FlyersRights.org
Southwest
built its reputation by being an airline that offered affordable
tickets, great service and a rewards program that set them apart from
its competition.

But
it was not content with its old award-winning version of Rapid Rewards,
because the program was not a revenue generator and did not appeal to
the elite-level business travelers of other airlines.
Southwest’s formerly easy-to-understand, easy-to-use web site, and outstanding frequent flyer program will come to a close on March 31 when it devalues and makes more complicated its Rapid Reward points. 
Southwest
proclaims how Rapid Rewards is being “improved.” A quick review of the
details makes it abundantly obvious that this is anything but the
truth. 
An airline which once boldly proclaimed: “Southwest gives America the freedom to fly,” now no longer rewards its once loyal customers for flying (the essence of a frequent flyer program).  
Now customers will have to spend substantially more
to achieve rewards similar to those in the old plan. The most expensive
fare offering the most benefit, Business Select, now more than ever is
designed for just that, the “Business Select.” 
While Southwest may increase its income, they have hurt their
reputation for being different, for keeping things simple and for
keeping things fun and honest.
  
Now, many of their loyal fans say they are just like the other guys in their disregard for loyal customers.
Southwest,
which once held such egalitarian principles: “every seat is a
first-class seat,” now rewards you only for increased spending, based on
a tiered system (Business Select, Anytime, and Wanna Get Away fares.
A-List and A-List Select tiers).  
  
“We’re
making modifications in our Rapid Rewards loyalty program to adapt to
changes in market conditions while allowing us to maintain the most
flexible and most rewarding frequent flyer program among all major
airlines.” A spokesman for Southwest told Consumerist.
To
cite a (author unknown) Facebook posting: “Southwest had one of the
most LOYAL customer base out of any airlines. Their passengers regularly
raved about the Southwest experience. The company has remained
profitable while most of the industry has struggled. Still Southwest
felt the need to recruit the coveted BUSINESS TRAVELER who tends to (or
is willing to) spend more on a ticket.   
Ripping off business class customers seems to be the current strategy. They already treat economy class poorly simply because they can. Now
that they have enough business class customers, they figure they can
also afford to do the same with them. Eventually, it will move up to
first class.  

Skyway Robbery
Several
airlines are planning to increase the number of frequent-flyer miles
needed for a ticket in 2014 as well as reducing perks.
Delta announced two rounds of Skymiles increases for 2014.  
Starting Feb. 1 United
is hiking the number of miles needed for business and first-class seats
on many overseas routes, as well as economy seats to Hawaii.  
So far, the newly merged American Airlines has merely devalued its AmEx Platinum and Centurion card perks. Those credit cards will no longer provide free entry to US Airways and American’s airport lounges, effective March 22.
It’s still a honeymoon for American Airline’s frequent flyers.
They’ll wake up and smell the coffee in about a year when the newly
combined airline devalues their award chart so badly it will resemble
the 1929 stock market crash.
MileagePlus=MileageBust
Once upon a time, a frequent flyer card was treasured. There was a day when you could automatically get a free seat next to you if you’d collected enough miles. Now frequent flyer mile values have dropped so much, you question whether these ‘loyality’ programs are worth it.

The consolidation of airlines over the last 10 years means that there may not be the need for frequent flyer programs, as there is such little competition for business among airlines. Also, it points to questionable decision-making at the Justice Department by approving so many airline mergers in recent years. Oligopolies, just like monopolies, are bad for consumers. Prepare to pay more.
The
“Rewards” program, like the flying “experience” is getting worse. The
“unbundling” of services – differential pricing for window, aisle and
center seats and “preferred” seats like emergency exit rows, checked bag
fees, boarding order preference, ovehead bin priviledge, etc. are
fleecing the traveling public.
There
has been little change to the basic cost of getting you from Point A to
B.  All of these extra charges are there solely to generate additional
revenue for the airlines – not to offer enhanced services.  For the
airlines to suggest that this is a change desired by its customers is,
at best, disingenuous, and at worst, an outright lie.
Fares have risen nearly 12 percent since 2009, an AP analysis shows.
When
people say there is still plenty of competition: American, United,
Delta, Southwest, Frontier, Jet Blue, Allegiant, Spirit, Alaska, let’s
look at all the cities with commercial air service and see what
percentage are served by more than one or two airlines; what percentage
have mainline flights; and what percentage are on a meaningful network. 
It’s
nice that Allegiant serves Portsmouth, NH (PSM) for example, but the
only destinations are Orlando and Fort Myers/Punta Gorda. Allegiant
doesn’t sell connections, so PSM doesn’t has meaningful, useful air service.  

(Business Class YUL-CDG in February.)
Is there any other industry where the main competitors’ pricing looks like that and no-one bats an eye?
FlyersRights says an Airline Passenger Rights Act needs to be passed –
enforcing
all-inclusive ticket pricing, basic travel requirements (i.e. seat
standards, humane seat widths and row spacing, fair treatment when
flights are cancelled and coverage of frequent flyer progams.)
The New Terrorism?
“Laughter Yoga” Coach Attempts To Make Travelers Giggle About Delays 
Last week, during a four-hour flight delay at JFK airport, a Laughter Yoga “Stylist and Coach” led a group of stressed passengers through a 20-minute “laughter meditation” session. 
A bystander took some video of the
“surreal” event. One witness called the session “completely the last
thing we ever want to see when we’re stuck in a hermetically-sealed
nightmare-place with strangers” and plead, “Dear god make the cackling
stop.”
 

NYC's Laughter Yoga  Coach,Francine Shore doing Laughter Yoga at LAN Airlines at JFK
NYC’s Laughter Yoga Coach, Francine Shore, doing Laughter Yoga at LAN Airlines at JFK


Your Letters!
Dear FlyersRights:
I  have solved my unhappy experiences with flying within the US. My
wife & I drove on our last 3 trips which were from the Midwest to
DC, to New York & to Baltimore. While I loved to fly
in the good old days, I now drive within the US.   Our next driving
trip will be from Ohio to Florida, where we will take a foreign carrier
to South America, and return the same way. 

Although partial, our boycott of America carriers is the only response
we have for being mistreated by the airlines and the government’s
abusive TSA. 

Hope to hear that there are more people that drive when possible. And
yes, we can do this as we are now retired. I am sorry for all the
suffering public that has to put up with the current state of flying. 

EE 

Dear FlyersRights:
 

Complaint Re: United Air
I booked a round trip through Orbitz, Burbank to San Francisco
1/18/14-1/20/14.  When printing my boarding pass United printed a
message flight oversold and did not print my seat but stated “See
Agent”. When I checked in the agent said my name would be called at the
time of boarding.  As the groups were called I approached the gate agent
and said I booked a seat and wanted to board. The agent had my printed
boarding pass on her desk and I boarded. On the return trip I had to buy
a $32.00 economy seat. The plane was not full.

B.V.

Dear FlyersRights:
We always get to the airport at least two (usually three)
hours early and are rarely checking bags.  Even so, we have come
perilously close to missing flights on several occasions (doors just
being closed) because there was only one TSA agent checking tickets, a
line that moved even slower because he was also handling a feeder line
of First Class and priority fliers as well.  We’re not talking small
airports.  This happened to us at both Sea-Tac and Logan.  Is there
anything you can do if you’re about to miss your flight?  Or do you just
have to miss it?  A much worse example of this follows:
Our next door neighbors with their three young children (5,
3, and infant) were flying from the Hartford to their home in San Diego
on Monday, January 6.  They got to the airport hours early but by the
time they stood in line to check baggage and to get a BVD (Boarding
Verification Document) for the infant which has to be done at the ticket
counter and got to the gate, Southwest said their tickets had been
given away, although the door was still open.  
Southwest insisted that their computers were not
sophisticated to know whether the family was already in the terminal
although my neighbor protested how could they not?  They had checked
bags and gotten the BVD for the baby which had to be done in person. 
Further, they were told that the first available seats would not be
until Thursday, Jan. 9 – three days hence.  On top of that, they were
told they couldn’t get their luggage back; it was already loaded.  
This genuinely surprised me as usually airlines will insist on removing luggage from a plane if the passenger doesn’t fly. 
(Is this a great way to blow up a plane – check your bag and arrive a
hair too late?)  The family had to buy a three day supply of clothes to
tide them over at considerable expense. 
Meanwhile, fearful that their luggage would be lost or stolen
in San Diego if it sat there that long, they called a friend and gave
him the ticket numbers and asked him to retrieve the bags.  When the
friend got to the airport, a baggage office employee pointed him to a
large stack of bags just sitting in the terminal where anyone could have
walked off with them and told him to go find them.  The friend could
have taken any bags he wanted.  This whole story makes me never want to fly again.

P.F.

Dear FlyersRights:
(In response to last week’s newsletter on TSA’s proposed “Service With A Smile” campaign)
I vote for a 100 IQ Pleaser (TSA
greeter) at each position to verbalize requests to travelers – the 60
IQs can tell the 100 IQ what they want…
Also, a recliner disable button on the back of each seat… 
A.S.W.

  

Dear FlyersRights:
Perhaps you have already seen this in the Wall Street Journal.

No comment needed except what I noted to my call to Congressman Jim
Moran, “BDOs (Behavior Detection Officers) get five days of classroom training and two days of on-the-job training. They must pass a written test every year and be observed by a manager annually to stay certified. There is also recurrent training, TSA says.”
W.W.


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Volunteers are needed in all areas, and intern positions with stipends are available for students and recent graduates.  
Email Paul Hudson, (globetrotter1947[at]hotmail[dot]com.
Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights
Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights


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