Letters – March, 20 2013

Letters – March, 20 2013

Miles Afterlife

I noticed with interest the question and your response on page 20 of the February issue of InsideFlyer regarding the man, age 80, who was wondering about his miles if he should die.

This same question came up years ago (5-10 years) and the response was that the airlines would let you bequeath the miles if you did so in a valid will and, most importantly, if the person receiving the miles had an active frequent flyer account to transfer them into. I proceeded to execute a codicil (addendum) to my will and spelled out that the miles should go to my children and gave their account numbers for AA, CO and UA, which was where all of my substantial miles were. I opened frequent flyer accounts for my two children for this purpose.

Well, guess what, I forgot that my kids don’t fly much and the accounts were soon closed due to inactivity!

So I guess your current response, saying in effect, don’t tell the airline that the person is dead is the best course of action (or inaction as the case may be). But you also say that “beneficiaries must be quick to act or may see your miles expire.”

However, if the accounts of the deceased are linked to credit cards, the life of the frequent flyer miles can be extended indefinitely if the credit cards can continue to be used, and once again, no need to tell the credit card company that the person has passed away!

Enjoy the magazine immensely!
Dick Wallin

Credit Due

After flying around the U.S. and the world for three decades, I finally have begun to review all of my membership programs to ensure, given the myriad of bankruptcies, mergers and loss of airlines and hotel programs, that I receive credit for nights and miles. I am stuck with Starwood Preferred Guest and am requesting a senior representative of the program to help me sort out records that support credit towards my lifetime status.

In multiple emails, current representatives who were not around when the program was called Sheraton Club International refuse to acknowledge such a program (even when I sent a press release dated Dec. 28, 1998). I sent my membership number and explained that I had over 228,000 points with over 100 nights (I stayed at the Sheraton in New Delhi for 6+ months checking out every 30 days). The representatives have all been polite enough but all I get is “thank you for being a loyal member” response and nothing else. They acknowledge that from 1998, I have 223 nights and have met the five years as a Gold member requirement. My six months at the Delhi property would more than meet their nights stayed requirement. Starwood can look at its archives or ask the Sheraton Delhi to send records of my stays. All I ask is a serious attempt to look at the records and give me credit for the program before 1998 so I can receive my appropriate lifetime status.
Richard R.

Editors’ Note: We got in touch with our contact at Starwood Preferred Guest and she confirmed that lifetime elite status, which began March 1, 2013 for those who have qualified, only applies to Starwood Preferred Guest stays, not to Sheraton Club or Westin Premier stays. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you’re approaching lifetime status with the stays you’ve racked up since SPG was introduced in 1999. For lifetime Gold status, members must have stayed 250 nights and been a Gold member for at least five years. For Platinum lifetime status, you would need 500 nights and 10 years of Platinum status (not consecutive).

Do You Think This is Fair?

I noticed that you recently posted an article to your site regarding the 2013 Hilton HHonors changes. I would like to forward an email that Hilton sent to me, in response to an email that I sent regarding the changes.
Loyal Member

Loyal Member’s email to Hilton HHonors:

I have been a loyal member of Hilton HHonors for several years. I am currently a Diamond level member and hold over 862,000 HHonors points. I have earned these points through a combination of hundreds of hotel stays and using the American Express Hilton Surpass Credit Card. I literally lived in the Hampton Inn in Canton, Ohio for six months. Over the past two years alone, I spent over $125,000 on my Hilton credit card. Needless to say, I have made the conscious decision to continue to give Hilton my business over the years because I felt that the HHonors program was valuable and rewarding. That being said, I have never been more dissatisfied and displeased with a company after learning of your recent changes to the program, beginning in 2013.

The changes, to be clear, are absolutely dismal for the consumer in nearly every single way. Sure, creating more hotel reward categories means that I can now spend only 5,000 points to spend the night at the Hampton Inn in Ciudad Juarez, the murder capital of the world. Thanks. However, I prefer the idea of spending four days at the Doubletree in Times Square, which will now cost me about 380,000 points, as opposed to the old price of 200,000. Can you tell me why, exactly, the price for this specific hotel has nearly doubled? Seriously, what do my points get me now? It must be more than a room, since there’s no reason for my point value to essentially be cut in half overnight. The hotel has undergone no major changes in the past few years, nor was it recently added to Hilton’s list of properties. The dollar price for a room has also not gone up, so the hotel has simply become more expensive for HHonors users. Do you think this is fair?

You see, I no longer see much value in your program, so I will no longer be staying at any Hilton property, nor will I use my Hilton credit card. I will also tell my friends and family to avoid Hilton at all costs. Finally, I will remind each one of my coworkers, all of whom essentially live in hotels year-round, not to patronize any Hilton property unless your rewards program changes. I feel that the business of your HHonors members is valuable to your company’s continued success.

While I am a loyal HHonors member, I also hold Marriott Platinum and Priority Club Platinum status, and could very easily take my business elsewhere. Those companies have done nothing for me lately to deserve my loyalty, but they have also not treated me like some stupid consumer who doesn’t know any better. Do you think that this is any way to treat your most loyal members? I don’t.

Hilton HHonors representative’s response to Loyal Member’s email:

Thank you for reaching out to the Hilton Worldwide Executive Office regarding the recently announced Hilton HHonors program changes. We would first like to take this opportunity to thank you for your years of loyalty and membership in the Hilton HHonors program. We do acknowledge that any changes to the Hilton HHonors program can be received with a certain level of distress and for that, we are truly sorry that this change has caused you frustration. Understanding that any changes to our reward structure may be initially met with skepticism, we do believe that these changes are vital in order to keep the Hilton HHonors program viable and competitive with the other loyalty programs within the hospitality industry. With that in mind, you have our commitment that we will do our very best to help you navigate through the changes and assist you in any way we can to book a future vacation at the new reward pricing. Please be assured that we do appreciate your feedback and hope that you will continue to make Hilton Worldwide your first choice when traveling based on the high level of service, quality and the diversity and value that each of our distinctive brands offers all of our most loyal Hilton HHonors guests. We appreciate your time and most of all we appreciate your Diamond status!

Crazy, But Love the Option

I personally think $40 is crazy for the average person [to pay Southwest to board in the A group] on a routine trip. However, there are several situations when the flight is running late and I would LOVE to have the option to pay $40 at the last minute to jump into the A boarding group:
1) going to a wedding, funeral or other important event
2) trying to make a connection on another non-Southwest flight
3) going to an important business meeting
4) trying to get home for a family emergency

I’m sure there are other reasons as well. I see this as a way to capture more money from people who fail to pay for EarlyBird Check-In or a Business Select fare. And even if people don’t bite at the $40 option, it may point more people towards paying for EarlyBird or Business Select fares, which could be the actual motive by Southwest. Either way, I personally don’t think this new option will have a negative impact on the average traveler. It is simply a new option.
Z. Glass

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