Nine years ago next week, B Ben Baldanza tried to shake up the Dividend Miles Program at US Airways by making a game changing announcement: Unless you were traveling on a full fare ticket, your miles would no longer count toward elite status. He actually said. "Someone who flies alot is not necessarily loyal if he always buys the lowest price tickets when he flies. That's not necessarily the type of loyalty we want to reward. We want to reward those people who pay a premium for the services we offer."
The attempt to change the rules of DM, and in particular, the quote above really got under my skin--and the skin of 6 other elite flyers at US. We organized on Flyertalk and began a grass roots effort to let US Airways and B Ben Baldanza in particular, know that from a customer perspective this would not stand. This movement gave birth to what became known as the "Cockroaches", and within 10 days, US rescinded this proposed change, and we moved on to become FFOCUS.
There is a very strong rumor coming out of Chicago that UA/CO is considering similar changes to Mileage Plus for the 2012 calendar year, and it is being as warmly received by FF's as US--if even less so. We think that UA/CO is going down a slippery slope with these proposed changes, and we hope they will take the time to listen to the voice of the customer before announcing the details of the new Mileage Plus.
Below is my post on Flyertalk from yesterday....as Yogi Berra says, could this be "Deja Vu All Over Again"????
We have always advocated that it is better to reward customers who pay more than to penalize those who don't. Mileage bonuses, instant upgrades and other rewards for purchasing higher fares should continue in earnest if their goal is to encourage more spend.
The current rumored changes, while they will certainly weed out some unprofitable customers, will also likely catch some unintended targets in the process. In many cases, corporate travelers are required by company policy to purchase the lowest available fare in a market...and in some cases regardless of airline....but those who CHOOSE to stay with UA but MUST choose the lowest available fare by policy will be penalized by this alleged new program.
New information tools are making it easier for airlines to identify individual travel patterns, which could yield them the ability to balance frequency with revenue when determining elite qualification standards. To rely on either or exclusively at this point will ultimately prove to be a mistake--either for them or for us.
As my colleague SS255 has indicated, our organization was started over a plan alarmingly similar to this one....we can only hope that UA will listen to those of us who can and will speak up, and work together on something which works for everyone.
I am sure our friends at UA/CO will get an earful at the upcoming Star MegaDo 3 when participants meet in Chicago--but don't leave it to them--let UA/CO know how you feel NOW. What we are hearing is that if they in fact go down this path, they may see a significant exodus of customers.....let's help them prevent that if at all possible.
I found myself booking another trip on US the other night, primarily because my wife is traveling out of ISP the same time I am, and I need to be in CLT for Wednesday morning. This will also be my first visit through PHL in about 4 and a half years--so looking forward to seeing some old friends, if any are left.
As I booked my seats, however, as expected, they won't give exit row seats to Star Golds, but all that was left on 2 of the flights were Choice Seats...so in order to get a pre-reserved seat, I got charged. It just doesn't seem right--I thought if there were NO other seats, they can't charge for them. Have any of YOU had a similar experience? If you change to exits at the airport or within the 24 hour window do they still KEEP your money? Oh wait--that's a stupid question.....
Also we hear tell that US and AA (among others) is now keeping the ticket taxes collected but which cannot be paid to the FAA....in addition to showing some alignment with AA (read Airbus order, charging elites for Choice Seats etc.), does this portend future similarities which could mean a UCT (those on the old USAviation.com would know what that is - Unique Corporate Transaction)?
Finally there is a big brouhaha brewing over the recent ad placed by USAPA in USA Today concerning an incident where a captain refused to accept an aircraft due to a mechanical issue and was escorted off the airplane. The company swiftly issued a disclaimer vehemently denying the facts of the incident. The problem is that the strength and volume of their denial actually has the opposite effect and gives credence to the original claim. While we won't get involved in this issue with regard to labor/management disputes, all I will say is that if any evidence can be found indicating that the issues with the aircraft DID exist, and that a subsequent crew ALSO refused to fly the aircraft overseas due to this issue, then further action needs to be taken from a regulatory point of view.
This should not be made into an internal political issue, but the traveling public has the right to know how safe US really is.....and Doug Parker's article in the recent magazine touting the safety of US makes the situation even MORE suspicious....... One thing you have to remember is that PERCEPTION IS REALITY to most people....so if something APPEARS to be awry and the opposing side gets over-defensive, then there is probably SOME truth to it......
Fly safe my friends.......
Having followed the controversy surrounding the TSA's new "enhanced" screening procedures, and the very vocal public response to them, we think it is apparent that the message being sent to the TSA from most Americans, the flying public, and members of Congress to the TSA is definitely "Find Another Way"....and FFOCUS agrees completely!
In taking another look at the new policies and the incidents to which they are a response, I have made some interesting observations:
The shoe bomber who tried to ignite his shoe in flight boarded his flight in Paris, NOT in the United States.
The so-called underwear bomber boarded his flight in Amsterdam, NOT in the United States, after connecting from Lagos, Nigeria.
Note - neither of these attempts originated here - meaning that just maybe the planners of these attacks realized that American security was already good and would likely detect such devices. So WHY are we being subjected to these "enhancements"?
This would be a great time to examine the methods used by Israeli security teams screening passengers in Israel. They rely more on "soft" methods such as behavioral observation and interviewing all passengers during the check in and screening process. We have heard from more than once source that such attackers would likely have been detected if such screening were permitted. Note they are not referring to racial profiling of any type, but BEHAVIORAL observations. There is certainly a difference.
The recent agreement to exempt airline pilots from such screening can be interpreted a number of ways...and not all good for the TSA. Does it open a possible door for a potential attacker? What other safeguards would replace the "enhanced" screening? Why couldn't these methods be adapted for the general public? At the least, perhaps this concession by the TSA gives reason to believe their new policies are not as well thought out as they claim, and could give some support to a number of lawsuits by regular travelers. Who knows?
With regard to the body scanners or Nude-O-Scopes as they are called by some, where is the ACTUAL test evidence of the radiation exposure to passengers? Such testing should be conducted by a third party, NOT the government, and should be released forthwith...but health hazard or not, we have already seen abuses of this technology, such as images being retained and saved.
And what is the truth behind Michael Chertoff's involvement with the company who sold the scanners to the TSA? Is this a backroom sweetheart deal or what? If so it should be investigated thoroughly.
At the worst, these new "enhanced" screening measures do not appear to make us safer, and the TSA's argument that they do is not fully proven, but they do cause further disruption of air commerce, meaning at the end of the day it is a victory of sorts for the enemy. It is time for the TSA to rethink these procedures, work on viable alternatives which do not compromise our safety or security, and do the right thing while keeping us safe. And Congress should in fact look into this more closely and mandate change if necessary.
We are not sure what will come out of the protest or National Opt Out event scheduled for this Wednesday, but it is sure to direct attention at the issue...
Time to Find Another Way!
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at FFOCUS.
I would like to personally thank Doug Parker and his management team for hosting a reception for almost 200 frequent flyers on November 5th in Phoenix. I think it was very commendable that they agreed to host this meeting knowing quite well that they would likely be facing difficult questions from a crowd who was likely less than enamored of US Airways.
We were very warmly received by Doug and his team, including Andrew Nocella, Donna Paladini and Fern Fernandez. We asked some difficult questions, and perhaps didn't get all the answers we were looking for, but I got the impression that the door was beginning to crack open for future dialog. I think it was significant that Doug agreed to take another look at the Choice Seats Policy as it relates to Preferred Members at some point looking forward.
I will be following up soon with Fern Fernandez at US, and look forward to hearing from our members regarding concerns and comments they would like to have addressed by US.
Again-on behalf of FFOCUS, a big THANK YOU to Doug Parker and US Airways!!
Having thought that last year's MegaDo was virtually unbeatable, I could never have imagined that this one would come close---but it did-and as some of you have already read, in a very special way.
The actual event began at the Westin in NYC on Halloween with a welcome dinner and send off event, sponsored by SPG (Starwood Hotels). The next evening, those headed to Frankfurt were welcomed by Lufthansa at their spectacular JFK lounge, then off to Frankfurt. In Germany the group met with Lufthansa and Star Alliance executives, participated in focus groups, and was welcomed aboard the newest member of the Lufthansa fleet, the A380. After a dinner hosted by Lufthansa in their world renowned First Class terminal at FRA, the group boarded 2 flights on Wednesday the 3rd headed to Houston, which is where I joined the festivities.
Wednesday evening some friends and I went for Tex Mex and Thursday morning, we gathered in the hotel lobby to be bussed over to the Continental Hangar at IAH for a meet and greet with Continental and United Executives, and a close up with a 737-800. We were served lunch by our gracious hosts, which consisted of Continental's famous cheeseburger and accompaniments. We were given a brief presentation by management of the new United, then returned to the hotel to prepare for the 1st Annual Frequent Traveler Award ceremony, which was organized by the same team who organized this Do.
The banquet was just amazing, representatives of all major travel companies were in attendance, and believe it or not, on a global scale, the winners overall were Lufthansa, Kingfisher and Marriott, each getting a significant number of trophies.
Friday morning, up at 4:30AM, greeted by champagne in the lobby of the hotel, we were driven to IAH, where the group check in counter was set up for our private charter to PHX, with ongoing service to PAE in Everett. To say that this charter wound up being a party flight would be an understatement....imagine if you will a 757-300 full of frequent fliers out to have a good time...or better yet don't
Arriving at PHX on a beautiful Friday morning, we were taken by bus over to the Desert Botanical Garden, for a presentation and reception hosted by US Airways. The welcoming delegation was led by none other than US' Chairman and CEO Doug Parker. I must say I was surprised and impressed that Doug not only agreed to host but attend himself with what he must have known would be a hostile crowd. I won't bore you with the details, but it was a very interesting visit with our friends from Tempe. You can read about it here...http://www.starmegado.com/2010/11/05...h-doug-parker/
The best, however was yet to come. We were driven back to PHX, boarded our charter for the flight to PAE, and the party continued. We had originally planned to do a low pass at PAE, however, the weather was at minimums and as it turns out we were within 100 feet of not making it into Everett! Our arrival was caught by Matt Cawby here: http://kpae.blogspot.com/ .
Into the welcome center for a brief presentation with the marketing staff of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, who told us they had a spectacular program in store for us, including visits ON BOARD the 787 Dreamliner (ZA003, a test craft), and the DreamLifter, the modified 747 which carries parts of the 787 to the assembly line..We were given VIP treatment, including a visit to the floor of the main plant, where we walked the 747-8i line, 767, 777 and 787 lines close up.
As it turns out Boeing said we were the very first non-airline employees permitted on board the 787, and we were not disappointed. They told us they wanted us to leave Everett feeling like 4 year olds at Christmas and we certainly did feel like that.
Back aboard Boeing provided busses, we were driven to the Sheraton Seattle, where we attended a dinner and reception hosted again by SPG-Starwood Preferred Guest program.
Finally, we made it to the Westin, where the majority of us were staying, to get a couple of hours sleep before being driven back to SEA-TAC for our charter flight back to IAH and my continuing flight to LGA.
Another party flight, a 4 hour layover in IAH, where a number of us partied at the C North Presidents Club, and finally I was on the last leg-flight 732 to LGA.
My first few photos are here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...9&l=5ceefba24e
And next time I invite some of you to join this event, some of you might want to consider it ;)
Recent experience leaves me wondering about the applicability of the $150 change fee charged by most airlines under certain circumstances. There are times when for one reason or another you just want to buy up in class or fare category but are NOT changing flights at all--in such cases I do NOT think the change fee should apply--but it does. Seems to me that airlines are leaving money on the table. Here are two scenarios, both of which have applied to me on one occasion or another:
1. Your company requires you to purchase the lowest fare available, but by doing so you are disqualified from one or more perks (such as companion upgrades). You buy the original ticket to get the receipt then decide to move up to the next fare class so you would be eligible for the perk...as long as the fare class is available, you should only be charged the difference in my opinion as you are NOT changing flights. The airlines don't see it that way...they want the $150 change fee on TOP of the fare difference. So rather than pick up an extra $50 or $75, they want $200 or $225, and get NOTHING...money left on the table.
2. Again you have to buy the lowest available fare in a market but the instant upgrade fare is reasonable. You buy the original ticket to get the receipt and are willing to shell out the extra out of pocket to guarantee a seat in first. Again, they want the change fee on TOP of the fare difference.
I have spoken to some folks at the airlines about this, and they are working on a solution but to me it can't come soon enough. I think there are many of us who, if given the opportunity, would shell a little out of pocket to have a better experience.
Seems to me they are just leaving money on the table...... what do YOU think????