchase was made prior to the announcement.

My message to AAdvantage made a strong case (in my opinion) that refusing to consider advance reservations as bonus eligible in situations like this simply infuriates many of the airline’s best customers.

As you will see from an AAdvantage manager’s response, also below, my argument fell on deaf ears. For any airline, but particularly one in the depths of bankruptcy, to establish a policy such as this makes no sense, because it will alienate some of its best customers. I wonder if you can use your contacts in high places at American to convince them to inject a touch of rationality into their program.
Peter A. Winograd

Message from Peter to AAdvantage Customer Service:

I just received an email from AA announcing AAdvantage offer BOSEQ, double elite miles for traveling DFW to/from BOS if both the reservation and flights occur between April 3 and June 30. I have a trip scheduled during that period, but the reservation was made before April 3. Your telephone rep just confirmed that I will not get the bonus, because pre-existing reservations do not count under the offer’s terms. This is an outrageous way to treat someone like me–one of your best (Executive Platinum) customers with 5.3+ MILLION cumulative miles. I realize that AA is in financial distress, and you want to attract all the new business that you can. But, by making your proven, high-volume customers who purchase tickets in advance, ineligible for an offer like this is only counter-productive. I am sufficiently upset to seriously consider switching to one of your friendlier competitors, who will be delighted to give me top elite status in their programs once I provide them with evidence of my current AA status and high cumulative mileage.

As they say … penny wise but pound foolish, and that apparently is AA’s new motto in bankruptcy. I hope someone in your operation will see the error in this approach and will reverse it. I will look forward to your response.

Message from AAdvantage Customer Service:

Your most recent email to AAdvantage Customer Relations has been referred to me for supervisor follow up. I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

I am sorry to disappoint you, however, your flight scheduled for May 4 returning May 7, 2012 was booked prior to the April 3, 2012 requirement and we are unable to allow an exception to count it for the BOSEQ promotion. Since this promotion is offering double elite qualifying miles and allowing our members to reach Elite status sooner, we do have perimeters that we must abide by. We do recognize you as a very valuable member and we do appreciate your business. I am hoping you will be able to take advantage of future promotions.

I’m sorry my response couldn’t be more positive. We value your loyalty and are eager to continue the beneficial relationship we have enjoyed thus far. Thank you for your understanding.

Where Art, Thou?

United MileagePlus does not respond by email, not even for some relevant requests such as retroactive mileage credit. Moreover, it takes a long time for miles to be posted in my account. It seems the new United doesn’t care about frequent flyers.
Oscar H.

Rating Priority Club

I have used Priority Club as my main go to for the last couple of years, and have been Platinum for most of it, staying 140+ nights a year in their hotels (mainly Holiday Inn and Express).

Earning Ability: A

They always have deals. Double points, points for specific hotels or ordering specific packages, promos, etc. In fact, if anything it’s a little too easy to earn elite status. Which does make it good for beginners, but takes some of the luster out of being elite.

At the end of last year they had a promotion so good it pretty much earned me Platinum Elite for a whole extra year just because of all the bonus points that hit in January.

So yeah, if you keep an eye out for promotions and remember to sign up for them you can earn like crazy. And once you get elite, you are going to be making bonus points as well on every stay.

Award Choices: A

Like all the programs you can buy free hotel nights with your points, which seem reasonably priced. They also have an ‘experiences’ concept where you can buy things like flying lessons, hot air balloon rides, race car driving, Harley rental and various other adventures. They have an ability to order airline tickets too. So you can essentially get a hotel, an experience and an airline ticket there all for points. Pretty cool.

What I also like is the fact that you can obtain gift cards too. For example Amazon.com, which just about sells everything these days. I’m going to buy an Apple computer this summer and it won’t cost me a dime. I also scored some Bose noise cancelling headphones and a Yamaha surround sound system.

When you take into account the gift card options, the program has very few limits to what you can use it for. Of course, the bias in the program is towards free nights–40,000 points could buy you a night in a hotel in NYC or Vegas that might have cost $400 for the night. However, a $200 Amazon.com or Best Buy gift card will probably cost 35,000 or more points. But this is to be expected when comparing third party offerings to what they can offer you from their own resources.

Partnerships: A

They have plenty, both in terms of earning extra points from making purchases and in terms of what you can buy once you have the points. They even have a dining program that automatically earns you points for eating at participating restaurants. Rather a nice touch if you eat out on business trips a lot.
Elite-Level Program: B

I think the issue I would have is that Platinum is a bit too easy to earn, and this in turn waters down some of the benefits you are likely to get out of it. If 30 Platinum guests show up at a hotel one day, they are not all going to get upgrades.

Rules and Conditions: A

The points don’t expire, there are no blackout dates. I don’t really see any negative rules that make me mad.

Service Support: A
On the rare occasion I’ve needed to call in, the staff have been polite, helpful and competent.

Online Services: B

I’ve had a few issues with their website on occasion, but it’s recently been revamped and is currently very clean and easy to use.

Plus Features:
– The program is simple.
– Easy to use / understand.
– The rewards seem pretty generous and there is something for everyone.
– No blackout dates or expiring coupons like some programs.
– I frequently get upgraded to nicer rooms, executive floors or suites.
– The program is comprehensive and good by most measures.

Minus Features:
– With so many promotions and ways to get extra points it is surprisingly easy to attain Platinum and keep it, which in turn dilutes the status of it and reduces the benefits you might get on any given stay.
– I would argue that Marriott and Hilton may have a wider range of higher end hotels should you wish to use your points for travel or staying at a hotel that you normally wouldn’t be willing to pay for.
– In the past they had some really stupid bugs on their website that used to irritate, like being asked multiple times to login; however, the last refresh of the site seems to have addressed these.
ZCT [Milepoint]

Editors’ Note: Thanks, ZCT, for summing up your thoughts on Priority Club. We didn’t have room for this letter for the Report Card section of our Inside Look review, so decided to publish your thoughts here.