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Best Wishes for 2008 (and Fasten Your Seatbelts)
This is the first newsletter of 2008, the 484th issue since we began publishing the Crier in 1998.
Whether you’ve been with us since the early days or are a recent subscriber, welcome. And Happy New Year!
In this week’s “Rants & Raves” below, two readers treat us to a first-hand look at the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of travel in this first decade of the 21st century.
Which neatly sets the stage for the year ahead. I’m hoping for a better travel year in 2008. But realistically, I’m preparing for the worst.
Keep those seatbelts securely fastened.
Following are some of Tim’s recent blogs:
FrequentFlier Forum Topics
As always, there’s plenty of activity on the FrequentFlier Forum.
In the “Airline Programs” Forum, cocomango can’t confirm award seats for an upcoming trip and wonders whether to keep waiting, or buy tickets before the prices go even higher: “Would you pay the $440 now and just get it over with? The airfares can only go up, right? (I need 5 tickets to a few dollars change in price makes a difference.) Or would you hold out and keep trying to get free seats?”
Also in the “Airline Programs” Forum, shortysnh contributes a cautionary tale regarding mileage runs to the “Cheap long-haul flights” thread: “If you end up using a partner airline for a mileage run, read the fine print on your primary FF club’s website. Elite Qualifying Miles may not be 100% when flying on a the really cheap fares. I just learned this the hard way doing an end-of-year, dirt -cheap mileage run… and earned only 50% EQMs. It will cost me the bump from Silver to Gold.”
Questions, answers, opinions? Post them to the Forum!
Feedback from the Frontlines of Travel
“Just thought I’d share my holiday travel experience with you…
“First, my wife and I scheduled a flight from Miami to Newark back in June for Christmas. We purchased the 8pm flight on America Airlines on Friday night, but one month beforehand we were notified that it was pushed back one hour. After delays, our original 8pm flight took off at 9:45; fortunately we had upgraded to first class (where we were served a wonderful meal of hot nuts and a cookie), so it was at least bearable. Our flight home yesterday morning at 6 am was on time and uneventful.
“Here’s where our adventure has really begun. My wife is from Argentina, and we travel there for New Years every year. I am a loyal American Airlines flier, and my wife is Platinum with them. As such, we reserved exit row seats (we are both over 6 feet tall) on the 8:30 pm flight. Looking at the flight the week beforehand, we noted that the flight was half empty. I mentioned that they’d probably cancel our flight and combine it with the later 11 pm flight, a theory made more viable when we looked at that flight and noted it was also half empty.
“However, the day of our flight came and no word of any cancellations… until my wife checked the flight status online, that is. When she did, she saw that our flight had been cancelled and we were moved to the 11 pm flight. We called the airline who told us that, instead of the exit row, we were now in row 40 in the middle. They said there was nothing they could do about this, that we had to go to the airport. So off we went to MIA at 5:45 pm to try and get decent seats for our flight.
“When we got to the airport, the check-in agent told us that the flight was completely booked and he had no other seats for us. We asked him to move seats around so we could get the seats we requested, at which point he told us that they don’t take people’s seats away. We reminded him that the airline did just that to us when they cancelled our flight, and that we shouldn’t pay the price for the airline not wanting to fly half-empty planes. He said that wasn’t the case, and that the flight was cancelled due to equipment problems. I told him not to pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining; I know the real reason the flight was cancelled, as it’s happened several times to my wife’s family members. We then asked for an upgrade, and he told us that since we were flying on award tickets, they’d never do that. I reminded him that we were flying on award tickets because we have done so much flying with AA that we had the 200,000 miles necessary to redeem. He had no response.
“So now I am back at home and waiting for my (now) 11 pm flight. I am appalled that the originator of frequent flier programs has such a disdainful sentiment towards its most loyal fliers. Shame on American; we’ll be flying to Argentina again next year, but we’ll be flying LAN this time!
“Best wishes for a happy and successful New Year.” [Michael R.]
“After being a premier member with United for a few years (was based out of Seattle and traveled quite a bit to the east coast), I recently ‘switched’ and spent a few years as a Delta premier member.
“Whether it was the routes I was on or sheer luck, I got upgraded almost 60% of the time on Delta into First Class vs. never in United (maybe a few times to Economy Plus). I also was upgraded TWICE when I was on Delta ‘free’ tickets that I had redeemed from mileage!
“And after being stuck in Denver for almost a day over the holidays and bearing witness to United’s flub in handling it all, I am in the process of cancelling my United mileage card and switching over to Delta’s.
“The MOST outrageous rip off is United Red Carpet Club. Being a guest in one of these lounges used to be a treat, I often paid the Delta’s $25 daily pass if I had more than 3 hours between flights. At United, it’s $50 a day and you get… um, basically soda and pretzels (like you would on the flight) and a few other food items (crackers and cheese, fruit). You aren’t allowed to bring any food into the club, although they don’t sell any themselves. The alcoholic beverages are the same or above cost as the airport venues (over $20 for two cocktails), you still pay for internet ($10) and the club closed at 9:30pm! So WHAT is the value for price paid? Nothing! That was the icing on the cake, goodbye United.” [Nicole G.]
Until next week…
Win a Trip for 2 to the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl
Enter Expedia’s “Winning Team” sweepstakes by January 15 for a chance to win a trip for two to Super Bowl XLII in Arizona and to the 2008 NFL Pro Bowl in Honolulu, including air, hotel, and event tickets. Other prizes include trips to the Super Bowl, trips to the Pro Bowl, and $25 NFLShop.com gift certificates.
[Visit http://frequentflier.com/sweeps.htm for more travel sweepstakes.]
Deal Alert from SmarterTravel.com
1) Skybus sale fares from $20.08 Each Way
Skybus has announced a new sale with one-way fares as low as $20.08. The offer includes many of the airline’s popular destinations from Columbus, Greensboro, and Portsmouth.
Travel is valid from January 9 through February 29. Book by January 5, 11:59 PM ET.
2) Domestic Fares on American from $98
American has joined Southwest in offering domestic sale fares valid for travel through early May. Fares start at $98 round-trip, and cities include Las Vegas, Orlando, San Antonio, and Seattle.
Travel is valid from January 2 through May 8. American’s sale will likely end on January 21, the same day Southwest’s deal expires. Book tickets at least 14 days in advance.
British Airways Launches Mileage Mall
Members of British Airways’ Executive Club can now earn up to six miles per dollar when shopping at more than 100 online retailers participating in the BA Miles eStore. (Point of interest: the eStore is operated by Points International, parent company of Points.com, which also operates the online mileage sales for many airlines.)
Delta Adds Hotels for Mileage Accumulation
Delta SkyMiles members can now earn miles for stays at Chateaux & Hotels Collection hotels in France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain.
Normal earning rate will be 500 miles per qualifying stay booked at www.chateauxhotels.com/delta. To promote the tie-up, members will earn double miles, 1,000 per stay, between January 9 and April 9.
Priority Club Bonus for Winter Stays
Between January 14 and April 30, Priority Club Rewards members can earn 4,000 bonus points or 1,000 bonus miles on every second qualifying stay at InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites hotels, up to 40,000 bonus points or 10,000 bonus miles.
Registration is required.
This is the low season for travel… we should be seeing promotions from other hotel chains in the coming weeks.
More United Miles for London Flights
Between January 6 and March 8, Mileage Plus members will earn bonus miles when flying United round-trips between the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico or U.S. Virgin Islands and London (LHR).
Bonuses are 7,500 miles for first class (F, P, A booking classes), 5,000 miles for business (C, D), 3,000 miles for discounted business (Z) or full coach (Y, B, M, H), and 1,500 miles for selected other coach (Q, V, W, S booking classes).
Registration is required.