Should airline extend elite benefits for soldier in war zone?

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Airlines offer waivers of their often incomprehensible rules all the time. Robert Lytle wants this to be one of the times, and he’d like me to help him make it so.

I’m sympathetic to his case, even though it involves a mileage program, elite status and benefits that are of questionable value. It’s the principle, really. Lytle is with the National Guard, deployed in a combat zone. His social media profile lists him near the horn of Africa.

His experience makes me wonder if airline policies might not be accommodating enough to the men and women in uniform.

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Here’s the story so far: Just before being deployed, Lytle earned Silver status on US Airways. Then he found out he wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of the “perks” because he was shipping off into a war zone. He wondered if US Airways would extend his status as a one-time courtesy.

“I have been trying to communicate with US Airways for several months,” he explains. “But I keep getting a runaround. I have faxed, emailed, and tweeted. I can’t seem to get access to a decision-maker and have only been told that there is not currently a policy covering my request.”

He adds, “I would just like to speak to someone who can tell me that they’ve considered making a policy – even if the answer is no.”

Seems like a reasonable request to me.

Let’s have a look at his paper trail.

Here’s his original inquiry:

I am writing to request deferment of my Silver Dividend Miles status for one year due to military deployment.

I am a somewhat new (but regular) customer, having increasingly begun to use your company for my travel in the past couple years since I moved to the DC area.

A few months ago I was excited to finally earn Silver status and began to enjoy the benefits of the program. At around the same time, however, I learned that I was being activated through the reserves for an overseas combat tour. I am currently writing from that location.

Unfortunately, my year-long tour coincides almost exactly with the period of time I would have been eligible to use my Dividend Miles status.

Not only will I not enjoy the benefits, but I will not be doing any travel that would help me maintain status through the next year. In effect, I am losing out on two years of Silver (or higher) benefits due to this deployment.

For this reason I am inquiring if there is any way to defer the benefit until the next program year, when I will be back home and ready to travel (out of uniform!).

Airlines routinely waive rules for members of the military, so this doesn’t seem like a big ask.

The answer? A boilerplate “no.”

Preferred membership is based on flying Preferred Miles or Preferred Segments during the calendar year, January 1st – December 31st. Accounts are set back to zero at the beginning of the new calendar year when qualification starts over. Please be aware that your current Preferred benefits are in place through February 28, 2015.

We do not have a policy that extends or postpones Preferred status or benefits beyond the benefit year that you qualified for.

Thank you for your Military Service.

Lytle tried to appeal to US Airways via web-based chat. The results were even more infuriating. Here’s what happened after he explained everything.

Lytle: Can you have someone contact me? Tried the generic forms with no luck, would like to talk to someone in leadership.

US Airways: Customer Relations will respond to your email. They’re the team to work with on feedback regarding policies.

Lytle: Clearly they are not. I’m sorry but I have been trying for months, from a combat zone, to resolve this. Very disappointed.

US Airways: We’re sorry for your disappointment in the response from Customer Relations.

Lytle: If you are truly sorry, perhaps you can connect me with someone empowered to make decisions. That’s all I am asking.

US Airways: You can reach out to Customer Relations for a second look at your request.

Lytle: This is getting insulting. Why would repeating the same runaround process be at all helpful? Please just help me talk to someone.

US Airways: We’re sorry you’re not happy with the response.

Don’t you love those scripted responses?

Now, I’m not saying that Lytle deserves to have his so-called “benefits” extended by another year. On reflection, I’m not sure US Airways would be doing him any favors. What I do think is that he should be able to find someone high enough in the organization to listen to his request and offer more than a form rejection.

I do list the names and numbers of the executives on my site, but I’m not at all convinced they’d do anything more than route the requests back to “Customer Service.”

So should I take up Lytle’s case and get him that answer, even if it is most likely a “no,” or should I allow US Airways’ rejection to stand?

Should I mediate Robert Lytle's case with US Airways?

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155 thoughts on “Should airline extend elite benefits for soldier in war zone?

  1. It’s a reasonable request for a valid reason. There’s no reason that this cannot be accommodated. Just needs the right person to say yes, and it shouldn’t even have to be anyone high up the chain.

    1. Why is it reasonable and valid? This guys in the military in a combat zone, I get it, so a firefighter or LEO has a problem, they should get special exemptions too? What about doctors and nurses they save peoples lives every day, should they get special preferences as well? What about teachers, they educate future generations of people who will save lives, and make the world a better place? What about journalists they are the ones keeping freedom and democracy available to all, they are the watch guards of those same virtues? What about the bankers who made the soldiers and all the other people who sacrifice for their fellow humans homes affordable? What about the donations they made to habitat for humanity or untied way, should they get special treatment? What about the people at WDW from the entertainers to the executives who bring joy and happiness and dreams to thousands of people a day, should they get special treatment? What about the pilots, the FA’s the counter agents and the baggage handlers, who put their lives at risk everyday, confining themselves to a metal tube with who know what kind of people, who make such trips as safe and enjoyable as possible, shouldn’t they get a special program?
      Wait, I have an idea, how about the airlines and the rest of the travel industry just treat everyone with respect, kindness, and superior service, then we wont need any of these programs, because everyone will be treated as “special” , we wont need silver, and gold, and platinum programs, because everyone will be treated equally and that treatment will be the airlines “best” to begin with?

      When everyone is “special”, it means no ones special.

      1. None of that is valid or relevant. All red herrings and straw arguments. The issue was that he would not be able to fly solely because of his status as a serviceman. That is not true of any of the people that you mentioned. It’s not merely because he is putting his life in danger.

          1. Says who, running into a fire, facing down armed felon, battling deadly infections in Africa, none of these are comparable?

            Did you mean military zone or combat zone? Is a clerk standing behind a counter checking out vehicles and maintenance requests putting their life on the line more so then a police officer in Compton?

          2. I don’t think anyone is discounting that LEOs and emergency personnel perform as valuable a service as our soldiers (I know I certainly think that all of them deserve our deepest gratitude). I think it’s a different issue – does the person have the option of using their elite status during the specified time period?

            With LEOs and emergency personnel, they have the option to enjoy their elite status at their own discretion. Sure, they’ll have to take their work schedules into consideration but for the most part, they have the ability to say, “Yeah, lets do something crazy – how about we take a three-day weekend and go to Jamaica?”

            The soldier doesn’t have such an option, especially when deployed in a faraway international country. He or she serves at the pleasure of military command. They may not have the opportunity to really enjoy that hard-won elite status because they’re off in some remote corner of the world working a schedule that’s subject to the vagaries of the military chain of command, ever-changing conditions, etc.

            I realize you can probably make the argument that LEOs and emergency personnel also have a schedule impacted by their chain of command and changing conditions but if they don’t like their work environment, generally they can simply walk out the door. Soldiers don’t really have that option; either they have to wait to get a discharge through the proper channels or they desert and face punishment.

            Sorry for the long-winded response; I just thought it was important to view the question from a different angle.

          3. Military are nor forced to do anything — they volunteered for the opportunity. Airline status should be one of the factors taken into consideration when one chooses to enlist.

          4. True, military in the US is all voluntary.

            However, lots of other businesses take military service into consideration. Sometimes that is due to law, other times it is due to just wanting to do something nice. Apartment leases can be terminated with no penalty if you get deployed with the military. Most companies in the US will keep your job open for you if you are a reservist and get called up. There are others.

          5. Those are all options, the airline in this case could choose to do that, they are not required too, and they appear to have said “no”.

          6. When my husband enlisted, he was 17 on a delayed enlistment. Do you honestly think he or any 17 or 18 year old thought “oh wait… my airline status…. oh crap!” when they were enlisting?? And, seriously talking to our friends who are also military, NOBODY enlisted with the thought that they’d actually go into a war zone when they signed up during peace time. Sure it’s always a consideration but, they aren’t psychic, they aren’t Nostradamus. The future for the kids who signed up was about a week away, not years ahead in combat zones.

          7. Did they enter the military obligation knowing their schedule life would not be their own, were they duped into enlisting or being commissioned? I have to assume they knew what they were getting into when they signed their contract.

          8. You would assume incorrectly. My husband didn’t sign up thinking he’d end up in Saudi or Somalia. My daughter didn’t think she’d end up in Afghanistan. They sign up for whatever reason…and their patriotic gesture sends them to protect a whole ‘nother country’s interests. Cut the 17/18 year olds who are still essentially half cooked a little slack, eh?

          9. Did his recruiter lie to him? Did he not understand that the US armed forces serves a variety of missions ALL over the globe?

          10. Yes, I do and being 17/18 is no excuse for not understanding what you are agreeing too. Its stories like this that make the fictional “Devil” deals and contracts such entertaining reading.

          11. Anyone who is too busy to fly would not have earned the elite status in the first place!

            Using logic around airline apologists is like using garlic around witches.

          12. We don;t know how he earned the status, he could have done so through an affinity credit card, or other means. All we know is that he started using the airline recently.

          13. Congrats on being that type of person who is part of the problem. It’s this type of argumentative dismissiveness that destroys people’s faith in dealing with companies (and other humans).

          14. Yes, we all have jobs and have to work. That doesn’t stop us, or anyone doing any of the other jobs you mention, from flying somewhere when we have time off if we want.

          15. When I was stationed onboard a ship in Norfolk, I could put in for leave (vacation) but that did not mean I would get to go.
            If a hurricane was coming into the Norfolk area, all the ships had to head out to sea with all hands on deck.
            If things got crazy in the Middle East, our deployment schedule (going out to sea for months) would get changed – often by moving up the date the ship left Norfolk.
            The military is just different.

          16. The issue is that military people do not control their time. The government owns them 24/7. If they leave they are considered AWOL and men with guns come after them. They do not have the freedom to leave that your other examples have.

          17. As a former liaison for the military, I can honestly say this is offensive to me. Belittling their sacrifices is pretty pathetic. YES – they volunteer – and thank goodness they do – instead of giving them such a disdainful attitude, thank them.

          18. I’m not interested in feelings, I’m interested in facts. Fact, no one help a gun to their head and made them join. Fact, everyone doing a job is sacrificing something, that’s why it’s called work, if it was fun, you’d be paying them instead of the other way around.

        1. This guy ALWAYS goes against the person requesting something. He’s Dr No. I like your reply to him, because he’s adept at arguing illogically.

      2. Businesses routinely do make exceptions for servicemen and women on active duty. Everything from discounts to policy exceptions to pay supplements. There’s clearly an awful lot of society that does think they are special.

        1. I get that and that’s their right and their option, but is their some new regulation or policy that mandates all business and organization must at all times in all instances provide service members with preferential treatment? Do they have a right to say no?

          1. Yes, any business can say no. But they should say no in something other than a canned robotic response. I know you don’t believe any business should do anything for a customer once they have their money, but it is good business to at least give a response to the question.

          2. So what they shoot send him a live video from the CEO addressing him by name and saying “Sorry buddy, no can do”?

          3. That is just ridiculous.

            Better responses should be given to most questions from most customers. The form letter is basically a way for a company to say that you are not that important to them as a customer. Since so many companies use them these days, I guess that means most companies don’t care about most of their customers. I feel that is short sighted. While I don’t even want to suggest that the CEO or someone near that level should respond to questions from their customers, at least have someone send the response that puts a real name, title and contact info into the response and not have it come from “Your Customer Service Team” at a generic email address.

          4. Exactly your one person of millions, you’re not that important to to the company, because you’re not that important. I don’t get my ego boosting from corporations, i don’t need them to validate my self esteem.

            Why put real names thats a personal security issue.

          5. I give my real name when dealing with my customers. Real phone number and real email address as well. And by dialing that phone number or emailing me at that address they can reach me even on off hours. That is not a security issue (I don’t give them my home address and invite them over for dinner!) but rather a good business practice that our customers appreciate.

            And I am not looking for an ego boost when I expect a company to respond to me and neither do most people. It is just good business to respond, especially after someone asks the same question multiple times, and answer the question. A company responding to my issue with a real solution, even if that solution is not acceptable to me, is much preferred to a canned response that sounds like no one even looked at the question.

            I actually prefer to do most of my communications with corporations through an impersonal web page. It is much more efficient than waiting on the phone for hours to make a simple change. However, when I do have an issue and ask a company a question that requires a real answer, I expect to get a real answer. While I am an insignificant blip in their sales figures, how I influence other customers from how I perceive I was treated when I had an issue can eventually add up to significance.

          6. If you read the full article, it’d be clear to you that the OP really hasn’t heard “no” from anyone empowered. Just an endless runaround of canned responses that loop back around on each other. “You could contact customer service again so I can cut and paste that response to you again….”

            They absolutely have the right to say no. But what remains unclear to me is why it’s going to bother you if they decide to say yes. This guy getting a break wouldn’t hurt you, so why get so agitated about this case?

          7. Because, as I wrote before this guy isn’t asking for an email address to an executive to ask “yes or no”. He’s asking Chris to mediate and flex his media muscle to shaming the airline to making an exception by playing the “support the troops” card.

          8. And what harm would it do any company to “support the troops”?

            And he is only asking Chris for help because of the virtual silence from the company.

            AA got into all sorts of media shaming trouble a while back when they wanted to charge military extra baggage fees when they were flying on orders and using AA because the military had negotiated a special rate that supposedly included all of the luggage a soldier has to carry. AA in turn used their “military exempted from baggage limits” as a media marketing plus.

          9. The last thing a person or a business wants is to be labelled or accused of being unpatriotic or Anti-American. That is the trap that is being set for USAirways here.

          10. I have not. I don’t believe that anyone has looked at his request. I see them as having poor customer service

      3. I think the fact that he is in a war zone makes his case different from the firefighters, doctors and nurses who get to go home every night. Kind of hard to use your Silver status when you are stuck in a war zone.

          1. My understanding is that they specifically volunteered to go there, and (barring illness) can return at any time.

          2. Sure it’s all volunteer. However, once a guy signs up, he can’t take it back and the DoD isn’t terribly amenable to making exceptions. I’ve heard of contract workers being let out of their contracts for compassionate reasons, but the DoD isn’t so kind. There was a case of a US Army clerk with a child who couldn’t avoid deployment even though her parents couldn’t properly take care of the child and she didn’t want to place her child in foster care.

          3. You mean Liberia? And most of these doctors are also Christian missionaries. Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward.

      4. Well. That was a pointless response. From a business standpoint, USAir can cement a customer for life – How long will this guy be traveling? The next 50 years? USAir needs to stop thinking about the next quarter, and think instead about the next quarter-century.

  2. What’s frustrating is that US Airways thinks saying “I’m sorry you are disappointed” is actually the same as fixing the problem. “I’m sorry” is an opening line to the next action that they should be taking.
    It’s also ridiculous to think that they need a policy for this. They don’t. They just need someone at the right level to look at the issue and say yes or no.
    Talk about passive-aggressive tactics.

    1. I bet the web-based “chat” that Lytle did was not even with a real person. Those look like nothing more than automated responses to certain key words in Lytle’s typing.

    2. It’s the same as saying “I’m sorry you’re offended by what I said.” That’s not the same as an actual apology. That’s what’s going on here. They aren’t sorry… they’re just sorry he’s not happy with the canned responses.

  3. The OP needs to contact the Executive Office. When I had a problem, I contacted the Executive Office and it was resolved. I am looking for that contact information.

      1. Not exactly. A form letter just means that no one looked at the specifics of his case. I have the same issue with certain institutions. They automatically give a form letter rejection until round 2, unless you have counsel in which case you skip over the form letter rejection.

        1. Then the guy talked via web based chat to a real (I hope) live person, the answer another no.

          Further, this guy isn’t just looking for an email address of an executive, he’s asking for Chris to flex his media muscles, to “support the troops” and get this guy an exemption.

          1. That wasn’t a live person, that was some software that picks out key words or phrases and spits out a canned response. That is why it repeated itself with nearly the same response.

          2. A bit off-topic, but are those live chats really just computerized responses? Seriously? How did I not know that? Color me naïve.

          3. Most Live Chats are staffed by real humans. I am sure that some are computerized with bots…most bots usually give the same responses every time…depends upon its programming and the feature of the bot (bot is a software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet).

            I have worked at three companies that have Live Chats and we had real people in our office located in the United States. At one company, Live Chat was part of the department that I managed. The average conversation for our sales team was 50% ‘scripted’ (they would either type or cut and paste our standard responses) and 50% ‘free flowing’ (depending upon their responses to our ‘standard’ questions). For our customer service team, it was probably 10% ‘scripted’ and 90% ‘free flowing’.

            Also, we used a software program that ‘monitors’ guests to our website. When a guest went to our product or service pages and spent some time on it, a member of our sales team would send an online pop-up message to the visitor asking if they are interested, etc.

          4. I won’t say all of them are robots, but many businesses have robots which are smart enough in some cases to answer basic questions like “How do I get a refund?” or “What number can I call to discuss this?” This leaves the real questions to be answered by real persons.

          5. Because, there is no way out of this for the airline that preserves their position. Chis is involved so this is in the media spotlight now, if Chris reaches out to his contact the BEST they can do is not respond. If they say no, then it means their stock drops as the message becomes “US Airways is anti american”, and they lose business or the make an exception which establishes a precedent that if your military they will waive expiration dates on elite status, which cost them money and diminishes the value of the program. The only way they can get out of this and it’s still going to hurt is to say nothing so that all Chris can report is that “he approached US Airways and they hve not responded”.

          6. So, the only difference from a typical case is this is a hotter-button topic with more negative PR impact than if they were simply ignoring a regular customer. Well, that is a business decision they probably should have discussed prior to turning down the claim. These are the sorts of decisions businesses have to make–and do make–all the time. That is why there are exceptions to rules.

            If they were to decide to extend his status for a year or something along those lines it would cost them absolutely nothing AND win them some good will. Seems like a good business decision to me.

          7. It would cost them something. If he doesn’t use the silver benefits it cost them nothing. Then when he returns from assignment without the silver status benefits he will have to pay his own luggage charges and preferential boarding as opposed to having it waived.

          8. How does extending the expiration of elite status cost the company money?

            When his deployment is over and he returns to the US, he will most likely choose this airline for all of his flight needs if they extend his status. To me that means they will actually make more money from this one customer by allowing this request even if he flies only rarely.

            At the Silver level the LW has, the true benefits you receive are fairly minimal. You don’t even qualify for the discounted fares the top tier members do. You almost never receive the “free” upgrade to seats. in 1st. The only you always get is a no fee checked bag and a few other fees waived, which you also get from the affiliated credit card.

          9. Well, in the same way you have a too bad to be you attitude to the op I take the same me attitude towards businesses that don’t make allowances for service people. That’s my right as a consumer. I can spend my money where I chose and this is one of the factors.

            So sorry, if us air has to make nice if it wants my business and that of like minded people

        2. Exactly. I got canned responses when American broke EU travel law and denied me my legal retribution for a canceled flight. If I hadn’t finally gotten to someone who had decision making abilities – and someone who actually read my facts – I was going to turn it over to the AG. Canned responses are just that. I get there’s people like you, PsyGuy, who wants to justify the heck out of anything. For those of us who are capable of critical thinking and wanting to provide a good customer experience, we support that this case is worth looking into.

  4. “Thanks for your military service”? US Airways should be ashamed to put that at the end of the “you are being shafted” note.

  5. I voted no, everyone thinks their reason is a valid reason for an exemption or waiver. Part of fighting for equality and freedom, means recognizing that you are equal. Meaning you get the same problems and shafting as everyone else gets.
    I would agree that he deserves a yes or no, but he’s gotten that, he’s asked several times and the answer is no. Like everyone else though he thinks they are special, he wants the privilege of having someone else higher up to say no, and then when that person says no, then what? Is he going to go even higher up? At what point do mature people recognize that their answer is no, and move on?
    From the business standpoint, why would they say yes at this point anyway? First, “silver” status is almost no status, and second they’ve probably pissed this guy off enough he’s going to look for another airline anyway.

    1. Again you misunderstand. What the LW is asking for is someone in authority to actually look at his request instead of getting a form letter. If that person says no, the the LW would most likely be somewhat satisfied. As I mentioned elsewhere, some organizations say no to everything as a weed out mechanism. That’s not a real no as far as I’m concerned.

      1. Customer service representatives during live chat sessions have no authority? Did people in authority make the policy, that instructs them to “decline” such requests? Is the president of the company now responsible to address EVRY customer service issue, since any negative response by any one of the hundreds or thousands of customer service representatives means everyone then has a right to a yes or no from the chief executive?

        So “no” doesn’t mean no, a significant number or woman would disagree with your concept of “no” and a “real no”.

        1. I think the issue here is that the “no” was based on the fact that the lower level employee didn’t have a policy to which they could refer… Basically, it was “I don’t see where it says we can do this, so I’m going to say no.”
          Whether you agree with his request or not, it seems fair that he gets an answer from someone who has the ability to make a decision based on more than a script.

          1. Didn’t people in authority and management make the policy that dictated the script. If they wanted to make an exceptions list US airways could certainly have done that and included it in the customer service training. They didn’t and my experience has been that decision was not some oversight.

          2. I’m not sure that the absence of a definitive policy should automatically equate to a denial. There is no reason that they can not escalate to a manager. I’m not debating the merit of the request, just basic customer service.

          3. You really think this is the FIRST time an airlines has had this sort of request from a service member?

      2. He doesn’t misunderstand. You are too kind, and possibly a graduate of the state dept school of diplomatic bull-shipping elocution course.

    2. Unlike the morons who are running this country into the ground, those in the military actually do something for this country. You may not like what they are ordered to do, but anyone who is deployed to an active combat zone is not equal to you or I. We don’t have to bow down and kiss their feet, but extending this persons “no status” as you call it is a no brainer.

      These are the same people that could be killed or maimed so you can sit there and spout off your stupid comments about how they deserve nothing for putting their lives on the line to protect that same freedom you enjoy.

      1. Lots of people do things for their country, who aren’t in the military, Peace Corp, DOS, DOE, Medical Corp, CDC, I could go on.
        An airman at Cyber Security Command checking firewalls in a cubicle in San Antonio, TX isn’t exactly facing incoming fire or putting their life on the line, unless their’s a freak electrical surge, I don’t see them getting maimed or killed.

        Yeah I think everyone is equal to everyone else, we don’t have a draft, or conscription this guy choose a hazardous job, no one made him, assuming it is, as far as you know an actual hazardous job, this guy could be a computer analyst or water quality technician.

        People deserve what they negotiate for, and equal courtesy and civility.

        1. The airmen sitting at the desk is not in an active combat zone.

          Even the cook in the active combat zone faces the chance that they can be killed because the entire base can be attacked.

          1. My friend was a cook in the Army in an active combat zone. A mortar landed two feet away from him while he was doing prep. Thankfully, it was a dud. So yeah, absolutely.

    3. We are all equal. But we are also all different. Treating two different things the same is actually unequal treatment. Unlike most US Airways customers, the OP can not use the airline for 2 years, no matter how hard he tries. Treating him the same as people that can just walk up and use the airline is unequal treatment. “There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people” – Thomas Jefferson

  6. He deserves an answer one way or another. It would seem not to hurt the airline one way or another to extend him this courtesy for his service. It’s not as if you can chose in the military when and where you go.

    1. He got an answer twice one in written form and one talking to a representative, the answer was no. So now what, he’s entitled to a no from someone higher up, because why?

        1. How many appeals is he entitled too? Where is the right to these appeals embodied, because I cant find any such language in the Program description, rules or policies?

  7. This case has been pushed around by low level people in US Airways, any executive with any brains will see this case as an opportunity to show the public how much the airline cares (I almost threw up typing that) and will extend the status when the OP returns from the combat zone.

  8. Chris, while YOU don’t think the Silver Elite benefits are very valuable, clearly HE does. Perhaps you could set your dripping contempt for loyalty programs aside when making this decision? You say you are sympathetic to his case, yet you repeatedly beat your particular dead horse of FF programs; you don’t sound very sympathetic at all.

      1. Good because you are gonna need a lot of mental separation skills when you see how your future banners (income) are actually affiliate links for credit cards earning airline miles. Sure you can say that your new host (BA) put it there and you had not direct control of what goes on those banners, but you will be enjoying the income from those FFP related programs you supposedly despise.

  9. I voted yes.
    It’s a reasonable request and the idiot typing a script in India probably didn’t even comprehend the question. If it’s a human idiot…possibly could be just an automated script that looks for key words and generates crap responses.

  10. I couldn’t vote today. I think this needs to get pushed to a decision maker instead of a customer service agent but I don’t think that Chris is the right person to do it. It would be a little like me trying to mediate the refund on a non-refundable reservation. I’d try but my heart wouldn’t really be in it.

    Anyone can see where Chris sits as far as loyalty programs… Might be better for a loyalty program advocate to take this one.

  11. An unnamed airline extended the benefits for my niece who was on her 4th tour of duty in Iraq. She was initially told no and I looked up some email addresses of someone who might be able to help. The person she contacted was more than happy to make this one-time exception for her. Front line customer service and chat people have little leeway in what they can do. Moving up a notch does help. Maybe I am seeing things differently but, to me, there is a huge difference between a deployed member of the military who cannot travel and someone from any walk of life, including military, who simply cannot travel for lack of vacation days or similar reasons.

  12. A case like this is a good candidate for a Net shaming blitz on social media. In view of the ISIS and Ebola crises, both of which involve US deployments, such a campaign would be a popular one.

    Why a special benefits deferment for deployed soldiers and not for other worthy groups, such as EMTs and teachers? Because those others are Stateside and able to use any earned benefits, while deployed soldiers cannot.

  13. There are two important contexts here: airline loyalty points and military deployment to a combat zone. The stress and/or difficulty associated with one’s profession is not a relevant factor, nor is military enlistment in and of itself.

    It’s the “perfect storm” that occurs when the two contexts collide. The fact is that travel to/from a combat zone by military personnel is tightly controlled and usually very limited. Barring state-issued travel bans, civilian personnel can travel at will. Not so with military personnel.

    The OP was a reservist who was activated without warning. No pity party here, just pointing out that he had earned the points while “inactive”.

    These are the compelling factors in the OP’s request, and why I think Chris should mediate.

    1. Yeah… I agree. His reservist status should be taken into consideration. They don’t get a whole lot of notice before deployments sometimes. He was probably fairly surprised by his activation. It’s all the more reason to extend it. He was expecting one thing (to be able to use the perks) and a situation he wasn’t expecting is causing him to miss out on them entirely.

      1. Sometimes active duty troops do not get a lot of notice before they deploy.
        All depends on what is going on in this crazy world.

      2. I do find it odd that airlines use “circumstances beyond our control” to avoid passenger compensation, but fail to grant even the simplest of exceptions for a customer facing that same challenge. It is puzzling …

  14. I voted no. All the freebies and accolades that veterans (including myself) qualify for and the worshipful reverence we receive from the public at large is overkill. If this had been somebody not in uniform, this never would have risen to the level of an Elliott.com post and the feigned indignation accompanying it in the comments would never have materialized. Let it go.

  15. Main benefit from silver is early boarding and free checked bag. For very few dollars (maybe a free first year), he can sign-up for the branded credit card and have these. No exception should be made IMHO.

  16. If it were up to me, I would defer his status for a year. If it were up to me, I would defer anyone’s status if they had a legitimate reason to not be able to travel at all for a year (All I can think of is military or medical, but I am sure they are other reasons and I don’t count prison). However, I also believe rules are rules, and US Airways clearly wants to stand by theirs and not extend it, and that is their choice. The fact that they refuse to have a real person talk to him is quite disappointing, but I am not surprised. I voted no.

  17. Please go to bat for this one. I usually play devil’s advocate, but this is easy.
    Any person wearing a military deserves any legitimate assistance from any major coorporation, especially the airlines. I surrender my preferred seats for any person in uniform. Robert, thank you for your service, we in West Virginia salute you. BTW, you can transfer your miles to many different military institutions to allow travel for loved ones and emergencies. I have not used a mile in 15 or so years, as the military families need them more. They also do not expire.

  18. If the gentleman in question wasn’t a soldier, this would be an even bigger non-issue than it already is. I voted no. The level of troop worship is at all-time high in this country; the perks, promotions, freebies, and outright reverence that soldiers and veterans (myself included) receive and/or qualify for is simply astounding. Let it go.

      1. Your question assumes that absent troop worship there would be only room for hating the troops. I’d like to find a middle ground where people have respect for others, not just those in uniform; where individuals are judged on their own merit and not simply their profession. My original point was that if the gentleman in question had been a salesman, a doctor, and lawyer, a teacher, etc., and not a soldier, no one would care. This would have been a bigger non-issue than it already is. Simply wearing a uniform should not grant an exception to the rules, confer special treatment, or elevate an individual over others.

        1. There’s a lot of issues I have about troop worship. I heard that many veterans are miffed that their service isn’t considered equivalent to a college education once they get back to civilian life. My understanding is that some employers view veterans as those used to following orders rather than developing their own independent thinking. I certainly understand the importance of our military to our country, but I get taken aback every time I hear the words “defending your freedom” as if all military personnel are responsible for such. I’m realistic that the military often enforces executive policies that may attempt to advance American interests, and that these policies aren’t always in the interest of freedom.

          However, I do also understand that our military personnel have given up one important right that many of us take for granted, which is the right to quit. I’m OK if a little deference is given to reservists who have no say in whether or not they have to leave. If it was up to me, I’d cut this guy a break because he’s in a situation that he can’t control. Most people could quit if they find their situation untenable.

    1. I agree. They already get tax benefits irs dot gov/uac/Combat-Zones
      plus other stuff that Joe mentioned.
      Also I’m not sure we need more wars.

  19. A guy used to travel a lot because of his job. He achieved top tier, but in the following year he lost his job, he couldn’t afford travel, therefore he wasn’t able to use the perks.

    About an year later he got a new job, this new one requiring him to extensively travel, but he lost his status. Is he also entitled for an extension?

    1. Entitled? No. Is it good business sense? Probably. That’s why frequent traveler programs have tons of unwritten exceptions. After 9/11 American extended everyone’s status regardless of whether you requalified or not. Additionally, they used to have a soft landing so that regardless of your travel patterns, at most, you only fell one level per year. During the Great Recession they unofficially lowered the threshold for requalification.

      Hotels do the same thing. Marriott let me keep platinum status for about 4 years after I last qualified under the official written rules. One of those years I stayed maybe 6 nights (you need 75 nights). They finally dropped me to Gold and again, I did not requalify for Gold but they gave it anyway. I would guess it’s probably been about 6 years since i qualified for Marriott status based on the published criteria.

      The logic is simply that if a frequent traveler has a temporary downturn in travel, radically lowering their elite status risks losing the golden handcuffs which tied them to your company.

      That’s what happened to me. I don’t travel that much outside of my commuter SFO/SJC to LAX route. AA finally decided that I was a lost cause since I flew them once a year and I finally lost my status with them. But since I used to be a 100k/year flier, they keep me at elite status until it was clear those days were behind me.

  20. I am torn. I am usually a “well the rules say XYZ so suck it up” kinda gal. But I’m also the wife of an Air Force man who spent a year in Saudi and 6 months in Somalia and a Marine daughter who just returned from Afghanistan, and I remember so many things they missed out on. For me, in this case I’m defaulting to “Ask; it can’t hurt and it’s win win if they say yes.” Perhaps they’ll even *gasp* create a policy that says, “In clearly extenuating circumstances such as ABC circumstances, our front line flunkies are empowered to do the compassionate thing.”
    Oh I do love to dream.

  21. I am appalled by the level of thinking in too many of the responses to this problem. The question is NOT that he must get a deferment on his admittedly small benefit. It’s that he wants to get an answer from someone who has the power to say “yes.”
    I am in an industry that routinely requires high level professionals to get permission from script bunnies in order to do their jobs. My principle is that I will not speak to someone who does not have the power to say “yes.” I’ll only take a “no” from someone who can say “yes.” The script bunnies can’t say yes, so I cannot accept their “decisions” as they do no deciding.
    The LW is complaining not about the “no” but about the inability to reach someone who could say “yes.” That’s all. Not a free pass, not guarantee of a “yes,” just to be heard by someone who is allowed to decide.
    Do it, Chris. Take the case. And tell the troll(s) to buzz off.

    1. See I HATE that, I’m in one of those positions where I have the discretion to say “yes” and invariably what happens ALL the time on a daily basis is subordinates who “escalate” issues to me that are already covered by policies and procedures. If the organization wanted to have an exceptions and exemptions list we could easily build it into the support work flow. I get so tired of everyone who thinks their case or their story or their situation is unique and they’re special.

      1. The difference is that your people are already covered by policies and procedures. In the OP’s case it is very clearly stated that no policy or procedure exists. If no policy exists then the correct answer is to escalate to get a determination. It is not to say “no” because there is no policy.

        1. I don’t think so. Psyguy is entitled to his opinion just like the serviceman. The Consitution did not say differentiate between a soldier and a citizen.
          Why should anyone be treated any differently because thry chose that profession?

          1. Because our Glorious Socialist Empire has established a tradition of reverse discrimination to hurt innocent people in rewarding undeserving others in the name of redressing wrongs committed decades and even hundreds of years ago by people having nothing to do with the ones getting shafted now. So, why should this be any different?

  22. (warning… tangent)

    Am I alone in thinking that the OP’s online chat with customer service looked like a poorly implemented Turing test?

      1. You seem offended… did you the write chat bot for the US Airways customer service site?

        (edited for grammar)

  23. “We do not have a policy that extends or postpones Preferred status or benefits beyond the benefit year that you qualified for.” – this is an excuse to avoid taking action. We care so much about those in the armed services…until after their tenure or until they don’t fit into a policy.

  24. I understand that many businesses are hesitant to grant special dispensation to customers who they may genuniely want to help because that largesses is then publicized, and that makes the rest of their customers come to expect that same consideration, even if it’s undeserved. But I think that generosity towards members of the armed services is not something you can easily con a business into giving you if you don’t deserve it, it’s a good PR move, and he’s not asking them to do something that would cost them money, he’s just asking them to give him the same benefits he was already going to get, but to defer it a year. There is no downside that I can see to granting this request. And if US Airways had a good customer service system, I think they would have approved this request and nobody could shame them on the basis of their patriotism.

  25. Sometime around January 2002 to February 2002, America West granted elite status for the 2002 year to everyone that was an elite in 2001 regardless if they qualified or not for elite status for 2002 due to 9/11 since travel for the 4th Qtr was down, etc. America West is the airline that acquired US Airways then AA for those who are not aware.

    Since the precedent has been set, US AirwaysAA should have renew the Silver status for the OP for another year. Since the OP lives in DC, it is very unlikely that he will ever get upgraded on a flight…the key benefit is to board early so that you can get an overhead bin for your carry-on. If he does get an upgrade that means all of the gold, platinum and chairman have already been upgraded.

    I think that the problem at US AirwaysAA as well as several other corporations is that the majority of the employees are not empowered to make simple decisions. As you go up in the food chain, many people are out of touch. I can still recall the article in the Arizona Republic where Doug Parker was talking about the acquisition of US Airways…basically Mr. Parker didn’t have a clue what frequent flyers and even passengers of his airline were going through.

    Mr. Parker isn’t alone. In the television series, Undercover Bosses, most bosses are NOT aware of their businesses, how their employees are treated; asinine corporate policiesregulationsprocedures, etc.. The problem is that middle and senior management doesn’t push things up for the corporate governance level for review; therefore, the people at the top are isolated from their employees at the bottom and their customers.

  26. There is precedence in law for accommodating people serving in the military for loans and other financial obligations. To all those who voted “no,” who are living safe, guarded, lives, remember military folks in overseas combat zones are protecting you. One writer pointed out
    they volunteered. I see that as a reason for granting the favor, and not as a point against extending the period of time in which they must use benefits.

    If properly pointed out to the airline that their reluctance to extend the useful period so combat zone, overseas military personnel can use their benefits, will be posted in Elliott’s syndicated newspaper column, I can’t believe that this wouldn’t be convincing.
    Otherwise the wrath of the various veteran’s organizations would put a dent in the airline’s bottom line.

    Side note: I don’t think I’d like to be in a foxhole with anyone who voted “no.” I’ll bet that the “no” votes weren’t writing from a combat zone.

  27. Many years ago, Continental would announce priority boarding for military personnel. Always made me proud of “my” airline. Happy to say that United does it as well. It’s a small way of showing our appreciation for people keeping us safe in America.

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