In 2013, Aktarer Zaman, a 22-year-old Bangladeshi-born engineer who grew up in Brooklyn, founded a site called Skiplagged.com that allowed air travelers to find secret savings on their tickets.
Using published online routes and fares, the site allows passengers to search for so-called “hidden city” deals.
Can United Airlines cancel a trip of a lifetime without offering any compensation?
Susana Parodi would like to know. Come to think of it, so would I.
Samantha Levey became so violently ill at Mexico’s Guanajuato International Airport, she was not able to board her United Airlines flight home. Levey was alone, stranded, afraid, and could not speak the language.
A United agent, Victor Cisneros, compassionately came to the rescue, spending hours of his own time at her side while in the airport’s medical facility. He did not just comfort her, but arranged medical care, an overnight stay and new comped tickets for her flight home when she was well.
Yes, airplanes can be hacked, just as power plants can be hacked.
No, it’s not a widespread problem right now. Yes, we should talk about it before it becomes a widespread (and quite deadly) problem. No, we shouldn’t be harassing and detaining people who research these problems for a living.
But we are.
And that makes us all less safe. A lot less safe.
Today’s story from the front lines of consumer advocacy is about the airline industry’s latest trick: a sleight-of-hand involving your loyalty program account balances.
Just like a wiley magician, United Airlines first reveals your miles — make sure you look closely!
Then you can almost hear the incantation: “Hocus, pocus!”
And then “poof!” — no more miles.
Frequent flier programs have always been complicated and at times seemingly irrational, even for frequent fliers and travel agents.
But United’s new MileagePlus program takes it to a whole new level, since travelers who care about both Elite Status and award tickets now have to consider three different numbers for each trip.
No joke. And two out of three of those numbers are not obvious.
If you’ve ever done something for the miles, like Rick Brown has, you probably know the dilemma.
Should you shrug off a higher fare, a less convenient routing or consistently bad service for the promise of a “free” flight?
Brown, who runs a trading company in New York, has done all that — sticking with his preferred carrier, United Airlines, even when the airline struggled. He’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on airfares for himself and his family during his career, “more than on any other airline,” he says.
Research suggests many consumers are similarly seduced, and that the siren song of loyalty programs can lure them into booking a substandard product. The debate is particularly intense now, with United’s’ controversial loyalty program changes taking effect this month. It becomes the latest airline to reward customers based on money spent instead of miles flown.