It’s time to question one of the most basic tenets of travel: Everyone should participate in an airline loyalty program.
A tectonic shift in the world of travel rewards is forcing passengers to reconsider their allegiances — or whether it’s worth being loyal at all. Given the already hopelessly convoluted nature of these programs, I’m surprised it took so long.
Frequent fliers have been hardest hit. In recent months, both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines revised their programs so that only the biggest spenders get the best perks. Soon, flying often won’t be enough to reach an airline’s coveted elite status. Expect more companies to follow.
Today I’m introducing the Elliott Award for Excellent Customer Service, a weekly shout-out to companies that go above and beyond the call of duty to help their customers. And I’m pleased to announce the first winner: luggage manufacturer Wenger.
Question: I have been a loyal Hilton customer for the past three years, staying about 200 nights a year in its hotels. I have always been happy with the service that I received from Hilton — until recently.
A few months ago, I booked four rooms at a promotional rate that offered double points. After each stay, I did not get credited with any of the points. I have called Hilton to try to fix this problem. Each time, I also advised them that I had additional reservations under the same promotion and that I wanted to get the problem fixed so that I didn’t have to keep calling after each stay.
The answer that I received from various Hilton reps has always been the same: I did, indeed, book the promotional rate and that they don’t know why I’m not getting my points. They’ve opened up various trouble tickets and said that my account would be credited within a few days. I have never received any credits so far and it has been weeks since my initial contact with them.
I finally talked with a supervisor yesterday, who informed me that there was nothing he could do and that the only thing he could offer me was 5,000 Hilton points for my troubles. By my calculation, I am out 39,291 Hilton points and 3,927 United Airlines miles for my first three stays in January.
This whole situation has left a bad taste in my mouth. It amazes me that Hilton is treating one of its best customers so poorly. In the past three years, I have spent more than $200,000 at Hilton properties and have amassed more than 3 million Hilton points through hotel stays alone. Please help. — Nicholas Czapor, Philadelphia
It’s too close to call. A review of several “worst of” lists suggests there’s a high concentration of awful hotels in the New York area, with one or two standouts outside of Gotham. The bad properties are also likely to be owned by one chain.