Worst upgrade ever — how about a refund?

It’s a six-hour flight from Honolulu to Phoenix, so when a US Airways agent offered Blair Fell an upgrade to first class for just $350, he jumped at the opportunity.

“The agent convinced me by saying, ‘Wouldn’t you like to lie back and sleep?” he remembers.
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Do you trust GPS directions?

If you have a driver’s license, chances are that you also have an amusing story about GPS directions.

Here’s mine: A few weeks ago, my family and I were driving from Cayucos, Calif., to Prescott, Ariz., when I noticed that the needle on the fuel gauge was pointing to “empty.” Not a problem, I thought. There must be plenty of service stations between here and Bakersfield.
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Air France offered us an upgrade — then it didn’t

To the back of the plane with you! / Photo by Pat Card - Flickr
Brian Lee and Alisha Singh were looking forward to their Air France flight the same way all of us used to anticipate flying, and a few of us still do.

They were traveling from New York to Paris on an Air France Airbus A380, the famous double-decker superjumbo, and in premium economy class. “We were very excited,” he says.
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Are airlines moving the loyalty program goalposts?

Who moved my post? / Photo by rbrw - Flickr
Every week or so I get a complaint about the elusive nature of loyalty programs.

They follow a formula: Someone has given all of their business to a particular airline, but when they try to redeem their miles for a “free” ticket or an upgrade, they find it costs a lot more than they expected.
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Can this trip be saved? A bait-and-switch offer on a cruise upgrade — or not?

Like a lot of other travelers, Tom Brollini was just looking for a bargain when he clicked on the Cruises Only website a few weeks ago.

And he thought he’d found one. The site offered several booking bonuses, including a one-category cabin upgrade.

“When I clicked on the price category, a popup said, “Book a category 8A cabin and get an 8K upgrade,” he remembers. ” When I proceeded to book the cabin, guess what? No upgrade.”
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“Your advice worked!”

When Barbara Baksa changed her United Airlines tickets, she assumed the upgrade to Economy Plus would transfer to the next flight. Wrong.

“I went round and round with the reservation agent, his supervisor, another customer service representative I was transferred to, and finally that representative’s supervisor,” she says. “I know, I know — I’ve read your column enough to know better than to bother with a phone call but I was really hoping to resolve the matter quickly.”

The representatives she spoke with were sympathetic, but unable to help. They said her only option was to request a refund of the original upgrade fee through United’s site. Her request was denied.

So now what?
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Four secrets for upgrading your next vacation

Think this is bad?

It could get worse. Much worse.

Travel is still at the beginning of its long descent into mediocrity. Airlines seem to invent new surcharges and passenger-hostile rules every week. Hotels aren’t far behind. Just the mention of the word “customer service” in the back office can be enough to evoke cackles of disdain from the underpaid employees. Worse, there are virtually no consumer protections against any of the inevitable abuses.

But you don’t have to go along for the ride. Sure, the latest customer surveys suggest customer satisfaction scores have plummeted to their lowest levels in years. (How bad is it? In one notable case, the industry celebrated a customer-approval grade of C-.) And if you read this column, you can try to count the many times the travel industry has let its customers down.

What, you’ve lost count? Me too.

“They have little regard for the customer,” says Ed Smith, a retired minister from Lenoir City, Tenn. “We used to be considered guests, but now — especially on the airlines — we are considered a necessary evil.”

There is hope, though.
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