Having spent much more time this week actually flying on airplanes than writing about them, we were motivated to write about a number of initiatives and newsworthy items that we felt would be of interest to our TSC road warriors. Just think of these as Hints from Hegeman.
Doubling Up at US Airways
In what amounts to a major change for
frequent flyers (and what I hope does not portend similar changes at other airlines) US Airways has quietly changed the terms of redemption for a domestic round-trip freqent flyer ticket. Now, frequent flyer tickets must include a Saturday night stay. If not, ticket redemption levels are doubled. Yes, doubled.
In the past, 25,000 frequent flyer miles would obtain a free domestic round-trip ticket without restrictions. Now, US Airways will deduct 50,000 miles for a coach ticket if the trip does not include a Saturday night stay.
This change is already reflected on the airline's Web site, although there has been no major announcement of the change, to our knowledge.
Who has the best Frequent Flyer Program?
The annual Freddie Awards, which were started 11 years ago by Randy Petersen of
magazine, were announced this past week. The winners? You can read all the results of the survey on Petersen's
Web site. But short and sweet?
The Continental Airlines
OnePass program was voted -- by a substantial margin -- the best overall. Second-place went to
Delta Air Lines
came in right behind American. The survey is conducted by Petersen's publications, which track frequent flyer programs for travelers.
United Airlines (UAL:NYSE) has quietly introduced a new change in their baggage policy. While passengers used to be able to ship golf clubs in addition to the normal two-checked-bags allowance, those days are over. If you show up at the gate with golf clubs and you have checked two bags, you will be charged an extra $25.
(yes, that is oneworld with lower-case spelling and all crammed together) alliance formally began this past week. Just something else to make your traveling either more complicated or easier, depending on your perspective. All I know is that, when I was boarding an American Airlines (AMR:NYSE) flight yesterday, listening to the standard announcements concerning platinum award members, advantage mile members -- and now, the ruby, sapphire, and emerald oneworld members -- left me ready to nod off.
The oneworld system offers its own "frequent flyer" plan that is tied into participating frequent flier programs. The levels are ruby, sapphire, and emerald. Someone involved in the marketing of this venture must have been a fan of
The Wizard of Oz
The release announcing the takeoff of oneworld earlier in the week mentioned that members' frequent flyer cards will include the new emerald, sapphire and ruby oneworld symbols to "ensure that
they receive proper recognition and service by airline staff when traveling on any oneworld airline."
Can we infer from this that the rest of us who do not have emerald, sapphire or ruby status are in the munchkin category -- and thus undeserving of proper recognition and service?
The airlines currently participating in the oneworld alliance include: American,
Cathay Pacific Airlines
Help on the Way for Delta's e-Tickets
And finally, we spent a day with the folks at Delta Air Lines on Wednesday, and one of the things we talked to them about was the negative feedback we're getting from business travelers concerning the airline's e-tickets. And you know what? The folks at Delta agreed. No argument.
Simply put, their e-ticketing system is "pre-historic," in the words of one pricing manager. In fact, the airline has problems just integrating the e-tickets into its existing computer systems. As a result, the same seat is often assigned to more than one person at the gate. This inability to smoothly integrate e-ticketing also means that unused e-tickets must be re-booked in person. A
inconvenient process for the business traveler.
But changes are in the works. New reservations software is being tested in one Delta market, and is scheduled to be rolled out in Atlanta during May. We saw a test of the system, and it is a vast improvement.
Holly Hegeman, based in Dallas, pilots the Wing Tips column. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks.