Letters – September, 25 2012

Letters – September, 25 2012

Once Upon a Time

What a shame. New employees of American Airlines do not know what AA was like when Mr. Crandall managed it. When you say for 30 years, that miles will not expire, they do not and should not expire, How do they give us only five months ahead notice of a change to expiring miles?

The 25 percent bonus miles is a joke and disappointing compared to what we are losing in benefits with our old miles. Not even 50 percent bonus miles would compensate for it. I have flown over 1,500 flights on AA in the last 29 years–on one of the first flights to Paris, on AA’s small 747 to Japan. What for? Loyalty to AA does not pay. I made my miles flying, not buying popcorn at the movies.
Dr. Rafael Mendez

How Not to Treat Best Customers

Today, I went on US Airways’ website to book a flight. I logged into my account–I am at their Gold level because I fly them quite a bit. I looked up my flight from FLL to DSM for Aug. 18th returning on the 21st. The price was $485 so I decided to look on Kayak.com to see what the price might be and I notice that they were showing a US Airways price of $358. I followed the links and it took me back to US Airways’ website and it showed the price at $358–so I followed to see the time, etc., and it was the exact same flight as what they were showing me at the higher price. So, I decided that I would then go back, after making sure I was logged out of my Dividend Miles account, to the US Airways direct website and look up the same information–and it showed it at the lower price again. I then closed my browser again, reopened it and went back to the US Airways site and checked into my account again and looked again for the same flight–and it again showed me the higher price!

So it looks to me like if you are a very good customer and go online through your account they quote you a higher price than if you are just a person they are trying to sell a seat to. As a loyal customer, it really makes me mad if that is how they treat their best customers–they should be exposed for doing that.
Ed Redfern

Not Lost Yet

Several topics today. First, thanks for the Kiva story. I was aware of the organization, but not the mileage connection. Thanks to the story, I will start making loans.

Second, I hate to throw cold water on anyone’s pride and joy, but I wonder how valuable the Freddie Awards are? I fly a lot, but not on a lot of airlines. I suspect most of the people who vote are the same, and really have no comparison–just vote for their usual airline (hotel, etc., but I am more knowledgeable about flying). Also, I suspect some airlines, etc., push their members to vote, and some do not, which would skew the results. My own personal example is best frequent flyer program. I use United for most of my flying. It never scores very high. Yet I take six trips a year to Asia from the U.S., occasional other international flights, and do a small to medium amount of domestic flying, depending on the year. That makes me a 1K flyer with United. I ALWAYS pay coach. In the last five or six years, I think I have had two international segments that were coach. The rest were business. Once I didn’t get my upgrade, and once I couldn’t get upgraded on a substitute airline’s flight when my United flight was cancelled. The rest of my coach fares were upgraded. We are talking a minimum of 120 segments! Pretty much the same story on my domestic flights, although I do not pay as close attention, because all domestic flights now seem short! Also, in that time, I have had enough extra miles to take two roundtrip first class trips to Asia just using miles. I get some credit card miles. Those may have covered the first class flights, but not the other upgrades. I continually check other airlines’ mileage rules and policies to see if they are equal or better. They are not. And often when you feature bloggers, such as Wandering Aramean, I see they also use United. Yet Delta scores higher on their mileage program. For someone who flies as much as I do, Delta does not give as many bonus upgrades (two vs. three annual roundtrip). My experience is it is very hard to get upgrades with Delta miles at their low mileage tiers, and it’s the same for getting a roundtrip at their lowest mileage use category. I have never had to use more miles for United than their low saver awards. And just as I see many bloggers using United in your magazine, I also see stories about how difficult Delta is for awards. Yet Delta outscores United for the mileage program. And then I read the horror story in the August letter about Turkish Airlines, that scored high with its mileage program.

Third, now that I have said nice things about United, it is time to show the other side. Your editor said he has not had any trouble from United since the merger. I have. Some merger related, some not. For one thing, since the merger, the central reservations number does not have as much authority. I used to get texts and emails when there was a problem with my flight. Then when I would follow up, I would find I was already booked on a backup flight. Not anymore! Recent problems have had no warning, and I had to make my own backup arrangements. Not only that, they do not have their systems figured out very well. I had a recent flight LAX to SEA with a stop in SFO (why the SFO stop?–cheaper, nicer planes, since they use terrible planes on the direct LAX-SEA flights, and as a bonus, a few more miles). My LAX-SFO was delayed, so I booked a backup. When it appeared my LAX-SFO was going to make my connection, and I tried to board, it turned out my entire itinerary had been cancelled (including the SFO-SEA portion)! With boarding pass in hand, I found this out only as I tried to board, and was told there was no record of me anywhere. Back to the counter, and it was eventually fixed. When visiting with other passengers, I found out this had happened to many passengers. Apparently making the backup arrangements had cancelled everything! However, that flight did not make it. The delay problems had not been solved, and we came back to the gate. This required a new flight to SFO, which was duly booked. However, I then had to book a backup SFO to SEA, since I could no longer make my original connection. Once again, the booking of the backup SFO to SEA cancelled my entire itinerary! Fortunately, I double checked shortly after booking the backup and was able to get it all fixed before it was time to board my LAX-SFO. However, that afternoon turning into evening and then late night was a nightmare. They eventually gave me 10,000 extra miles, but that was not as generous as problem awards have been in the past, and nothing was offered at the airport, I had to request it online later.

Fourth–more bad news for United. Readers may recall my complicated seat problems with United in business class in the July letter titled Seat Nonsense. They have not fixed those problems. If anything, they are worse. I just arrived in SIN on a leg from NRT. Those flights have been mostly upgraded configurations, so United has had the upgraded configurations available online for seat assignments. I had booked my favorite seat months ago on an upgraded plane. About a week before the flight, United decided it was going to be the old configuration. I was changed to a seat I did not want. I managed to get a better seat, but not my preferable seat. Then when I checked in online, I saw they had changed back to the new configuration! Not only was the seat I booked months ago gone, they had given me the dreaded middle seat! Once again, I was able to change to a better seat, although not the one I wanted. Their problem seems to be that the row and seat numbers are different between the old and new configurations. They do not seem to be able to give you a comparable seat. They only seem to be able to give you the same seat number you had on the prior configuration, which is completely different between the old and new configuration in business class.

United has not lost me yet because their mileage program is so much better for me than anyone else’s, but all except their onboard service has certainly gone down recently.
Mike Schemm

High Balance Math

I am disappointed in American’s recent decision [to change non-expiring miles to those that expire], having about 900,000 non-expiring miles.

As best I can tell, the 175A award (two first class tickets to Europe) would be equivalent to two AAnytime awards at 125,000 miles each; so, the 25 percent bonus would need to be nearly 43 percent to break even (250K/175K=1.4285).

For the 120B award (two business class tickets to Europe), the equivalent would require a 66 percent premium.

So, I’m not sure how the 25 percent number is fully equitable–at least for those holding high balances.

Leave a Reply

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