Letters – June, 18 2012

Letters – June, 18 2012

What Works

Most readers see or ask what’s bad with a program, but I have a what’s good or it works report to share about IHG.

In April, I used 140,000 Priority Club award points to book a four-night stay at the Crowne Plaza in Paris for my son-in-law and our two grandchildren who were on the way to celebrate his mother’s 70th birthday. To reward them for going to Europe to be there for the birthday, I thought a stay in Paris along the way would be educational for all, since none had visited there before.

Maybe this is just a “French Thing” but upon their arrival the front desk wanted cash, about US$300, more to get the room that had been reserved with beds for all of them. Yes, they had no choice but to pay the extra to get their room since it was a pay up or leave situation.

They placed a call to me after they checked in to let me know about the extra charge. I called the Priority Club customer service department, which to my surprise is open 24 hours a day. Yes, 24 hours a day, to inquire, “why?”

Several members of that department went to work on this problem and they ALL called me back to report how the proper solution to solve this overcharge was progressing. (Yes, they promised to call back and they did!) It took several days to resolve since IHG/Priority Club customer service had to contact the hotel in Paris and deal with time zone differences, language differences, work around a weekend, talk to various managers. And … you guessed it … a holiday observed by the hotel. (That “French Thing” again?)

But they didn’t give up or just tell me, “no”, from the start, which would have been the easy thing to do considering all of the difficulties involved.

To their credit, Priority Club worked as OUR advocate, not the hotel’s, to get this reversed and resolved … AND THEY DID!

Priority Club Rewards works and so does IHG … and both have my “thanks” and continued support for their professional business approach.

I think your readers would enjoy knowing, as in my case, as they earn reward points that Priority Club/IHG knows that you as a customer have placed a trust in them to “deliver”. And that they know it’s an obligation, not to be taken lightly.
Richard Garber

Seat Nonsense

This is rather complicated. I hope I can explain it well. United is upgrading their International 777s for business class. Probably other classes too, but I fly business, so I don’t pay attention to other upgrades. So far as I know, they are mostly done. However, I fly Seattle-Tokyo Narita and back six roundtrips per year, or 12 total flights. United uses a 777 for those flights, and they seem to be about the last to be upgraded. Some are upgraded, and some aren’t, but the seat selection on their website just shows the old configuration.

The United 777 international business class has two sections. Two rows in front of the galley, and behind the galley, three rows upgraded or five rows in the old configuration.

The majority of people prefer the two rows in front of the galley, including me. You can confirm this by seeing which seats are taken first.

Since United knows some flights will have the upgraded planes, and some won’t, they have blocked off six seats on the SEA-NRT and NRT-SEA flights–so far as I can tell, on all future flights, since the old configuration had 49 business class seats, and the new configuration has only 40 business class seats. Whoever did the seat blocking apparently knows nothing about the seat configurations or passenger preferences (or does not care).

The new (lie flat) configuration is 2-4-2 and the old configuration is 2-3-2. Therefore, the two rows in front of the galley have two more seats in the new configuration than the old configuration, and the area behind the galley has 11 fewer seats, since there are only three rows instead of five rows, even though there is one more seat across.

Where did they block off seats? In the two rows forward of the galley–the six center seats (rows 8 and 9, seats D, E, F). Why? There will be two more seats there if they are able to use an upgraded plane. Now people who want that section, the preferable section, can’t pre-book it because, even though there will be two extra seats there, six of the 14 seats are now blocked off! Three of the seats blocked off, row 8 D, E, F are also bulkhead seats, which are also often preferable. In the new configuration there will actually be more bulkhead seats, although with the new seats bulkhead doesn’t really make much difference.

If instead they had blocked off seats A, B, D, F, H, J in row 12, 13 or 14, no one would ever know the difference if they reassigned seats because the flight had the new configuration. None of those seats are bulkhead. Two are window, and four are aisle, which is what will be missing in the new configuration. I have three flights booked. My preference, in the old configuration, is seat 8D. It is aisle, bulkhead, and seat E, in the center, is usually the last to be reserved, so I often have more room with a vacant seat next to me. Needless to say, I was not able to get that seat on any of my three booked flights. For the first two, not the end of the world. I was able to get an aisle on the side, although the likelihood of having an empty seat next to me will be very small since six seats in the most popular section are no longer available. But on my last trip (November), I am flying with two friends who already have the two side seats (A, B) in row 8. I would love to be across the aisle from them in seat 8D (there is no seat 8C), so we can easily visit, but since that is one of the blocked seats, that is not available.

I sent an email to United pointing out that the seats they have blocked make no sense. However, I doubt anyone with any authority will receive my email, therefore it is unlikely anything will happen. I am hoping you have better connections, and can point out my above reasoning to someone at United who will pay attention, thereby helping many people who would like to book those first two rows in business ahead of the galley (in addition to me!).
Mike Schemm

Editors’ Note: We’re not sure we have any more clout than you when it comes to this issue, but we’ll see what we can do.

Someone Cares

I just wrote to Delta to praise Carol Sartin, Red Coat Agent, Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport, and am happy to share the following positive experience with you. On April 12th, my 82-year-old husband (needing wheelchair assistance) and I arrived at the airport in Anchorage at 4:30am to begin our trip to LA with a MSP connection. We spent the day in ANC due to a mechanical problem. By the time we reached MSP, having missed our connection, we were exhausted. Delta had made arrangements for all (and there were many) passengers to get food vouchers, hotel vouchers and shuttle bus transportation. I was tired and confused. I spoke with Ms. Sartin and told her I felt the shuttle bus was too difficult and would take too long stopping at various hotels. She immediately took charge, arranged for taxi vouchers and volunteered anything else we needed such as food vouchers for the hotel. Interrupted travel, long waits and overnights in general are anything but pleasant; how rare it is to encounter someone who helps greatly to alleviate the sting.
Lois Rubenstein

Summer Award Summary

Read with real interest, the MilesLink dated April 18, regarding the reader question of using 120,000 miles for an American AAdvantage trip to Germany. For three years, I have wanted to go to Germany, off-season mostly to avoid the crowds. Until this year, AA always had good trips for reasonable miles, sometimes below the 60,000 rate. This year, I was determined to take my grandson. I expect there are days or periods of time (summer) when all airlines elevate their minimum rate, but this year, AA seems to have done it for every day, summer and fall. Not a single flight I could find was below 120,000 miles, and like you, I totally agree this is too many miles. I also had miles with US Airways, and was able to find a limited number of flights for about 90,000 miles. The prize was Continental/United, where I found numerous flights for 60,000 miles. Ultimately, I arranged two tickets for 60,000 miles each, and as of today, United still had many flights available, several with Star Alliance airlines. Kudos to United–boos to AA. Additionally, living between Dulles and Baltimore, there were UA/Star Alliance flights directly to Germany vs. AA going the long way, through Dallas. You also commented about shopping an airline ticket to get a lower price. It has been amazing how the price of airline tickets has gone up. Most airlines are starting at $1,300 for summer travel to Germany. This is where frequent flyer miles are paying off, and perhaps why AA has raised the minimum to 120,000 miles. Thanks for your great articles.
Karl Hoffmann

More on what I recently sent you: I looked at the AAdvantage site and found now there were quite a few flights available to Frankfurt at the lower miles rate, although not every day, as I would expect for the summer. I have no idea why there was such a change or exactly when the change took place. My flight arrangements were made the end of January for flights in mid-June, and I looked for at least a couple of weeks before deciding. Just an FYI regarding my experience.
Karl Hoffmann

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *