As a leading advocate for frequent flyers and the traveling public in general, FFOCUS is deeply concerned about recent events allegedly taking place within US Airways under the guise of "Fraud Control." We have had reports from some of our members that US Airways sold them blocks of miles under a legitimate promotion, and then confiscated their miles and terminated their accounts when they tried to redeem the miles purchased. These members supposedly followed ALL PUBLISHED RULES of the Miles Purchase Program, and US Airways has not provided them with any recourse or valid explanation for their punitive actions.
While we acknowledge that any airline has the absolute right and even duty to ensure their program rules are properly followed, it now appears that customers who have acted legitimately within the terms and conditions of the Dividend Miles program have been punished for the misdeeds of others.
The FFOCUS Policy Board believes that US Airways is behaving in an arbitrary & capricious manner and in some cases without just cause. The trigger for account audits and arbitrary closures seems to follow a pattern: Customers responded to promotions aggressively, resulting in significant revenue for US Airways. Small accounts instantly grew to several hundred thousand miles, and subsequently end up "Under Review," Suspended or Closed, with no refund for the amount of the purchased miles.
In many cases, US Airways has refused to explain to the customer the reasons for their actions, and has refused to engage in meaningful dialogue with those affected. Furthermore US Airways has not permitted any discussion or appeal on the part of the affected customer, effectively stonewalling.
The actions undertaken by US Airways create the perception of impropriety. We urgently call upon senior management to publicly explain why customers who followed the rules have had their miles confiscated, and to assure Dividend Miles members that they can continue to redeem Dividend Miles for award travel without the fear that their accounts will be terminated or frozen without cause.
The FFOCUS Policy Committee
US Airways launched a new program on March 17, 2010, entitled “Preferred Seats.” In a March 16, 2010, e-mail to its Dividend Mile Preferred customers, US Airways stated “To give you access in advance to the best seats in Coach, we're reserving select seats in front, plus the exit rows, exclusively for Preferred members. When you book, you won't have to compete with other passengers for a limited number of Choice Seats.”
What US Airways failed to clearly communicate to their Preferred members in the body of the announcement is that “Choice Seats,” which were previously available to Preferred members at any time in advance, for no charge, are no longer available in advance, and they are no longer complimentary for Preferred members. This information was buried in the “Frequently Asked Questions” section, which required clicking into an additional link.
If you are a Dividend Miles Preferred member, FFOCUS would like to know how this affects you. We think some of you might not be affected, but for most Preferreds, this will be a negative change. US Airways is still allowing Preferred members to reserve exit row seats in advance, at no charge. But not every Preferred member is willing and/or able to sit in the exit row, so US Airways sets aside seats in the front portion of the aircraft for their best customers, who often book their flights very close to their travel date, when most leisure travelers have already bought their tickets and reserved the desirable seats.
The ability to reserve decent coach seats at the last minute is one of the few “perks” left for elite travelers since the reduction of capacity has led to a lower rate of upgrade success, with elites competing for fewer first class seats. US Airways is still allocating some seats towards the front of the cabin as “Preferred Seats,” which are reserved for Preferred members to book for free, any time in advance. But the number of “Preferred Seats” is reduced by about 50%, so US Airways can ensure a certain number of “Choice Seats,” which will only be available for purchase to all customers, regardless of their elite status.
No other airline has implemented a policy in which their own elites must pay for any seat in the economy cabin. FFOCUS is opposed to this policy, and has contacted Management at US Airways to request that they reverse it. We have made it clear that the Preferred members who will be most adversely affected by this policy are the ones who pay the highest fares. If you read through the posts on Flyertalk in the attached thread http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/us-airways-dividend-miles/1063768-preferred-vs-choice-seats-preferred-members-no-longer-have-access-choice-seats.html, you will see examples of how Dividend Miles Preferred members are getting burned when they book last minute travel on US Airways. And now US Airways has re-designed their online seat maps so that all “Choice Seats” appear “occupied” until check-in time, when they become available for purchase.
As of this time, US Airways has not responded to FFOCUS. We therefore need your assistance in making your voice heard. If you are a Dividend Miles Preferred member, please e-mail email@example.com and express your displeasure. Even if you believe that this policy does not affect you because you “always” book your travel well in advance, we all have had unforeseen situations come up in which we have had to travel on very short notice, and pay several times the lowest coach fare. A number of our members have indicated that this is the change which will drive them away once and for all.
If you have already been burned by this policy, or it has so angered you that you are now buying tickets on other carriers, please send US Airways copies of every ticket purchase which they lost because of their shortsightedness. It is important that US Airways sees hard evidence of how much lost revenue this decision is costing them, and how many dollars they are losing by reaching for pennies.
Please help FFOCUS continue our mission to advocate for airline customers all over, and in this particular case US Preferred customers. The discussion for this issue on FFOCUS’ board is: http://www.ffocus.org/members/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=5192
Thank you for your cooperation.
FFOCUS is cautiously optimistic about the DOT's newly announced rule requiring US airlines to allow passengers to disembark after 3 hours on the tarmac. While we had hoped that the airlines would have adopted some proactive measures on their own, we hope this action motivates airlines to make those changes so that incidents like this are few and far between. We remain concerned, however, that by focusing on adherence to this new rule new problems will arise which will further inconvenience airline customers and add unecessary cost and complexity to airline operations.
The Policy Board of FFOCUS would like to wish each and every member a Happy, Healthy and Joyous Holiday Season, and we wish you safe travels during the upcoming year.
FFOCUS is deeply concerned about the recent instances of passengers having to face long delays on board airliners. While the airline industry attempted to deal with the issue by putting policies in place which would protect passengers from future occurrences, it is apparent such safeguards are not enough.
Since it appears that the industry cannot adequately provide for customers' rights when lengthy ground delays take place on board, we are inclined to support a "Passengers' Bill of Rights", which is being proposed by some local members of Congress. It is clear that something must be done...and NOW.
If you're flying on US Airways today or in the near future, be sure to bring plenty of cash. Today marks the first day of US Airways' new beverage purchase program. Under this program, US Airways is charging for all beverages served on their aircraft, including water. Reports are coming in from all across the country today of thirsty, confused passengers finding themselves trapped on flights totally unprepared for what some suggest essentially amounts to a shakedown. As has become the norm, US Airways has placed the burden of enacting these hostile policy changes solely on their front-line employees without any consideration for the precarious position this puts them in.
The very concept of this beverage sale program, in general, is flawed. The potential revenue generated from this program is a drop in the bucket compared to the salaries and bonuses paid to the US Airways executive team, who despite rampant mismanagement, continue to be rewarded for their failures. The price of fuel is taking its toll on everyone, from the bottom up. The struggle and hardship must be shared at all levels. The management of US Airways continues to shoulder little burden of these fuel prices and chooses to penalize their customers for their own failures. This is wrong.
Called a "Business Model Transformation" by US Airways management, the most recent changes involve US Airways cutting the most basic services from their flights while holding fares at levels at or above the competition, none of which, thus far, has stepped forward to match those changes. This blatant value disparity gives the traveling public little reason to choose US Airways for their air travel needs.
Where we stand
Water is necessary for sustaining human life. At minimum, FFOCUS believes US Airways, and all air carriers, should be required to provide unlimited amounts of water to its passengers upon demand. Reduced humidity levels and high altitudes cause strain on the human body that requires replenishment of vital fluids. The level of humidity and the altitude to which the cabin is pressurized are the responsibility of the airline. As such, these conditions must be effectively dealt with by providing free hydration along with a ticket purchase. We acknowledge and accept that soft drinks, coffee, tea, juices and alcoholic beverages are things that anyone can do without. If US Airways chooses to charge for those items, that is their right. We don't like it, but we can accept it. We cannot accept that US Airways intends to subject its passengers to atmospheric conditions that cause dehydration and then refuses to provide subsistence for relieving those conditions.
With the drink purchase program's arrival and the eve of drastic changes to the Dividend Miles program upon us, we encourage you to make your voice heard.
What you can do
FFOCUS ACTION ALERT!
The following links and telephone numbers can be helpful in encouraging US Airways to reverse these changes. We encourage everyone to make use of these resources.
Make your voice heard!
SaveDividendMiles.com - Organized by Randy Peterson of FlyerTalk and InsideFlyer in protest of Dividend Miles program changes, to go into effect August 6, 2008. Be sure to sign the petition.
US Airways Customer Relations - Contact US Airways and make your voice heard. Please note that US Airways Customer Relations only communicates via e-mail and postal mail. Customer relations via telephone is no longer offered, however you may call (866) 523-5333, select option 3, and receive information.
Customers, employees pay for everything, US pays nothing
FFOCUS ACTION ALERT!
Friday, June 13, 2008 MYSTIC ISLAND, NJ - Yesterday, US Airways announced drastic changes to their operation. Labeled as a "Business Model Transformation" by the airline, these changes affect virtually every segment of aviation: frequent flyers, business travelers, leisure travelers and employees. All involved will feel the blistering sting of change except, of course, the leadership of the lowest ranked airline in the US in customer service (source: US DOT). While other executives have agreed to forego all or a portion of their salary during these troubled times, President Scott Kirby and Doug Parker are pouring over their spreadsheets pondering who to terminate, lay off, or transfer out of a job while continuing to be rewarded for their failed leadership. We at FFOCUS find this to be intolerable, especially in consideration of the customer service atrocities that our members and the general public have endured at the hands of this executive team.
It is not in the best interest of the shareholders of US Airways' to have its inept management team continue to drive away more and more of its traditional high-yield, short-haul business travelers. Failure to fairly and considerately address the needs of their best customers will, in our opinion, lead to the ultimate demise of US Airways.
As a result of the recent actions announced by the management team at US Airways, it is with great sadness and reluctance that we ask our membership and all who fly US Airways to please direct their business elsewhere.
We urge anyone who has to fly US Airways to report poor customer service and operational flight issues promptly to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) . For our message to be heard, US Airways must remain at the bottom of the rankings and we, as customers, can keep them there.
To our friends who are US Airways employees, we encourage you to join together, be active in your unions, and encourage customers to contact the DOT with their grievances. Together, we stand with you in this struggle.
Finally, to all FFOCUS members, be vocal. Join FlyerTalk and be an active blogger when you can. Talk to other frequent flyers in your travels. Let it be known how you feel. Be loud. Be long-winded. Let everyone know the truth about US Airways. FFOCUS remains an active, tireless, grassroots advocate of positive change in the airline industry. With an interest in the well-being of the consumer, we stand ready to assist industry leaders in dealing with the evolving business conditions of today's airline industry.
FFOCUS Policy Committee
FFOCUS Responds to the Delta/Northwest Merger Proposal
Mystic Island, NJ - There is no doubt that the airline industry is fundamentally changing. Recently announced bankruptcies and several outright cessations of operation have been notable news items. The industry is being shaken to its core by inefficient business practices, needless backend processes and, of course, skyrocketing fuel prices. Without question, something must change to ensure the long-term viability of air travel as a regular form of transportation.
The recently announced merger of Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines along with the seemingly imminent tie-up of Continental and United has left us wondering where the airline passenger will stand in a consolidated airline industry. Recent action by the federal government to increase involuntary denied boarding (IDB) compensation from $400 to $800 is a promising step in protecting airline passengers from customer service breakdowns encountered while travelling.
With a sizable majority of our members having endured (and continuing to endure) the still-incomplete 2005 merger of America West Airlines and US Airways and the customer service lapses that followed, we are deeply interested in the protections to consumers being offered by the management of Northwest and Delta and the effect it will have on our growing membership. A healthy airline industry is one that is financially sound and able to provide at least a reasonable, competitive level of customer service.
We will reserve judgment until all of the facts are presented, but the official position of FFOCUS is one of cautious optimism. Our confidence in the management of Delta and Northwest is strong, based on the overwhelming support we received from them in placing our members into their frequent flyer ranks during the undeniably chaotic 2006-2007 period of the US Airways/America West merger as well as the generally favorable opinions we've received from passengers and employees alike.
We challenge Delta and Northwest to take the necessary steps to ensure that, should it be approved, the merger will result in a new airline that sets higher standards of customer service, reaches new heights in customer satisfaction, and preserves the most fundamental qualities an airline should possess: Safety, Reliability, and Consistency. From our Policy Committee to our greater than 1,000 members, FFOCUS stands willing to work with them in providing input from a customer perspective on the proposed merger and will provide any insight, information, or assistance they may need in taking care of their customers through what will certainly be a very complex merger.
Here we grow again!
Mystic Island, NJ - . In order to better serve the entire Frequent Flyer community, and in recognition of our expanded role in advocating for customers of ALL airlines, FFOCUS is proud to announce a change in the acronym which forms their name. Effective March 4, 2008, Frequent Flyers Organized and Committed to US Airways Success will now be known as Frequent Flyers Organized and Concerned about Unacceptable Service. In conjunction with this change, we are also pleased to roll out our newly redesigned web site, ffocus.org.
The purpose of these changes is to enable FFOCUS to provide more frequent updates to its membership with more timely information, as well as to be better able to respond to rapid changes in the Frequent Flyer landscape. Furthermore, we will be able to become an ombudsman for those who primarily fly US Airways and other major carriers on a frequent basis. Art Pushkin, Board Chair of FFOCUS stated, "Too often Flyers, particularly Frequent Flyers, feel as if they have little or no recourse in dealing with major airlines. By communicating directly with management teams at US Airways and the other major carriers, we are able to help these customers be heard and have their issues addressed."
Highlights of the new website include easier navigation and a public blog. Currently much of the site is password protected for members only. In addition to the public blog, the site will have several regular columnists focusing on various issues affecting customers of major airlines.
Former Board Chair and Founding Member Robert Johnson commented, "This is merely the next step in an evolutionary process that saw the organization grow from around 300 to 1,000 in 7 months during 2007. We intend to be a vocal and active lobby for customers who fly ALL major airlines."
As we update our content and web site, please "pardon our dust," as we're working to "build a better platform" for the views of the flying public to be heard.
FFOCUS is comprised of a dedicated group of approximately 1000 Frequent Flyers Organized and Concerned about Unacceptable Service. We strive to implement positive change in the overall flying public's experience by building partnerships with airline management, and by recognizing the contribution of dedicated frontline airline employees. By helping to build a bridge between management, employees and customers, FFOCUS hopes to help improve employee and customer satisfaction, which, in turn will build shareholder value, enhancing profitability and return on investment.