It happened to me just a few days ago, when I sought to book a roundtrip from Phoenix to Newark Airport. That's 40,000 miles on US Airways, right? Wrong. It cost 55,000 and, said Grayson, that's exactly the kind of bait and switch he believes the airline industry has to end.
It gets worse. Travel blogger Joe Brancatelli, who files at JoeSentMe.com, said that airlines have claimed that they - not the fliers - own the miles, they can run the programs as they please, and if you complain too loudly, they can kick you out of the program and confiscate your miles. The U.S. Supreme Court, noted Brancatelli, in an April 2014 decision agreed with the airlines.
Airlines also, as the Congressman noted to Mainstreet, unilaterally, without notice, and willy-nilly raise the mileage needed to qualify for an award. Last year, for instance, Delta jumped its SkyMiles totals for just about every reward flight (thus "Sky Pesos"). BusinessElite tickets from the U.S. to Europe, for instance, were 100,000 SkyMiles. After the devaluation, that flight cost 125,000. Similar jumps afflicted just about all reward classes offered by Delta and it has not been alone. Both United and Southwest also have announced substantial rejiggering of awards programs that favor the airline, let the fliers eat cake.
When MileCards.com surveyed 1,600 frequent fliers it - unsurprisingly - found we have complaints about rewards programs. Notably, said Brian Karimzad, director of MileCards.com, 29% of us grumbled loudly about sudden rules changes. But our biggest complaint - cited by 50% of us, said Karimzad - is needing more miles than expected.
So is the Congressman right, that is, does the federal government need to stick its oar into these troubled waters?