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Issue #600 – March 24, 2010

CONTENTS
Up Front

  • We’re Turning 600 (and 10,000)!
  • “Up Front” Blog Entries
On Site

  • FrequentFlier Forum Topics
Steals & Deals

  • Deal Alert from SmarterTravel.com
Sweeps & Freebies

  • Win a Private Jet Trip for 2 to Aspen
Reader Rants & Raves

  • Feedback from the Frontlines of Travel
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UP FRONT
We’re Turning 600 (and 10,000) and Giving Away a Movie to Celebrate

This is issue #600 of the FrequentFlier Crier newsletter.

We published the first issue on June 29, 1998, covering among other things the launch of American’s new website. That was long before widespread online booking was even a res manager’s dream much less the norm. Since then, we’ve flown through wars, recessions, and bankruptcies, focused always on travelers’ need for value, comfort, and frequent flyer miles. (That claim is easily checked — all 600 issues are posted on the FrequentFlier.com website.)

We also recently registered the 10,000th post on the FrequentFlier Forum.

For a small, focused publication like ours, these are significant milestones. And we couldn’t have reached them without the engagement and support of our loyal readers.

As promised last week, to commemorate the occasion we’ve put together a travel-related prize giveaway, featuring the Oscar-nominated “Up in the Air,” starring George Clooney as the ultimate road warrior and perk-meister.

Enter by sending your name, mailing address, and phone to this email addressbetween Wednesday, March 24, 5:00 p.m. PT and Thursday, March 25, 5:00 p.m. PT. The 6th and 60th entries will win, and we’ll pick a third winner randomly from among all other entries. Each winner will receive a special “Up in the Air” promo package, including a DVD (approximate retail $19.99), movie soundtrack ($13.98), and key chain (limited edition so no suggested retail price). Your odds of winning depend on the timing of your entry and the number of eligible entries received. You must be 18+ and a U.S. resident. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited.

That’s as simple and uncomplicated as we could make it. Really, it’s just a very modest way of thanking our readers for keeping us up in the air for the past 12 years.

“Up Front” Blog Entries

Following are some of Tim’s recent blog posts:

ON SITE
The FrequentFlier Forum – Hot Topics

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

In the “Rental Car Programs” Forum, PolScrib’s post about renting at off-airport locations has elicited responses from QF WP and Jeff F.:

“For those who need a rental from the time they arrive, I’ve employed the tactic previously to get a taxi to the nearest off-airport site to commence the rental.

“An alternate for those going straight to meetings on arrival and have a multi-day hire need, taking a taxi to meetings and then picking up the hire car after your meetings at a regional (non-airport) rental office can garner savings as well. Another option is to switch cars at the end of Day 1 (where you have picked up at the airport).

“You have to weigh up the time in switching cars, extra administration and any other costs, versus the savings in not paying those airport-based charges — particularly for longer rentals. So some time spent in research can pay handsome dividends.” [QF WP]

“While I agree that off-airport rentals save on the ridiculous airport fees and other charges, I’ve found that often the off-airport sites don’t have the full selection of cars all the time, so there may be instances when you might have to settle for a different vehicle than you’ve reserved.

“Two instances in Fort Lauderdale last year lead me to believe that for us anyway, airport rentals worked out better then the one time we rented at the in town location, where we had reserved a compact car but were offered a Pathfinder SUV as that was all that was available at the time unless we waited for over an hour for our reserved car to be returned, washed and fueled. We chose to wait, but that may not always be possible if you’re on a tight schedule. And on our FLL airport rental, the lady at the Hertz desk was able to save us a few bucks per day on our five day rental of a Mazda6, so it worked out better. Of course, YMMV.” [Jeff F.]

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

:: More

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STEALS & DEALS
Deal Alert from SmarterTravel.com

1) $318 Canada Sale Fares With United

United has posted low fares for travel to multiple Canadian provinces, including Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Ontario, with departures available from Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

No booking deadline has been listed, so purchase fares quickly before the lowest ones sell out.

:: More

2) $198 R/T Caribbean and Latin America Sale on Delta

With Delta’s latest international sale, travel is available to several countries in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean, including the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Venezuela. Fares begin at $198 round-trip for travel this spring and summer.

Book fares by Monday, March 29.

:: More

 

SWEEPS & FREEBIES
Win a Private Jet Trip for 2 to Aspen

Enter Brooks Brothers’ “Aspen Private Jetaway” sweepstakes by April 30 for a chance to win a four-night trip for two to the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado, including private jet service from New York, Los Angeles, or Miami, hotel, event tickets, and a “weekend wardrobe.”

:: More

[Visit FrequentFlier.com for more travel sweepstakes.]

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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.


Responses to ‘United Upgrades’

“Regarding the comment last week from John D.: Why is he surprised that United is in business to generate revenues? That is what for profit businesses are about (or at least profitable revenues).

“Loyalty programs exist only to help the airline generate more revenue, not for the flyer’s benefit alone. That said, I find that about 7 out of ten times I get the upgrade on United flights from Asia (I am a 1K living in Hong Kong), but rarely more than a week or so in advance.

“Airlines make most of their profit on business and first class, so they are understandably reluctant to give away the upgrades if they think they can sell the seat. So I check to see if the flight is fully booked and if not, I usually get the upgrade.” [Mike S. - Hong Kong, China]


“I would like to second the comments [last week] regarding United. I was a 1K from the start of the program to the end of last year and have 2.7 million actual flight miles. The only thing United is good at is waitlisting upgrades, which never clear. My wife is a 1K and is having a difficult time using her comp upgrades for this reason.

“This morning we checked Bing for fares in September for a European trip. United was hundreds of dollars higher than competitors. They lost this trip, and will lose a lot more if they aren’t competitive.” [Howard Z. - Broomfield, CO]


“I don’t often write, but I thought I’d drop a note about the Reader Rants on United business class ticketing. I’m also a long term UA flier, although I spend a lot of time on other Star Alliance carriers. I flew just under 300K miles last year, mostly on Star Alliance with about 120K on UA. Currently 1K with slightly less than 2 million miles in the program. United’s business class confirmation policies (at least on the Pacific long haul runs) appear to have changed with the introduction of their new plane configurations. I can date the loss of ‘instant’ upgrade confirmations on those flights almost to the day. Unfortunately they didn’t publicize the changes.

“Their new business class, while still suffering from the service issues that others have mentioned recently (food preferences, magazines, etc.) actually is competitive with foreign flagged carriers. The seats are good, the inflight entertainment, while not extensive, is fine. They’ve come into the current decade in business class.

“While I understand the frustration of not being able to guarantee a business class seat a couple of months in advance, I’m also sympathetic to United. I know that these are the revenue seats that they need to fly these routes. You only have to look at the investment they’ve made in upgrading business, and the lack of investment in coach (no inflight entertainment, limited food, little differentiation other than space for economy plus) to know that they’re trying to compete for business class fliers while counting on the attitudes of American companies and fliers to continue pushing people into American flagged carriers’ coach seats. Sad, but apparently true.

“I’m based in Singapore, and most of my UA flights are long haul to the U.S. I usually get forced into economy fares. To United’s credit, with only one exception (and I should know better than to try and fly home to Singapore on the Sunday after a major public holiday) over the last 18 months I have never yet failed to get an upgrade on my long haul segments, despite having to wait (in some cases) until I’ve arrived at the airport for confirmation. Last time I checked, there was no ‘guarantee’ that I would be able to book an upgrade using a systemwide or miles. I’m a long term UA flier. I appreciate the fact that I’m paying 1/4 or less of what the business class fare is, and I’m regularly provided access to the business cabin. I’d like to see United succeed. Although I’m not happy about the change in the policy, and I’d like to see them improve other portions of their service, I’d rather see them sell those seats and protect my ‘investment’ in their program.” [Jim G.]

Self-Loading Toxic Cargo

“Re: Comment by Raymond M. in last week’s Crier – The airlines are so focused on enhancing revenue that they keep forgetting that WE’RE the source of that revenue.

“To them we’re nothing more than (I love this but it’s not original) ‘Self-Loading Toxic Cargo.’

“When they learn that we are the source of their livlihood and existance, then, maybe, we’ll see a change.” [Norman A. - Great River, NY]

American Strike in April?

“Any thoughts on likelyhood of a strike in April?

“Also will it impact American Eagle?

“Will be flying San Juan PR to British Virgin Islands.” [Peter]

[FrequentFlier replies - In a word, no. As in "No idea." The unions representing American's flight attendants and baggage handlers have both asked to be released from federal mediation talks. That could be the first step toward a strike. Or it could have the effect of pushing negotiations toward a mutually satisfactory resolution. Best suggestion: Monitor breaking news as your departure date gets closer. And have a backup plan, just in case.]


Until next week…