“I have basically been ignored”

If you’re a United Airlines or Continental Airlines frequent flier, chances are you’re a little nervous about the impending corporate marriage that will create the world’s largest airline. Rightfully so.

Mergers are messy. Loyalty programs are complex things, and combining them is never easy. Just ask Delta Air Lines, which hooked up with Northwest Airlines last year and had to put the WorldPerks and SkyMiles programs together.
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New carry-on luggage limits and screening measures after Northwest Airlines terrorist incident

The thwarted terrorist bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit yesterday has triggered a series of new security measures by the U.S. government. Here’s what’s being said by the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.

Details remain sketchy for now. “Passengers may notice additional screening measures put into place to ensure the safety of the traveling public on domestic and international flights,” according to the TSA.

What, exactly, are “additional screening measures”?
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Help! Alamo won’t remember my miles

roadA thousand frequent flier miles may seem like nothing, which is probably what the folks at Alamo were thinking when David Goeman repeatedly asked the car rental company for his missing award points.

But little things matter. Alamo shouldn’t have forgotten about Goeman’s miles, whether it was 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 of them. And he shouldn’t have had to keep asking.

Alas, he did. And when nothing seemed to work, he turned to me.
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Which airlines charge the most in ticket cancellation fees?

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United Airlines and US Airways lead the pack, according to the Transportation Department, charging their customers $78 million and $66 million, respectively. (The figures on the chart are for the first quarter of 2009, and are in millions.)

Conspicuously missing, of course, is Southwest Airlines. It doesn’t play that game with its customers.
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Airlines can be compassionate — if you know who to ask

Remember “no waivers, no favors,” the unbending, post-9/11 airline policy that said all rules were to be enforced, no exceptions? Kay Fore got a little flashback when she asked Northwest Airlines to refund her nonrefundable ticket after her husband had a kidney transplant last year. Turns out she was talking to the wrong people.

I know what you’re thinking: nonrefundable ticket. Refund. Get a grip, lady. You rolled the dice and lost.

But in the real world, that’s a completely impractical view. Fore’s other option was a refundable ticket, which cost twice as much as the nonrefundable one.

Why the price discrepancy? Refundable tickets are sold to business travelers, who can afford to pay a premium in exchange for the flexibility such a ticket offers.

In the real world — and at some level of the organization — airlines understand that and offer refunds on a case-by-case basis.

But at what level? Not the one Fore tried to contact at first.

I sent an e-mail to Northwest Airlines, explaining that because of complications and being hospitalized several time since surgery, we have not been able to use the credit and asked if the credit could be used by our daughter.

Their answer was “no.” The credit could only be used by him and his new travel has to be on or before June 8, 2009. At this time, we are unable to do any traveling before June.

Northwest Airlines was acquired by Delta Air Lines last year, so it would be easy to assume that whoever is left in its customer service department is on autopilot, reading scripts or sending out form responses. Not true.

I suggested that Fore contact one of the former customer service managers with her problem. She did.

Northwest called and because of extenuating circumstances they will be sending us a refund. Thank you for giving us the information to pursue this.

I’m encouraged by Northwest’s response. It suggests that the airline — and perhaps even Delta — understands that sometimes, despite your best efforts, you can’t take a nonrefundable flight. Or use a nonrefundable ticket credit.

The gesture cost Northwest a few hundred dollars. But the next time Fore has a choice in airlines, I’m willing to bet she’ll go with Northwest/Delta.