Chart Chal­lenges

Business Traveler (USA) - - SPECIAL REPORT -

What ac­tual ben­e­fits you do have are get­ting harder to man­age as well. Delta no longer pub­lishes re­wards charts and United’s is not easy to use, cre­at­ing a labyrinthine world of mileage re­demp­tion for con­sumers. In many cases, fliers must search for fares within a search app the same way they would if they were mak­ing a reg­u­lar on­line reser­va­tion: by dates, gate­ways and other fil­ters with­out ben­e­fit of a trans­par­ent chart that would in­di­cate point lev­els, best dates, des­ti­na­tion tiers and other plan­ning tools. As we go to press, Amer­i­can has just an­nounced that its AAd­van­tage pro­gram is fol­low­ing suit, mov­ing to a rev­enue model as of Aug. 1.

“Ba­si­cally what is go­ing on now is these pro­grams each man­age be­tween 80 and 100 mil­lion mem­bers, so the air­lines are say­ing ben­e­fits and perks should go to cus­tomers that earn them – the more you pay, the more you will get back,”says Harteveldt.“Many fliers are say­ing fare does not de­fine my loy­alty, my fre­quency does. But air­lines are say­ing no, not so any more. And there is a huge rift out there with trav­el­ers who feel they have been loyal in stick­ing with [their cho­sen air­lines] through down­turns and bank­rupt­cies and other changes, and feel the air­lines have turned their back on them. And that is a le­git­i­mate emo­tion.”

The new rev­enue-based sys­tem – which is al­ready in mo­tion at United, Delta and South­west – has al­ready snagged some big losers. The oc­ca­sional trav­eler can’t rack up enough points to get trac­tion be­fore points dis­ap­pear, and the fre­quent busi­ness trav­eler who’s re­stricted to bud­get tier pur­chas­ing poli­cies and whose elite or plat­inum perks on legacy car­ri­ers will no longer gar­ner au­to­matic up­grades and other ben­e­fits. Man­ag­ing ben­e­fits is be­com­ing a crap­shoot that may be best left to apps like Ex­pertF­lyer rather than the air­lines.

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