Letters – November, 19 2012

Letters – November, 19 2012

Avios Made Simple

I hope reader Karen Adelman hasn’t already paid someone $150 to find her a New York-Cape Town routing using her Avios points that avoids a stop in London (WiseFlyer September). Here’s my solution for free.

– Avios points are of course valid on Iberia.
– Iberia serves the Madrid (MAD)-Johannesburg (JNB) route.
– Once in Johannesburg, she can purchase a Johannesburg (JNB)-Cape Town (CPT) roundtrip fairly cheaply on South African Airways or a local carrier (SAA is not an Avios partner).
– Voila … she uses her Avios points to get a New York (JFK)-Madrid (MAD)-Johannesburg (JNB) business class ticket (or pays cash for an upgrade).

It’s so simple, I must be missing something here …
Bruce Haxthausen

Editors’ Note: Thanks, Bruce, for your interpretation of how to use Avios points and avoid the high fees of flying through London. It is indeed another way to get from point A to point B by avoiding London. You might save the finders fee of a flight contest through flightfox.com (which would be less than $150), but then, you would have to pay for that roundtrip ticket from Johannesburg to Cape Town which could set you back almost $300. But it is certainly another option for Karen to contemplate.

R.I.P. American AAdvantage

I’ve been thinking about American Airlines a lot lately. It was always one of my favorite airlines to fly. But now, I’m not feeling the love. The planes are old. The crew are old. The pilots seem stressed and I’m wondering about how secure my accumulated miles are. I’m not one to hoard miles, but I do have quite a few AAdvantage miles that I now feel I should burn as quickly as possible.

I have a friend who has been flying American for even longer than me, and he enlightened me as to the way it used to be. In 1984, for 35,000 miles and no cash, he could fly roundtrip to any destination within the U.S. and Canada, including one free stopover as long as there was a seat available on the flight he wanted to book–truly, completely and utterly a FREE flight. You would also get one free night at a nice hotel for FREE as well as a car rental for two weekend days for FREE. Those were the good ole days.

Now, even with spending 25,000 miles on a roundtrip domestic ticket, or 50,000 miles for that last-seat availability that the old awards offered (plus taxes and fees), you can’t get a free stopover. And I’m fully aware that the current offer might seem like the “good ole days” any day now if the value of miles continues to decline.

It’s a sad day for me and many frequent flyers as we see the glory days of the frequent flyer program fade out of view. R.I.P. American AAdvantage–even if you manage to survive.
Casey Whittera

Seven Levels

Just when you thought air travel couldn’t get any worse, the airlines come up with a way to make it worse. I just read about Delta’s new policy not to allow bags to be checked through when you have a trip scheduled on two different reservations. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has used my miles for a portion of a trip and then had to add on a short hop at the beginning or end with a flight I paid for and booked separately. I guess I’ll just have to live with carry-ons for every trip I ever take from now on.

But sometimes, I really want to bring home something liquid and I’m stuck having to check my bags. Now, I’ll have to add even more time into my connections to allow for getting off the plane, going through the confusion of finding my bag and getting in another line when I would rather be in an airport lounge or at the least, grabbing a bite to eat, all so I can check in my bag again in yet another “fun” security line. It gives me a headache just thinking about it.

This is a very unfriendly move for customers. I’ve heard that US Airways was the first major U.S. airline to do this, but since I don’t fly them, and think of them as US Scareways, I didn’t think much about it. But now that it’s my Delta, I’m not happy. The alliances are always harping about how they are making travel “seamless” for alliance customers. How is this seamless? Even when you’re flying another SkyTeam airline, you still won’t be able to check your bag through to your destination if you have separate reservations.

I realize I’ll have to live with this because Greyhound buses don’t run from Los Angeles to London, but I’m really tired of the airlines thinking only of their bottom line and seem to dream up ways of making the whole flying experience seven levels of hell.
Anonymous in L.A.

Taking it Too Far

I read the well-written article on frequent flyer lawsuits in last month’s issue of InsideFlyer but question the motivation of those seeking compensation. The airlines make it very clear in their terms and conditions that they can make changes to the programs at any time. I think it’s better when they announce changes well in advance and give people a chance to adjust to the changes, but they reserve the right to change the programs.

Is it really worth suing an airline over expired free drink coupons? What kind of compensation are you likely to get anyway? The lawyers may benefit financially with frivolous lawsuits but the time and money involved in these cases seem like a waste.

I can understand the lawsuit against Citibank since the people who signed up for the checking or savings accounts weren’t told they’d have to pay taxes on the miles and no other program has ever sent members 1099 forms for the sign-up bonus miles they earned. And valuing the miles at $.025 per mile is ridiculous–where did they come up with that number?

The case involving FreeCause seems more complicated than the others since it’s not clear exactly whether the problem was a mistake or miscommunication, but a lawsuit seems excessive. Sometimes you take a gamble on a promotion and you end up getting the miles. Sometimes you don’t. If a promotion seems too good to be true, it’s probably because someone made a mistake. And while members may take advantage of those mistakes or loopholes, they shouldn’t file a lawsuit when the program figures it out and ends the promotion or cancels their orders.

I also question how the industry will react if their customers continue to sue them over their loyalty programs? I’m afraid the few who bring these suits might be ruining the soup for the rest of us. These are marketing programs after all and just like the fine print that says they can make changes at any time, they also all have fine print that says they can end the program at any time. I don’t believe they would choose to end the programs, but with continued lawsuits, they might decide to structure the programs differently–and that might not be to the benefit of their customers.
Mark Garcia

Better Things to Do

I read with interest your cover story on frequent flyer lawsuits. I have to say that there have been times that I’ve also been tempted to take an airline to court over my frequent flyer miles. I spend so much time in the air, so much time at an airport, so much time on the way to and from airports–so much time away from my family.

And over time, I’ve started seeing my favorite airline and its frequent flyer program as extended family–a rather annoying uncle–but one who gives me the occasional handshake and a wink with a $20 bill. I don’t expect that uncle to go against his word. But I wouldn’t take him to court if he did. I would just shake my head and move on. I might not trust him as much and I might even take him off my Christmas card list, but I wouldn’t sue him. I have better things to do.
Cheryl Opitz

Thanks, AAdvantage

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been less than pleased with American Airlines lately. Any airline that can’t even bolt down their plane seats properly obviously has some major issues.

But I have to give American AAdvantage its due and I particularly thank its president, Suzanne Rubin, for offering double elite-qualifying miles for all flights until the end of the year. As an added bonus, they are offering double miles for flights around Thanksgiving–when many people travel. And, as an elite member, I’m getting double elite-qualifying and redeemable miles until the end of the year. That’s truly generous and I appreciate it.

I love American. I love the old American, the schedule, the employees, the service, Admirals Clubs and the upgrades and free flights I’ve enjoyed over the years. I sincerely hope that the trouble they have been experiencing is temporary and the American I love will resurface. At least, this “thank you and apology” has gone a long way in making me feel better about my favorite airline.
Joshua B. Marshall

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