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Media Query — A Chance for Readers to Sound Off
I’m a reporter working on a story for SmartMoney.com that looks at “the horrors of business travel” — and what travelers are doing to avoid them. I’m specifically focusing on air travel, but am open to any other stories.
Have you, for example, been delayed at the airport for four hours when a car or train-ride to your destination would only take three hours or less? For shorter destinations that you may have once flown to anyway, have you ever considered alternatives: car rental, train, even telecommuting to avoid hitting the road altogether? And what are some of the benefits in terms of loyalty programs? Please email me at email@example.com by 6 pm on Friday, November 2. Thank you!
“Up Front with Tim Winship” Blog Entries
Among Tim’s recent SmarterTravel.com blog topics:
FrequentFlier Forum Topics
In the “Airline Programs” Forum, sumosid raises the question of age requirements for participation in a mileage program: “My 13 year old daughter has had Continental Airlines’ One Pass membership for the last 4 years. I recently checked out her account on online and there was a prompt to confirm she is over the age of 18… Can anyone tell me if they know of minimum age requirements of Frequent Flyer programs, specifically One Pass?”
And in the “Credit Card Programs” Forum, the “Best Air Miles Credit Card Available?” thread is growing but would benefit from more opinions. What’s in your wallet?
Questions, answers, opinions? Post them to the Forum!
Feedback from the Frontlines of Travel
“I was forced to evacuate my home in San Diego on Monday, Oct. 22. I called Continental since I was unable to make my flight on Thursday, Oct. 25, from San Diego to New Orleans. I was told that Continental would waive any penalties for a future flight to the same destination – if I took the flight by Oct. 29! i.e. 4 days hence.
“Not very compassionate or generous, since any of us are unlikely to reschedule our flights anytime in the next 4 days.” [George C.]
“[The following is in reference to last week's Crier, in which we gave kudos to the Priority Club Rewards program for encouraging points donations from members, which would be converted to cash and donated to the Red Cross to help with relief for those affected by the Southern California wildfires.]
“How could you possibly say kudos to this (below) without any knowledge of their rate for points/$. Not only can the rate be horrible (ie. good for them), but after $100,000, they only give 50% as they don’t match. And going to the site, I see no information on what they GIVE when you SURRENDER the points. Pathetic that you would give kudos here!” [Brett A.]
[FrequentFlier.com responds - In this case, we were impressed that a) the company took the initiative to do anything, and b) the company went so far as to match members' contributions, albeit only up to a specified limit. If this were a sales promotion, we might quibble with the value proposition. But our feeling was that somewhat different rules applied since it was a charitable initiative.]
“It’s worth a shot…
“Do you have any clues as to how I can get Delta to reinstate my miles that they stole away calling them “expired”? They took over 20 thousand miles because I didn’t travel for 2 years. I had a death in my family and illness and I went nowhere. They are evil. ;)” [Diana S.]
[FrequentFlier.com responds - Unlike some airlines, Delta doesn't have a formal mileage reinstatement procedure for expired miles. In US Airways' program, for instance, expired miles can be reactivated for a fee -- $200 for between 20,000 and 49,999 miles. A questionable deal, especially at the lower mileage levels.
My advice would be to call Delta, explain the circumstances, and ask that the miles be reinstated as a gesture of goodwill on their part. With the newly shortened mileage expiration periods, I have heard reports of airlines being more inclined to make such exceptions, probably to avoid the P.R. nightmare of hordes of members losing their miles and creating an enormous outcry. Check back and let us know if you had any success.]
Until next week…
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Deal Alert from SmarterTravel.com
1) Asia Fares on United from $538
Flights to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Ho Chi Minh City are on sale from United. Fares start at $538 round-trip.
Travel is valid from November 5 through December 7. Book by November 13, 11:59 PM ET.
2) AirTran Sale Fares from $39 Each Way
Domestic flights through late February are on sale from AirTran. Fares start at $39 one-way or $78 round-trip, and featured cities include Atlanta, Orlando, New Orleans, and Milwaukee.
Travel is valid from October 30 through February 27, 2008. Book by November 13, 11:59 PM ET.
Continental Devalues OnePass Program
The big news of the week, and the focus of this week’s newsletter, is the upcoming negative changes recently announced to Continental’s OnePass program. In order of their effect dates, the changes are as follows:
First, Continental now reserves the right to make changes to the OnePass program with just 30 days’ notice. Previously the program’s terms and conditions promised 60 days’ advance notice. (It would appear that Continental broke its own rule here, since members were not given 60 days’ warning of the change to the new 30-day rule. But that’s the least of OnePass members’ concerns.)
Next, effective December 1, the longstanding 500-mile bonus for booking online at continental.com will be discontinued. Or at least it will be for members with a mailing address in the 50 states. Non-U.S. members apparently need further training in the use of Internet booking.
And lastly, beginning February 1, 2008, mileage requirements for several types of awards will increase.
The price increase that will affect the most members will be for first-class awards on flights within or between the contiguous U.S., Alaska and Canada.
Capacity-controlled SaverPass awards will increase in price from 45,000 to 50,000 miles. And the price of unrestricted EasyPass awards will rise from 90,000 to 100,000 miles.
The other price increase applies to overseas BusinessFirst awards. Award flights between North America and Asia, India, Africa or the Mideast will increase from 250,000 to 300,000 miles. And award flights between North America and Southern South America will rise in price from 180,000 to 250,000 miles.
Awards booked before February 1 can still be had at the current prices, so advanced planning could result in significant savings for anyone contemplating award trips on the affected routes.
As we have said about so many of the corrosive program changes in recent months, no single modification is enough to sink a mileage program altogether. But the cumulative effect of the setbacks is pushing program participants to the brink, the point beyond which loyalty simply isn’t worth the effort.
Note to Continental: You’re approaching that point.