What to do when your airline betrays you

Markus Mainka / Shutterstock.com
Markus Mainka / Shutterstock.com
To call Ron Giancoli a loyal US Airways customer might be something of an understatement. A sales manager from West Chester, Pa., he’s flown on the airline — which recently merged with American Airlines — almost exclusively for the last three decades.

“I flew US Airways even when it wasn’t the lowest price,” he says. “I flew US Airways even when it was a less convenient schedule.”

Giancoli says he’s been an elite-level customer for 27 out of the last 30 years. He stuck with US Airways through good times and bad, through bankruptcies, reorganizations and customer service meltdowns. In exchange for his loyalty, US Airways offered him upgrades into more comfortable seats and award tickets.

And then one day, it didn’t.

Giancoli contacted me recently to say he’d been betrayed by US Airways. He came to that realization as he was trying to book an award seat from Philadelphia to Tampa for next August.

“Virtually every single US Airways flights shows ‘not available’,” for their 25,000-mile level,” he says. The only ones he can get are at 60,000 miles, which most airlines count as a revenue ticket.

Giancoli called it a “scam.”

He’s right about that. The bubble that is travel loyalty programs is imploding and in response, airlines are spurning customers like Giancoli.

Now what?

Question is, what can we do about it?

The immediate answer, at least to Giancoli’s question, is nothing. An airline like US Airways/American holds all the cards. It can set its award ticket redemption levels at whatever the market will bear and it’s completely legal. So if it wants to create a new 120,000-mile ticket for domestic economy class, it’s free to do that. Maybe it’ll throw in a “free” checked bag.

Wouldn’t that be generous?

After I wrote about the demise of the airline industry, suggesting it would be more accurate to call it the loyalty industry, a well-known loyalty program expert contacted me privately. Not one of those loyalty program bloggers who makes a six-figure salary selling credit card referral links — I’m talking about a real expert who knows his stuff.

He said I’m right, that the recent program changes were “evil,” and that my critique of loyalty programs was warranted. Then he rattled off a long list of numbers from one airline’s 2012 earnings report that, frankly, I couldn’t understand. It was as if someone had switched from English to Mandarin.

My point is, the financials of the loyalty-industrial complex are opaque and incomprehensible to all but a few insiders. In order to understand the rules, you must devote yourself to studying the programs full-time. Who has the time for that?

Airlines are going to do what they’re going to do. Few will understand why, but many will be affected by the recent loyalty program revisions. To them, airlines are unlikely to offer any apologies except perhaps a form letter here and there; they will allow its small army of loyalty program bloggers to defend their indefensible actions.

A tough decision

As a consumer advocate, I’m fortunate that I only have to worry about one thing: What’s best for passengers like Giancoli? I will let others worry about maximizing an airline’s revenues or explaining its nonsensical “loyalty” program.

And the answer to that question? Obviously, giving all of your business to US Airways/American is a terrible idea.

Airlines review their loyalty programs in real time, running sophisticated cost-benefit analyses that are designed to keep their most valuable customers in the fold. Not so long ago, that algorithm determined that Giancoli was no longer a valuable customer. It didn’t even bother sending him a break-up note.

A lot of air travelers are in a similar position right now. For all but a few highflying business travelers, loyalty programs are a zero-sum game. The program apologists will plead with you to stay and learn their rules for “hacking” the system, but they know the truth. They know that as you sign up for that credit card they recommend, and for which they’ll be handsomely compensated, you’re just collecting more worthless points. They’ll laugh all way to the bank, and so will the credit card and the airline.

But you lose.

You have to make up your own mind about loyalty programs. If you’re among the one percent of business travelers, you have my blessing to participate in a loyalty program. But the rest of you — and you know who you are — should listen to unhappy passengers like Giancoli.

Ask yourself: Have you given your airline your blind loyalty? What do you expect in return for your allegiance? Is it obligated to give you that?

“My repeat business meant nothing,” Giancoli told me.

Do you think you’re any different?

Who benefits more from a loyalty program?

View Results

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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 chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • bodega3

    How many times does this dead horse get beaten? Same old, same old poll.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Alas, many ;-(

  • Bill___A

    Here we go again.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I’ll stop writing about it when readers stop complaining about it. Sound fair?

  • Alan Gore

    Airline loyalty programs are really aimed primarily at the business traveler, and so many companies are replacing the hassle of travel with teleconferencing tech. This is an expensive capital expenditure, so once a company makes this decision, its custom is lost to the airlines for good.

  • BillCCC

    “In exchange for his loyalty, US Airways offered him upgrades into more comfortable seats and award tickets.”
    “My repeat business meant nothing,” Giancoli told me.

    Which one is it?

    He cannot book the seat he wants ‘once’ in the last 30 years and suddenly he has been betrayed?

    I really wanted to answer that both benefit.

  • bruceincharlotte

    After 30 years, the guy tries for one award ticket, finds it is too expensive and his response is to break up with US Airways? That makes no sense at all.

    He’s said “I flew US Airways even when it wasn’t the lowest price.” SO DO IT AGAIN.

  • Helio

    We’ll, I know people who don’t care about the price when the widow (aka company) is paying the bill, but complain a lot when they need to personally pay the bill.

  • John Baker

    Hmmm … So an entitled elite who for years had access to a deeper pool of reward tickets and was enabled by the airline complains because he’s no longer elite and has to deal with the lack of reward availability that the rest of world does? Where’s the story here?

    I’m a elite for one of the airlines that I fly on… I’m always amazed on how much the reward availability changes when I’m not logged in. Here’s the short version of the story… If you want a cheap reward seat as a non-elite, you need to book a route that no one else wants or on the day its released; otherwise its not available. With load factors as high as they are, airlines aren’t going to give away seat that they can sell.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Considering what a horrible airline it is, the real question is WHY would I ever give them my loyalty under ANY circumstances?


    I fly one particular airline frequently simply because of where I live. I am an unusual person—someone who is deathly afraid of flying but has to do it for a living. So I choose to fly the airline that has the most nonstop flights from my home airport of ATL. I am a member of their frequent flyer program but hold no illusions about it. I do take other carriers internationally as the service is a bit better and one does fly nonstop to my primary international point of business. My loyalty is determined by my fear of flying—the fewer takeoffs and landings the better for me. At not point have I ever thought the airline is loyal to me. Some of my experiences as an elite member of their loyalty program have been great for laughs. I expect a bit better customer service when something goes wrong, but that does not often happen. But I do not expect every transaction I make to be treated as if I was the queen of all.
    And, as bodga3 says, this is flogging a dead horse.

  • Thomas Ralph

    So let me get this straight.

    On *one* occasion in 30 years, award availability on *one* route for *one* month is limited to higher redemption levels (not unavailable, just a little more expensive), and it’s a “betrayal” and a “scam”?

    Oversensationalize much?

  • Mikael Mik

    Again, loyalty programs are fine if they don’t require customers to modify their normal shopping habits. If you shop A regularly, and possess a loyalty card, might as well receive “incentives”.

    if you only shop A regularly for the incentives, then yes, your actions are beneficing the company. Otherwise, if actions are part of one’s normal shopping habits, loyalty up.

    Long story short, it’s unfair to say these programs have no value what so ever. The value is determined by the customer dependent upon his or her regular habits.

    Once the benefit of loyalty is removed, customers who think their shopping habits need modified are free to shop elsewhere.

  • Stereoknob

    I travel for business and solely use the points/rewards for personal travel. Honestly, I’m pretty happy with Southwest’s rewards system. I’ve had no issue’s redeeming points and feel that the ratio of dollar cost to points cost is reasonable. If you have to travel for work anyway, why not just get some extras for personal use. I can say that I absolutely do not pick flights I’m paying for based on the carrier/rental/hotel company. It’s just whatever is cheapest and I’ll take whatever they give me.

  • Stereoknob

    I didn’t read this as this one time they won’t work with me and now I’m betrayed as much as he’s booking a flight 6 months away and there’s no seats. Six months is a hell of a long time in advance to book a flight… and there’s no rewards seats??? That’s crazy… and why I can understand he’d feel betrayed.

  • JewelEyed

    I participate in rewards programs for all kinds of things. If I accumulate points doing what I normally do and that means I get something free, great. But I’m not going to let it change my habits. The best deal is the best deal, and the best deal is the perfect balance between the best price and best product.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    I feel for the OP who stuck by US Scare-ways through thick and thin.
    However, all you have to do is ask one of those employees who lost their job about the company and you will hear an earful. The airline didn’t care about the hubs, the airline didn’t care about their employees and the airline doesn’t care about their passengers.

  • MarkKelling

    So the airline is going through a major merger and changing airline alliance group. You think this might have a bit to do with the current lack of reward seat availability? Is the OP also no longer an elite level member (or was he ever one)? That can also impact visible reward availability.

    When UA & CO merged, it was very much the same – no rewards available anywhere. And many already booked rewards just disappeared.. Now you can get a low cost reward ticket on UA almost anywhere at anytime (like to Hawaii at Christmas or the Caribbean in February). If you are a higher level frequent flyer on any airline it is of course easier to get a lower cost reward ticket on that airline.)

    The OP should just go ahead and book the flight and pay for it with cash and then use the reward redemption for some other flight with availability.

  • MarkKelling

    Seems the only time the readers complain about it is when you write about it. :-)

  • Susan J. Barretta

    The airlines betrayed their customers when they jumped into bed with TSA. I stopped flying and utilizing the airlines for my vacation plans when I realized the betrayal. Nowadays, if I ever get junk mail about loyalty programs, I always write back and tell them why I no longer utilize their services.

  • flutiefan

    Right now I’m at the airport dealing with hundreds of cancelled passengers because Chicago & the Midwest is experiencing yet another weather event. I’m getting yelled at left & right.
    Mother Nature has betrayed me. Who do I contact for compensation?

  • Tripp Westman

    This guy is an idiot and the author didn’t do his fact checking. I just checked flights PHL-TPA and in August there are only a couple of days that DON’T have availability at the 25,000 level.

    Also, let’s be honest, the only reason he flew US Airways is because he’s close to PHL and can get non-stops. It’s not like he chose them because he’s such a nice guy.

  • Daddydo

    Frequent flyers, 1984 revisited, a bunch of whiney minions? NO! Loyalty counts, so use you benifits! A lot of upgrades, free luggage, priority boarding. These are all benefits that people pay hundreds to thousands of $$$ extra to have. You get them for free. Free tickets, they are all but gone unless you are visiting Deluth on a Tuesday with a full moon and you booked 11 months in advance.

  • S363

    Chris, I figured out quite awhile ago that you hate frequent flyer programs, to the extent that I’m not sure you’re still objective on the subject. Nevertheless I read and appreciate your work.

    My wife and I are taking a nice scuba trip next month, flying first class, with the miles we’ve obtained from flying and mostly from using our United MasterCards. Two years ago I went to Bangkok, most of the way on Thai Air (what a wonderful airline!), using miles. I’m smart enough to have done the math (and I use a spreadsheet if I have to deal with more than about three numbers) and believe we get good value for what we do.

    A simple analysis: One can get about a 1% reward on most cards most of the time. I get 35,000 miles for spending $25,000 in a year (you get 10K bonus miles if you spend $25K on the card in a year). That 35,000 miles will get me a ticket worth more than $250, possibly double or triple that. And that’s assuming all miles come from the card, and none from dining or shopping or actually flying, however, some of mine do come from those sources. The reason I prefer airline miles to the programs that Capital One or Amex or my credit union have is that you CAN get miles in all those different ways.

    I don’t pay an annual fee, and I don’t fly United if someone else is cheaper and that flight works for me (I’d never ever fly Spirit, for example). I don’t buy things just to get the miles – the spending is the same spending we’d do absent the reward miles. I don’t pay any interest (that makes any credit card reward a very bad deal).

    I am the type that plans trips well ahead of time, so availability is easier for me, though never exactly easy. It helps that that far in advance I can be flexible in my plans.

    I ask you, Chris, where is my analysis wrong? We’ve been through this so many times on here, I’d really like to hear your response, and I imagine many readers would too. If I can do better doing something different I’d like to do that. Please feel free to contact me directly for more info if you’d like.

  • emanon256

    I don’t get the OP, he can’t book a saver flight for a particular time period, but can still book a standard priced flight, and he feels scammed? He feels teh airlien is not rewardign his loyalty? The airlien si doign exactly what they promised, he gets miles, and he can book award flights, and saver flights are based on availability.

    Its sad that the OP paid extra and few at less convenient times.

    I personally like reward programs, and have benefited by them. But I never booked a more expensive flight or a worse time just to get my rewards. It just happened that most of the time, my best flight times, and cheapest flights were on the same airline, and as a result, I got some free stuff out of it.

    Now, taking everything into account, in some cases I did pay more for my preferred airline, because booking the other airline would cost more in the long run due to checked bag fees and paying for extra leg room, so i still came out ahead. And I do think it sucks when there is no saver award availability. But I don’t take it personally, I simply find it annoying and move on with my life.

  • emanon256

    There are plenty in August on that route with US Air. I wonder if he is going to a particular event of conference where everyone is booking the exact same dates, times, and that is why there are no saver tickets. In that case, I don’t expect them to have any availability either.

  • Charles

    Reminded me of this quote from Jon Stewart: “Global warming is a total hoax because it’s cold today where I live.”

  • Joe_D_Messina

    “I flew US Airways even when it wasn’t the lowest price,” he says. “I flew US Airways even when it was a less convenient schedule.”


    The price was likely irrelevant given this was apparently mostly all for his job. However, it wouldn’t have taken overpaying on too many flights to make up for that “free” ticket from Philly to Tampa he wanted. And to put up with less convenient schedules just to pad loyalty stats seems like an odd decision in my book.

    I’m a big fan of loyalty programs when you’re going to be traveling on the airline regardless. Those are truly free benefits in that case. But too many people let the tail wag the dog.

  • John Keahey

    This OP has nothing to complain about, Christopher. But you used his story to fashion a column around it because of your preconceived notions about loyalty programs. I harbor no illusions about such programs. In the wise words of Chief Dan George: “Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.” And my attitude does not make me an “airline apologist”. Just a realist.

  • Charles

    The thing Chris does not understand is that very few people “give your airline your blind loyalty?”. And, they are the ones who contact Chris when it does not work out. His view is so skewed by that minority that he does not realize how real people use these programs. If he is talking about the people with elite status, does he realize that that is only about 3-4%.

    Here is something I’m sure Chris does not realize: Nearly everyone who is a member of a Frequent Flier program is a member of more than one, usually several. If it’s a loyalty program, it’s not working out for the airlines. I’m a member of American Airlines AAdvantage program. I’ve not flown American in years. So much for my “loyalty”.

    Everyone I know who flies is a member of the frequent flier programs for the airlines they fly. These are the real people, not the mileage run people or the bloggers. Everyone collects miles. But, I don’t know of a single person among these dozens of people who would ever choose an airline because they are a member of the frequent flier program for one particular airline. Of the deciding factors, that is going to be low on the list. So, they accumulate miles. Every now and then they take a trip on those miles if they can find a ticket. Many grumble that award tickets are harder to find. So do I. But, it’s a gift horse. I did not pay anything for those miles. I did not do anything different than I would normally. In the worst case, I can apply them as cash on some airlines or, as we have done, get magazine subscriptions.

    For a recent trip to Jamaica, we chose Delta. We had options of United, Delta, Spirit, and American. Spirit and United were cheaper, but we chose Delta. Is that because I’m a Skymiles member? No. Delta had a flight from a better airport. Our credit card gets us free bags on Delta. The Delta flight required one stop, while the United flights required two or a bus to Detroit. Spirit is, well, Spirit. American was more expensive for this itinerary. Never once did the question of accumulating miles figure into this. Why should it? We’re a member of all three major programs.

  • Charles

    We used to do nearly all of our shopping using the Delta Amex card and accumulated a lot of miles like you are doing. But, then other cards started to have cash offers. If I put 25000 on my Chase Freedom card, I get at least $250 in cold hard cash back. And, there are often 5% offers we can take advantage of. We have the Amazon card and get 3% on purchases there.

    There is no way I would pay the annual fee for the Delta card based on getting miles. I do pay it because it gets me free bags, and that pays for the card pretty quickly.

    How did you get United to waive their annual fee?

  • Mark Cuban

    He will stop when the traffic number start falling. Not until then. Everyone should take a break for a few weeks, and then come back and see if the stories have a different flavor. The internet votes with their clicks.

  • Dutchess

    Wasn’t this one of the tips in last week’s article. “Never go to Florida in August.” I think US Airways is helping you out here.

    Snarkiness aside, as all the others have said, one award ticket in 30 years not being available is a silly reason to break up with your airline. I’m not even going to engage the “I bought tickets even when it wasn’t the lowest cost.” statement. No amount of mediation on Chris’ part is going to open up an award seat for lower miles. What a waste of time.

  • Lindabator

    ???? TSA is a government organization – and the airlines have no choice that TSA is in the airports, that was mandated by the government. So HOW do you get they are in bed together?????

  • Stephen McEvoy

    Yes, in general, it is getting harder to book award travel (especially to sit up front) for the times you want to travel and the miles you want to pay. But the programs are still valuable to me.
    Yesterday 2/16, I booked two free tickets on USAirways PHL to FCO (Rome) departing 11/18 and returning 12/4.
    Per ticket costs were 30K eastbound and 45K westbound = 75K less 5K = 70K per ticket for using the USAIrways Master Card. For the two tickets, I paid 140,000 miles plus a small $69.70 in taxes and fees.
    It would have only cost me 80,000 to 100,000 miles just a few years ago. However, the two free tickets saved me $2,000.00 of real money.
    Steve McEvoy
    West Chester, PA

  • Tim mcWeeney

    No it does not “sound fair”. This is not a good piece and has, virtually, no basis in fact. If you really want balance and to write responsibly- feel free to include me in your surveys about airlines, FF programs and availability. I have 1.5mm on US and 750k on UAL/CO and have flown 100k for 10 straight years. It doesn’t me an authority but I do believe I can provide balance which is more than I can say for your one-sided attack against US Airways in this article. Besides that- the DM member in question is just whining. Do whiners make nooz these daze? C’mon- you’re better than that.

  • DavidYoung2

    One way to turn the ‘loyalty’ industry to your advantage is American Express Membership Rewards. You can fly whatever airline you want in terms of price and schedule, but use the Amex MR program. So why is it different?

    Because regardless of what the airlines or hotels do, you can always use the MR points for a cash equivalent of 1.25 cents per mile. Sometimes it better to transfer them to an airline program, especially when they’re running a transfer bonus, and sometimes it’s not. But you always have the ‘floor’ of 1.25 cents per mile as a default value. When shopping for a ticket, I look at award tickets and bonus transfers, then the cash price at 1.25 cents per mile. Whatever is cheaper, I do. And I only transfer the miles that I will immediately use, that way they can’t devalue them in an airline program (I’m talking to YOU Skypesos!)

    No, I’m not a shill for Amex (but certainly wouldn’t mind a few more MR points in my account) But it’s the one way I’ve found to benefit from the ‘loyalty’ programs.

  • bodega3

    There are many good cards out there. For me, AX isn’t a good choice, as many places in our area don’t take it and we don’t make online purchases very often.

  • bodega3

    It appears that your readers, who post, don’t share your view on this subject.

  • MarkKelling

    I called Chase, the issuer of the United cards, and told them I didn’t want to pay the fee any more. They said OK. Simple as that.

    Of course I was an established card holder and they know they were making money off of me through the merchant interchange fee for my transitions. A new card holder with no spending history may not be able to work the deal.

    The miles/dollar rate dropped a bit (used to be 2 per $ now 1.5) but with no annual fee I still come out ahead.

  • MarkKelling

    Am Ex used to be my card of choice and I racked up millions of points with them. But over the past few years all of the airlines I care to travel on have dropped from their miles program. And I never liked dealing with the Am Ex travel agents since they never seemed to be able to find the more affordable flights on any airline. Glad it still works for you.

  • Chris Johnson

    US Airways the absolute WORST frequent flier program, hands down. My USAirways balance is bigger than any of my other frequent flier accounts because I haven’t been able to book a frequent flier ticket with them in about eight years! That, and the fact that I often don’t have a choice of airlines with the places I’ve flown to. Yet with Delta and American, to whom I’ve flown far fewer miles, I’ve since had free flights on both of them. I’m about ready to turn in my miles for a magazine subscription, because that’s about all they seem to be good for. I have no vote on the poll, really because I have no clue. I don’t think the frequent flier programs are benefiting the passengers or the airlines for the most part, because the airlines only seem to have them because nearly all the other airlines do so they’d be at a competitive disadvantage without them, yet passengers have a hell of a time ever using their mileage, unless they’re in that elite 2% of travelers that always get upgraded and flies nearly every week.

    Oh, and as for Mr. Giancoli, I certainly feel his pain, but regarding his statement about his repeat business meaning nothing to USAirways – of course it doesn’t mean anything to them. If he’s in West Chester, PA, he clearly would have to fly out of Philadelphia, where US Airways dominates. He probably has no choice most of the time either, so the airline will get his business, whether he can use his miles or not.

  • omgstfualready

    Sooo, the OP is in sales and knowingly paid more than the market value for his needs. What a great sales guy – what company does he work for that passed the cost onto the consumer? Hey Chris – look into that please!!!! I am sure the OP didn’t pay for it, it was on expense report. But he took the perks for his own personal benefit. Yes, let’s pity the poor man.

  • flutiefan

    not sure where you’re getting this impression. as an airline employee, i generally cannot stand TSA. i can’t think of one coworker who likes them as you say.

  • http://www.jeffkolkerart.com Jeff Kolker

    I do, probably a lot don’t bother replying or posting for whatever reason. For the masses, I do believe these “loyalty” programs are a waste of time. Thus I never join. Those that fly all the time, well, maybe a bit different. But the OP found out the hard way they don’t always work.

  • moonshin

    i dont even bother with FF programs anymore. my credit card gives me points that i can use to buy airline tickets at 1.25 cent /mile rate. so 35k “points” will buy a 437.50 dollar ticket. any airline,no blackout dates..and if teh ticket costs more than the points im using i can use cash for the rest.

  • moonshin

    i use a chase sapphire card for the same thing

  • Mikael Mik

    What credit card? Any annual fees?

    Please do share.

  • moonshin

    chase sapphire card $95 a year

  • NatsGuy

    So, Chris, did you even bother to fact-check this article before posting it? I ask because I just checked USAirways award availability for August 2014 for flights from Philadelphia to Tampa. The outbound flight is available at the Saver level (12,500 miles one-way) literally every day in August except Monday the 18th. The return flight is available at the Saver level on literally every day in August except the 28th, 29th, and 30th.

    I’m not an elite on USAirways, these are the flights available to every person in their frequent flier program. So the claim that ““Virtually every single US Airways flights shows ‘not available’,” for their 25,000-mile level,” he says. The only ones he can get are at 60,000 miles, which most airlines count as a revenue ticket.” is just baloney to put it lightly.

    It doesn’t help your credibility when you base your argument about the worthlessness of frequent-flier programs on a factually untrue claim about award availability.

  • Tripp Westman


  • SoBeSparky

    I just checked. I have no status with USAirways. There is only one date in August from PHL-TPA which requires 30K miles, Aug. 18, and two dates on the return, Aug. 28 and 29. Well over 95% of the date combinations result in 25K miles for the round trip. Retail price: $315.

    What does this example show? First, anecdotal evidence is just that. One example. Second, whenever you are thwarted when dealing with an airline, almost every frequent flier knows to try again, either on line or calling back with another reservationist.

    Christopher says he writes about this because people complain. Well, when the complaint is specious, then what is the reason?

  • emanon256
  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • Extramail

    Wow, six figure salaries for blogging about credit cards? I’m in the wrong business – be on the lookout for my travel newsletter soon.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Wow. Thanks for this info. My impression was that Chris or his helpers did some basic fact checking on these or required some form of proof. Perhaps I was wrong on that.

  • emanon256

    I thought the exact same thing!! I was going to mention it in my post too, then forgot. I am in the wrong line of work. I need to figure out how to become a credit card blogger.

  • flutiefan

    brilliant! thank you for sniffing out the impostor! some people really do complain just to complain.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    think people. Frequent flyer programmes were created to get rid of unsellable inventory, which usually means non-direct, at least popular times of the day, like very very early am or very late pm, not around peak hour & not in busy period like holidays, especially school holidays.

    If you think you’re going to get a nonstop flight in peak holiday period & an upgrade, you’re playing with yourself (below the belt) !!!

  • S363

    I simply call Chase. The first time I said I wanted to close the account, and they transferred me to the retention dept. The last couple of times I’ve just asked to speak to the retention dept, who takes care of the matter with no muss or fuss, They actually give me a $100 “retention credit” to cover my $85 fee. I do spend more than $25K a year on the card. I only get one mile per dollar (except when buying United tix, which is 2 mi/$). I’m curious as to how MarkKelling below manages 1.5 mi/$.

    I also have an Amazon card like you (which, also being Chase, is on the same login as my United one) and a Costco Amex card for gas (3% reward) and dining (2%) and of course to use at Costco.

  • MarkKelling

    It was a card from the pre UA/CO merger. The initial card, which gave me the miles as you indicate, was replaced with a lesser one (first was platinum signature and the new one was simple gold or something like that). The card number stayed the same and the new card has no annual fee. This seems to be different than what you describe where each time a fee is due you call and they credit you an amount to cover the fee. Don’t know if the no fee gold card is still offered because you can’t find it when you search.

  • MarkKelling

    I often get nonstop flights where I want to go at the times I want to go (even holidays) for points. Just last holiday season I went to Honolulu on UA in 1st class on points and then to visit family on Southwest for minimal points. I almost never get the upgrades any more. Sure I spend more points now than 5 years ago, but the dollar cost has also risen if you are paying cash so I see nothing wrong with that.

    And both my hands are above my belt! ;-)

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    lucky you. Wouldn’t count on it in the future.

    Airlines seem very fast to cut size of aircraft when they can, if loads don’t warrant a large aircraft. To HNL (u didn’t say from where) they might be limited to what smaller aircraft can operate the route & so dump seats either cheaply, into ff programmes or both.

  • Tom_Bl

    I think it’s time for some real, public interest regulation of these programs, as well as “rebates”

  • Name

    Since the USAir/American merger is on-going, things will probably not be the same as people are used to. I would advise some patience and try again every few weeks until they get the kinks worked out. If the OP has a choice of carriers, most will honor his status and welcome him, so that might be a solution. I can’t really see business as usual in the upgrade/perks department during a merger of two airlines. Airlines can barely handle ordinary life, much less the complexities of a merger.

  • MarkKelling

    Was DEN to HNL. I had several choices from a single non stop 777 and several 757 flights connecting in either SFO or LAX. And there were a couple 767 flights in there as well for the connection on to HNL from the west coast. The 1st class service to HNL is not what it was before when CO flew that route. It’s not much more than regular domestic 1st. At least you get a little extra room.

  • bodega3

    Yes, they have other cards for no fee, and less miles earned per purchase. We dropped down on one of our 3 UA cards. The other two are worth the yearly fee for the benefits.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    After being chastised by an Amex travel agent for opting for a $2500 business class flight to Paris with a layover, instead of a $5500 direct flight, I decided that perhaps I’m not the type of client that they want.

    It was particularly annoying as I told the agent that this trip was for vacation, not some super urgent business meeting.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    In which area?

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    No need to call him an idiot.
    Maybe entitled…maybe spoiled…

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Carver, this is a funny story I found on a blog I like to read. I used to be a FF but now, I live vicariously though others.


    Here’s the gist: An elite/program hacker is making a mileage run from JFK to LAX and back to build up miles. He flies Delta into LAX in the morning, and leaves at night. All is well with his plan until Delta has delays and strings passengers along until the next morning. He laments: “no compensation was offered to any passengers – beyond meal vouchers – for the entire duration of the delays.” Isn’t that a wonderful turn of phrase: “Nothing was done for me… beyond”? When poor passengers on Amtrak faced similar delays for NYC to Miami during last week’s snow, did they get meal vouchers?

    I sympathize with him and the passengers that it’s wrong to string along passengers rather than just tell them to go to a hotel and get some sleep, but if you play games to build up points or miles or get discounts, then be prepared to sleep on some benches sometimes.

    Anyways, funny story. Request for (free) legal advice: If an airline has mechanical delays, do they owe passengers a hotel room or is that just a courtesy “goodwill” measure most engage in?

  • Mikael Mik

    So what are the terms might I ask? You earn a mile for every $1.25 dollars spent or every 1.25 cents spent? How much spend capital does it take to earn 35,000 miles (enough for a ticket)?

  • moonshin

    you earn 1 point for every dollar spent. if you use your point to buy an airline ticket the cost of the ticket is reduced by 1.25 cents for every point. so if you spent 10k on your card you have 10k points . if you then wish to buy a ticket that costs $200 you can take your 10k points,multiply then by .0125 giving you 125. that reduces the ticket cost to $75. 35k in points toward airline tixs would cost 28k in spending. you would then have enough points to buy an airline ticket worth $350

  • Mikael Mik

    Essentially a 1% cash back.. Ah, terms sounded more favorable before you explained. Have the Cash Back Chase card. Better cash than rewards then.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’ll have to check out that blog. Some of the crazier mileage runs are just hilarious.

    Honestly, I don’t know the legal requirements for delays. I think its mandated, but I don’t know for sure. Airline law is a specialty field

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I’ve tried to do some research but I haven’t seen any law requiring airlines to provide compensation for delays, mechanical or otherwise. Just for bumping a passenger off an overcrowded flight. Most civilized airlines will have policies for mechanical delays for food and hotel, but it’s up to the discretion of the gate agent (so be nice to them!) In one case in Germany, I had a reroute and the German puschfrau rerouted me on an awful flight. So I knew what to do, find a nice German guy and beg for him to at least upgrade me to economy plus (which he did.) So unless I get a bad note in my file, I can always go to someone else…

    I usually agree with the guys on upgrd.com who are having fun in their youth (sigh) but sometimes they can be a bit whiney as if they think that their mileage runs entitle them to true elite status. I think the airlines regard true elites as the folks who have their company expense department paying full Y fares and then they choose that airline to milk that big profit cow.