Is this any way to treat a member of the President’s Club?


Sarena Wiener thought she’d taken every precaution before embarking on her Vantage Deluxe World Travel tour of India recently. Her flight itinerary gave her plenty of time to make her connections, she had purchased travel insurance, and besides, she was a valued customer — a member of Vantage’s “President’s Club.”

What could go wrong?

Everything could go wrong, that’s what.

Wiener missed her connection because of a weather delay, her insurance failed to cover her trip interruption, and she couldn’t catch up with her group. She had to turn around and go home.

Here are a few details: She’d flown from Fort Lauderdale to JFK on JetBlue, but that flight was delayed by three hours. That left her just one hour to make the connection in New York.

Wiener, who is 78, tried her best to make it to the Air India gate, but by the time she got there, the aircraft had already pushed back.

I attempted to call Vantage and Air India numerous times. I just got recorded music when I called Vantage. Then I was put through to a representative who couldn’t communicate with anyone at JFK. At the Air India terminal, all employees were absent, even though the plane was still on the runway.

If Vantage had offered her a seat on the next day’s flight, she says she would have gladly taken it, but no one could help her, so she flew back to Fort Lauderdale.

Wiener made a claim through TripMate, her travel insurance policy, but it would not cover her trip interruption. Vantage offered her a voucher for $5,053, which could be applied to a future trip.

She wonders — is this any way to treat a member of the Vantage President’s Club?

Well, I checked the fine print on the club.

The President’s Club is reserved for Vantage Deluxe World Travel’s most loyal and valued travelers. Designed to provide recognition and priority service, it is Vantage’s way of saying a heartfelt thank you to our best customers. You are enrolled automatically once you come back from your third Vantage trip — and can start enjoying the benefits of membership immediately.

And what benefits are those, exactly? They’re fairly minor — things like space-available upgrades, cocktail parties and gift certificates. The most useful part of the club to her would have been the “priority” service, which, on second thought, she didn’t really receive when she was stuck in JFK.

“Being a member of Vantage’s President’s Club sure turned out to be a dis-advantage,” she told me.

I contacted Vantage on her behalf. The company reiterated its original offer without responding to me.

“It seems that’s the final resolution,” she says.

Wiener booked a new trip to India this March.

(Photo: Seamus Murray/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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