Are new loyalty programs fair to travelers?

If you’re unhappy with your loyalty program, join the club. So is William Beeman, a Delta Air Lines frequent flier who’s been trying to score an upgrade from San Francisco to Geneva after surgery to reattach his quadriceps at the knee.

Trying and failing.

For him, the process feels like a bait-and-switch. To avoid being wedged into a Lilliputian economy-class seat for 14 hours, Beeman says he worked hard to earn elite status on Delta. But when he tried to redeem his miles for an upgrade, the airline wanted even more.
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Why can’t I change the name on my frequent flier award ticket?

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Delta won’t make a name change on a mileage ticket, endangering one family’s cruise. Can this trip be saved?

Question: I recently booked four tickets between Milwaukee and New Orleans using my Delta SkyMiles so that my husband, son and my son’s friend could fly to our cruise port. All was well, but then my son’s friend’s parents decided that they would not get him a passport, as they had promised, so we had to make changes to the cruise and the airline to accommodate a new guest.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines was great about making the change — just some correspondence from our travel agent did the trick. However — and I think you know what is coming — Delta is refusing to make a name change. Its policy is never to make name changes. Delta offered to allow me to re-deposit the miles for a $150 charge per ticket, and then let me re-purchase the ticket using SkyMiles. But the cost for the ticket has quadrupled, going from 25,000 miles to 100,000 miles.
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Delta Economy “Comfort” fell short — can we get a refund?

delta jetRod and Carol Mourant recently flew from Seattle to Miami on Delta Air Lines, and they didn’t like it. Amid their list of complaints is one that stuck, and made me wonder if maybe they had a case.

They played by the rules, and lost. Now they want my help in righting a wrong.

“There were several events that made the trip less than enjoyable,” says Rod Mourant. “From our perspective, the most irritating were Delta’s attitude and their baggage policy. Through actual experience, we found out that Delta’s carry-on and checked baggage policies are a joke.”
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Downgraded on Air France, but where’s their refund?

air franceLisa and Wayne Roccaforte felt lucky to have premium economy class seats on their recent Air France flight from Paris to Houston.

With good reason: The seats have 38 inches of “pitch” and are 19 inches wide, a sharp contrast to the medieval 32 inches of legroom and 17 inches of seat space in economy class. (Seriously, folks, that should be illegal.)

But try as hard as they might, the Roccafortes couldn’t avoid Torture Class on their transatlantic flight.

“We arrived at Charles de Gaulle three hours before our flight to check in and were told that the flight was very full,” remembers Lisa Roccaforte. “The woman that checked us in told us we may be moved to business class.”
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Should I have been charged extra for my checked luggage?

Question: I traveled to Europe on a codeshare flight between Delta Air Lines and KLM. Before I left the United States, I carefully checked the size and weight restrictions for my two bags on both the Delta and KLM websites, because I’m an artist and I needed to take rolls of paper with me. I made sure my bags complied.

The trip from Portland, Ore., to Copenhagen, Denmark went off without a hitch; I paid $50 to check a second bag. However, on the flight from Toulouse, France, to Portland, Ore., I had to pay 200 Euros for the second bag. When the gate agent saw my second bag, she declared it “too long,” she never measured it. Although the flight was on KLM, the airport staff worked for Air France. There was no KLM or Delta presence that I could find in that airport.
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Is this enough compensation? Orbitz calls off its collection agency, but …

Ah, the perils of being your own travel agent.

Polly Pedersen knows about them all too well after she tried to book airline tickets from Philadelphia to Detroit on Orbitz.

“A screen came up saying ‘technical difficulties,'” she says. “So I thought, “OK, they’re having problems with their site. I’ll book elsewhere.'”

For future reference, it’s not OK to book elsewhere when you get an error message as you’re buying an airline ticket. You have to make sure the reservation didn’t get made. Otherwise you could end up with two tickets for the same flight.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Help! I’ve got two airline tickets in the same name

Question: Please help a mom who is an inexperienced traveler. I recently booked three tickets to fly from Chicago to Panama City, Fla., for my two sons and me, through, an online travel agency. Somehow, my name has been listed twice instead of my 16-year-old son’s name.

At first I thought it was because he was a minor. But then I called and they said this was not the case and that my youngest son could not travel on a ticket that had my name on it.

I have called the airline, Delta Air Lines, and the online agency to try to resolve this, without any success. Delta says Federal Aviation Administration regulations prevents them from changing the name but they say should be able to do it. says Delta is refusing to change the name. Any suggestions or advice would be welcome and appreciated. — Beth Anderson, Tinley Park, Ill.

Answer: You would think that an online agency would have safeguards to prevent someone from booking two tickets on the same flight under the same name. Or at the very least, the agency or airline would see this obvious mistake, and fix it without citing a nonexistent law.
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Is this enough compensation? A partial refund for my dogless flight

Barbara Hilliard’s dogs didn’t make their KLM flight from Nuremberg, Germany, to Dallas via Amsterdam. Neither did she.

Turns out the plane was swapped out at the last minute — a so-called “equipment change” — and there was no room for her pets. “They told me they had no place to put the dogs and I would have to secure another way to get the dogs to Amsterdam and then they would fly them to Dallas,” she says.

Hilliard was unhappy. Not only because she’d made several phone calls before her trip to make sure her dogs could fly, but also because her only option was to buy an expensive ticket on Lufthansa to make her connection. She thinks KLM and its codeshare partner Delta Air Lines, through which she booked the tickets, should refund the price of her new ticket and pay the dogs’ freight, too.
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Frequent flier program changes you can root for

If you’ve ever asked what the fuss over frequent-flier programs is about, then you know that the answer can be complicated.

Airlines love them because they’re worth billions of dollars in business. They also mean the world to many passengers, because at a time when airline amenities are evaporating faster than jet fuel spilled on a hot tarmac, perks such as upgrades and preferential treatment are just about the only things that make air travel tolerable.

So when two major airlines recently decided to upgrade their loyalty programs, they caught this skeptic’s attention.

Delta Air Lines has eliminated the expirations on its frequent-flier miles. And Southwest Airlines has completely revamped its legendary Rapid Rewards, adopting many of the features of competing incentive programs.

The response from customers offers fresh insights into the volatile relationship between air travelers and airlines, but it also presents us with new opportunities to fly smarter.
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Can this trip be saved? Stranded 12 hours on the tarmac after earthquake

Not all of the survivor stories coming out of Japan in the wake of the tragic earthquake involve tsunamis or exploding nuclear reactors.

Jiyong Kim, who was on his way from New York to Seoul via Tokyo on Delta Air Lines, endured a ridiculously long tarmac delay. He wants to know if he’s entitled to anything for having to spend an extra 12 hours sitting on the ground in Hokkaido.
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What would you do? Help, Delta Vacations has me in a holding pattern

Ever since Ruth Harris tried to book a vacation to Hungary through Delta Vacations last month, she’s had nothing but trouble.

First, a phone agent booked the wrong dates, she says — something she discovered only after Delta sent her an email confirmation.

“I have been trying to get it fixed since then,” she says.

Harris spent an hour on the phone with Delta, but was eventually told she had to speak with someone at Delta Vacations to get her dates corrected. She tried to go online to switch dates, but couldn’t. She suspects that one reason for the runaround is that she’s paying for the flights with vouchers that she received when she was bumped from a previous Delta flight.

So she went back online. The email correspondence between her and Delta would probably inspire Franz Kafka to write another novel if he were alive today.
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Is this enough compensation? Missed my connection because of an emergency landing

Close calls are the narrative glue of aviation journalism. Where would we be without stories of near-misses, mechanical failures and emergency landings?

We might be less understanding of Sean Norton’s problem. His Delta Air Lines flight from Philadelphia to Paris had to divert to Ireland on Nov. 19, causing him to miss a connecting flight. He wants to know if Delta helped him enough, given that a mechanical problem is a controllable circumstance.

This isn’t an easy case, and you’ll see why when we get into the details. But first, we have to acknowledge that things could have been much worse. Delta Flight 196 could have gone down, in which case I’d be hearing from Norton’s next of kin.

How far should an airline go to fix a schedule that’s disrupted by a mechanical failure?

Delta’s contract of carriage doesn’t address emergency landings, so the airline has a lot of discretion in addressing the issue.

Question is, did it do enough?
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