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Issue #566 — July 29, 2009

CONTENTS

Up Front

  • “Up Front” Blog Entries

On Site

  • FrequentFlier Forum Topics

Reader Rants & Raves

  • Feedback from the Frontlines of Travel

Sweeps & Freebies

  • Win 100,000 American AAdvantage Miles

Steals & Deals

  • Deal Alert from SmarterTravel.com

Miles & Points

  • American Offers New Yorkers Double Miles
  • Earn Delta Miles for Lasik
  • Continental to Cut Mileage Ties with Alaska Air
  • Bonus United Miles at the Mileage Plus Mall

Up Front

Tweet, Tweet

Use this link to follow us on Twitter and stay abreast of the latest in frequent flyer program news, opinion, and advice.

“Up Front” Blog Entries

Following are some of Tim’s recent blog posts:

  • Delta Upgrades Elite Program
    For 2010, Delta will add rollover miles and a new tier to its elite program. This is clever marketing on Delta’s part. And it’s mostly a win-win. Travelers get a head start, and Delta gets more loyalty.
  • United Reverses Course, Cuts Frequent Flyer Fee
    United is the first to eliminate rush charges for frequent flyer awards. The move gives travelers hope that American, Continental, Delta, and US Airways will do the same.
  • Want a Free Flight? Buy Stuff!
    Shopping at online mileage malls is a great way to rack up frequent flyer miles. And it’s even better when merchants offer bonuses and discounts.
  • US Airways’ Mileage Sale Rates a ‘Buy’
    With US Airways’ 100 percent bonus, the economics of buying miles from an airline turn consumer-friendly. Travelers who do the math may decide to buy, buy, buy.

On Site

The FrequentFlier Forum – Hot Topics

As always, there’s plenty of activity on the FrequentFlier Forum.

In the “Airline Programs” Forum, SSheinfeld comments as follows on United’s recent decision to eliminate last-minute ticketing fees for Mileage Plus award tickets: “WOW.” Indeed!

Also in the “Airline Programs” Forum, and also in reference to United, ronald and Max Bialystock share their thoughts on the now-famous case (thanks to YouTube) of the trashed guitar and the angry songwriter.

Questions, answers, opinions? Post them to the Forum!

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Reader Rants & Raves

Feedback from the Frontlines of Travel

We welcome reader feedback on issues related to travel generally and frequent flyer programs in particular. Please use this link to submit comments.


Re Barbara M.’s ‘American Miles: Pretty Much Useless’ in Last Week’s Crier

“Barbara, since reading your article on the trouble you had trying to convert your mileage to 1st class and not getting what you thought was first class, I hear you. I also had the same trouble. I used to be a loyal traveler of American and had Visa and MasterCard to accrue mileage, one for upgrades and one for Hilton HHonors points. I now have them just for the Hilton HHonors and never pay for a room, and use whatever airline I want, usually Southwest since they go to so many places.

“The service that American used to give you is gone. I also like the fact that I can talk to a human and that I don’t have to pay for it. The airline industry needs to revamp their whole system, and remember what customer service is.” [VD]


“Not everyone has such poor experiences with American as Barbara!

“I’ve have very good luck finding the 25,000 mile economy tickets, and when I can’t the discounted First/Business tickets are always available for the same amount of miles as a regular economy award.

“In addition, the customer service has been nothing short of phenomenal. The agents are always eager to help. There was one time my flight had been delayed in the morning by several hours and I called to confirm the delay. Later, the flight was cancelled. Within 30 seconds of receiving the text message notification, the same agent I spoke to in the morning called me to tell me that she had noticed it was cancelled and had already protected a seat for me on several different flight options!

“Perhaps the best part of American has been the upgrades. I have been flying between Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles every week for the past 18 months. I have never purchased a first class ticket, but I’ve only flown in economy class on two or three flights.

“Maybe this has to do with the fact that I’m Executive Platinum, and I’ve already flown well over 150,000 miles this year, but at 24 years old, American Airlines has won a customer for life!” [Jeff S.]


“I am a frequent flier on American Airlines, Executive Platinum to be precise, and I fly more than 100,000 miles per year with American. I’ll admit that sometimes when I wish to use my miles for free tickets (always for friends, I’d never ‘waste’ flying time not earning miles!), I have to work with the online system a bit to find a route or dates that work, and generally I can find the tickets I want. But, in reality, it is a free ticket; what do people expect, that the airline will send a courier to their houses with a paper ticket just because they wish to fly somewhere?

“Ninety percent of my flying is between JFK/NYC and CDG/Paris and I never fly coach even though I always buy the least expensive coach ticket I can find on AA.com. 25,000 miles or a VIP Upgrade (as they are called by AAdvantage and given to Executive Platinum members) is what it costs me to upgrade with the necessary fees and/or taxes but it is worth it, and it is still considerably cheaper than buying Business Class tickets.

“I’ve read the FrequentFlier Crier for several years now and people have made complaints about mileage award problems on other airlines that I’ve never experienced on American until today’s complaint entitled ‘American Miles: Pretty Much Useless’ which I think I answered (see above; they are free tickets!). However, in this economy one can understand the airlines restricting free seats. For goodness sake, they need revenue. And who in her/his right mind pays full price for a ticket today — domestically or internationally unless it is the day of departure? Buy a cheap ticket and upgrade it. Domestically, you do not even need to use miles; American offers 500-mile upgrade vouchers that you can purchase if your account is empty and internationally the cost of miles plus fees is still less than the Business Class fare and less than the SkyTeam upgrade requirement of expensive coach fare-code cost plus miles and taxes.

“At the end of the day, if you are not a true frequent flier, especially if your miles are earned on credit card purchases, you do not have brand loyalty so why do you expect the airlines to have that loyalty to you? Don’t be fooled by JetBlue and Virgin America, new airlines that need to build customer loyalty and do so by wooing the once- or twice-a-year traveler.

“Fly well!” [A.L.]


“I am puzzled by the continued complaints regarding the lack of availability of frequent flyer seats, such as the one about American this week.

“Something around 10% of travelers are on award tickets so somebody is getting to use their miles.

“In my own circumstance we’ve just decided to celebrate my mother’s 75th birthday in Honolulu. Using my AAdvantage miles I’m sending my three kids from the east coast, my sister’s family of five and my brother and his girlfriend. We didn’t get the perfect dates, we’re all going two days earlier.

“Yes, I’m elite (which is why I had 350,000 miles to use for these tickets), so maybe the lesson is to concentrate on becoming elite. But clearly there are some seats out there for frequent flyers.” [Mike S.]


Until next week…

Sweeps & Freebies

Win 100,000 American AAdvantage Miles

Enter American’s “Pioneer of Flight” sweepstakes by September 30 for a chance to win one of 10 prizes of 100,000 AAdvantage miles.

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[Visit FrequentFlier.com for more travel sweepstakes.]

Steals & Deals

Deal Alert from SmarterTravel.com

1) Europe Sale Fares on Delta From $398

Delta has announced a new sale featuring flights to Europe from New York City. Prices start at $398 round-trip, and cities include Dublin, Istanbul, Rome, and Prague.

Travel is valid from August 17 through October 24. Book by August 3, 11:59 PM ET.

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2) Australia Sale Fares on Qantas From $609

Australia is featured in this sale from Qantas. Prices start at $609 round-trip from the West Coast and $809 from the East Coast, and Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney are included. Note that Qantas allows up to two stopovers in New Zealand, with the first one free and the second at $150, which could be a great opportunity to see two destinations for the price of one airfare.

Travel is valid from July 27 through October 3 and from October 20 through December 6. Book by August 4, 11:59 PM ET.

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Miles & Points

American Offers New Yorkers Double Miles

Between July 29 and December 31, AAdvantage members with mailing addresses in the greater New York area (“To qualify, the state code associated with the customer’s address must be New York, New Jersey or Connecticut”) will earn double miles for all paid American flights. The bonus applies no matter where the flight originated or terminated.

This is at least a partial response to Delta’s current systemwide double-mile promotion, which requires use of an American Express card but has no geographic restrictions on eligibility.

Registration is required.

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Continental to Cut Mileage Ties with Alaska Air

With Continental’s shift from the SkyTeam global alliance to the Star Alliance scheduled for this fall, it was inevitable that Continental’s partner roster would undergo some changes.

So it’s no surprise that, effective October 25, Continental will sever its frequent flyer program ties with Alaska, Horizon, and American Eagle.

According to Continental’s announcement, “OnePass members can continue to earn miles through October 24, 2009, on flights operated by Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, as well as Continental code-share flights operated by American Eagle connecting through Los Angeles to or from Fresno, Monterey, San Diego or Santa Barbara.”

Award bookings for travel on the affected carriers must be confirmed and ticketed by October 24, and are valid one year from the ticketing date.

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Earn Delta Miles for Lasik

LasikPlus, “one of the largest laser vision correction providers in America,” is offering SkyMiles and WorldPerks members 5,000 bonus miles for taking a free Lasik eye exam, and 20,000 bonus miles for undergoing Lasik surgery.

Te company has 65 offices, but the offer is not valid in New York or Virginia.

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Bonus United Miles at the Mileage Plus Mall

Through September 15, Mileage Plus members can earn 1,000 bonus miles by spending at least $1,000 at participating Mileage Plus Mall retailers, including Nordstrom, Harry and David, Barnes & Noble, and macys.com.

One extra mile, and only after spending $1,000? This is one of the least compelling promotions we’ve ever seen.

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