Sunday, June 29, 2008

I got it wrong

Thanks to astute comment poster Finprof and a phone call from one of my devoted UA relatives, I stand corrected: United Airlines's Mileage Plus program does still offer award flights for 25,000 miles. They are in a category called "United Saver and Star Alliance Awards." During my frantic attempt to reinstate my miles, I did not notice there was a redemption category lesser than "Standard Awards."

I apologize to United Airlines, and to any readers whom I might have mislead. I sincerely thank those who take the time to make sure I get things right.

As for anything any of the airlines offer that qualifies as a lesser category than "standard," well, what more do I need to say? Those of you who spend a good portion of your life on the road already know what I'm thinking.

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Accidental" Traveling Lapses

I recently accidentally let 39,526 United Airlines Mileage Plus (or minus, and in this case ALL minus) "award" travel miles expire. I noticed this two days after they expired.

At first I was ticked off, mostly at myself. I should have seen this coming and at least purchased something through their program, just to keep those miles "live" and/or use them up. Of course I also wasn't too happy with UA because, well, I'm used to being unhappy with them, which is why I've been avoiding them--for a long enough period to let my miles expire.

(BTW, did you know if you don't fly for a quarter, they can choose to stop sending you any notifications, statements or updates? If you use that last click, don't miss #9. Pretty handy the way they can help you forget your "almost expired" status, should they so choose.)

However, even though I hate to admit this, sometimes (okay, many times) I'm more dumb-cluck than the airlines. I actually wasted valuable work time pouring through the website to see if there might be a way to reinstate the two-day-old lost miles. Perhaps they were still floating in the traveling waters near my pier and I could simply net them. (Can you tell I'm daydreaming about fishing?) The "opportunity" was buried, but YES! it existed. Imagine my fingers excitedly clicking away toward what I imagined would be a simple "REINSTATE" button.

But alas, nothing is that simple--or cheap. Turns out I could recapture them for a mere 1.25 cents/mile plus a $25 service fee, which would cost me $544.08. (I'm sure they'll round that extra penny UP.) To buy back miles I'd already earned but which had poofed into thin air because UA said so, and I was zoned. And don't forget the EXTRA $25 they would charge me to use those miles to actually fly. I won't.

As in my last post, once again this torment turned out to be the good news. While I was holding those miles, obviously subliminally and "accidentally" backpedalling away from a tortured "opportunity" to accrue 10,474 more so my husband and I could enjoy a "free" vacation flight, United raised the coach miles per trip from 25,000 to 50,000. (Man, I am living in a CAVE! Even AA, for whom I have lost all allegiance, only requires 25,000 for a standard flight, at least as of this second.) Plus, that monkey of a 39,526 disappeared off my back. Expired. Poof. Gone. Not even buying them back for a total $544.08 will get me anywhere. So now I don't have to force myself toward those friendly skies for anything. THANK YOU, UNITED!

Perhaps you should review all your "award" programs, just to make sure you're not missing any opportunities to miss opportunities. Afterwards, please share your "good fortune" stories under comments. Now that I don't have to spend time fretting about any of my mileage programs (since I no longer give a rip about any of them), I might find more time to go fishing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Backhanded Thank Yous

The things that make me the maddest are often the things for which I end up giving thanks. Who knew that even the airlines and their additional fees could cause such gladness?

How do they glee me? Let me count the ways, beginning with luggage fees.

When the big six began setting and sustaining new records for lost luggage, at first I was angry. I was angry when, a day after my bag didn’t show up on the AA carousel, their recorded message still had no idea where it was. I was angrier when I drove to O’Hare, my home airport (group groan, please) only to find it sitting out in the middle of the floor along with eight billion other “lost” bags. However, ultimately those sneaky airlines taught me to travel lighter, which is a wonderful gift. Now, if it doesn’t fit in my carry-on, I deem it unworthy; if it makes my carry-on too heavy, I don’t pack it. My non-aching back thanks the airlines, as, I’m sure, will my fellow travelers when they no longer have to endure the very loud GRRHUUUUUUH! I used to emit as I heave-hoed my lunker roll-aboard over my head. All along, those clever airlines were simply preparing me to avoid their new checked luggage fees. Right on!

When they started charging for peanuts--and now US Airways will soon make us ante up for water and a soda (can the rest of them be far behind?)--I stopped eating handfuls of things that weren’t good for me. I now carry my own little baggies of healthy mixed nuts, or a protein bar, or maybe even a sandwich. And I never board without a bottle of water—accept when I forget. (My bad.) Since we’re so crammed into the overbooked and ever shrinking seats, I don’t have room to bend over to retrieve my wallet anyway, so thanks again! Think of the money I’m saving!

And speaking of money, when American Airlines said they would begin charging us to use our very own hard-earned frequent flyer miles, even when we book online, I was beyond angry—especially since I was already paying an annual credit card fee to accumulate miles even faster. (I know: dumb!) But even their grab to render to them what has already been rendered delivered good fortune. You see, they tripped my IT'S TIME TO DO SOMETHING, CHARLENE! trigger. The first thing I did was to phone my credit card provider to cancel my AA credit card.

But wait! It gets even better! After some discussion as to why I was doing this, the agent advised me I could keep my same cc number (what a pain-ola when you have to change numbers, especially with all the automatic “bill to credit card” we have set up) and simply change the type of card. Now, rather than earning airlines miles I have to pay to earn and pay to use, and which I can only use for 6 a.m. flights, I will earn cash back. Cash I can apply to gasoline purchases, for which I will also earn cash back. I realize that’s not on the same scale as the Lion King’s “Circle of Life," but still, it’s a circle that sure beats paying to use my very own hard-earned miles for which I already paid--twice. Plus, my new type of card gives me even more perks. How about that?! Again, I thank the airlines.

I’m anxious to learn what they will think of next to improve my life. Perhaps Will Allen III already came up with it: “Pay to pee.” He astutely speculates that they could also sell tiny rolls of toilet paper. But no problem-o! I consider the very idea another new training program to enhance my life. How so? Because I’m grabbing a few yards of toilet paper right now and tucking them into the outside zipper compartment of my bag, just in case. What could enhance my travel experience more than being able to use my very favorite brand?