Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Customer Service: US Airways

Time for me to once again pull the spotlight into the shadowy corners of that myth of all myths: customer service. I pride myself on the fact that my customer service blogs have drawn a TON of hits. And every time I get a new one, I love blogging a little more.

As a sometime resident of PA, I have an extensive history with US Air. And over the course of three years flying back and forth to Pittsburgh on almost a weekly basis, I managed to rack up a couple miles. Enough, in fact, for a free flight to the Caribbean if I so chose. Of course in the infinite wisdom of US Air, if you don't use these miles or if there is no activity on your account, they close it after 18 months.

Why? Because I died? Because I no longer fly on airplanes? Because I have obviously moved to a city with a different carrier hub?

I guess rules is rules.

Message generated on www.usairways.com at 8/7/2007 8:50:53 PM.

Several times over the last few months I have set about to try and track down my US Air miles - and several times I have found the US Air website hard to navigate and uncooperative. When I finally decided to try and track down my Dividend miles account, I was told it just expired 30 days ago. Given that I've had so much trouble using the website, I'm hoping you can give me a break and reinstate my miles - I plan to continue to use USAir for travel, including travel to Europe, through Philadelphia, in the near future.

I got a reply a few days later:

Thank you for contacting US Airways.

I apologize that we were not able to respond to your email in a more timely manner.

With the new Mileage Reactivation Policy, which went into effect after January 31, 2007, miles are subject to forfeiture if the member has not had activity within 18 months. This new policy was announced on May 21, 2006 on usairways.com. We also sent e-mails and direct mail communication to members who were most impacted by the change. Your account shows that your last activity date was 11/18/2005 and 30,688 miles were forfeited.

We realize you may have attempted to earn miles or used US Airways or a partner recently. Please make sure you submit your request for missing credit at usairways.com or by contacting our partner now.

Members have three options to reinstate forfeited miles.

1. Pay $200.00 reactivation fee which is based on the number of miles being reinstated.
2. Earn miles with one of our credit card partners. Allow 4 to 6 weeks from your first purchase using your new card for miles to start crediting to your Dividend Miles account.
3. Purchase and fly a First Class or Envoy trip on US Airways / America West in fare codes A. F, C, D or Z. (GoFirst, GoEnvoy, GoSleeper upgrades are not valid to reinstate forfeited miles.)

These options are time sensitive. The timeframe during which you may reinstate forfeited miles may vary, depending on your last activity date at the time you forfeited your miles and which option you choose. If you choose the option to earn miles with one of the credit cards or to fly, allow sufficient time for the activity to post to your account as the miles must post within 36 months of the above activity date. When miles for the credit cards or flights credit to your account, forfeited miles will be reinstated automatically. After the deadline, there is no option to reinstate the miles because miles are permanently deleted after 36 months of inactivity.

To reinstate forfeited miles, contact the Dividend Miles Service Center at 1-800-428-4322.

For details on our Mileage Reactivation Policy, visit our website at http://www.usairways.com/awa/content/dividendmiles/
programdetails/memberguide.aspx#milexpire

We appreciate your continued patronage of US Airways.

Denise Villatoro
Dividend Miles Service Center


I love that last line: "We appreciate your patronage."

So much so that I can buy my miles back for $200. I can sign up for a credit card. Or I can fly first class. In the next 36 months. Because I missed a cut-off 30 days ago. Because I moved. And couldn't operate their website.

Appreciation, by definition, is thankful recognition. That -and $200- will reinstate my miles.

I write back:

Denise,

Can I assume you can not make an exception, based on my poor experience with your website? As I stated, I tried, several times, unsuccessfully to update my account online. The emails you sent in May 2006 went to an email address that is no longer active. The direct mail wasn't forwarded to my new Texas address. As such, I didn't get them. When I tried to update my information with US Air on your website, I had continual disconnections, dead links and circular directions which were completely unhelpful.

And now, as I prepare to book a May flight from Philadelphia to Glasgow on USair, you can't help me out?

Can one of your supervisors help me?


In the mean time, I have reason to ressurrect my LONG idle Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards account. I talk to a nice woman (on the phone!) and explain it's been years since I've flown Southwest and that it may be hard to track down exactly which address my account is associated with. She asks for my name. And then she reads back my present address. So Southwest has a database that automatically updated my address despite a move out of, and then back into Texas. Interesting. Oh yeah. And all three of my segments from previous trips (in 2002) are still in my account. And Southwest is the one that isn't digging its way out of bankruptcy? Really?

Stop back for updates.

-------

Update: 9/13/07

Mr. Helms,

Thank you for contacting US Airways. I apologize for the delayed
response to your request. We will be happy to reinstate your miles due
to non-notification. Your new account balance is 30,688 miles. Please
be sure to post activity to your account within 18 months to avoid
future mileage forfeiture.

We appreciate your continued patronage of US Airways.

Bobbi Pearce
Dividend Miles Service Center


And there was much rejoicing.

I have to say I've been feeling pretty good about the traffic this post has received. My google-ometer shows just under 100 people has found this post when searching "US AIRWAYS customer service"

I am pleased that, without a whole lot of escalation, I managed to get 'em to hook a brother up. But I am stillway more impressed that Souwest Airlines managed to keep track of my info despite the fact that I moved three times over a 3 year period, and none of my segments has expired.

9 comments:

Buck Super Stereo said...

obviously they insist on being assholes as long as you insist on referring to them as US Air in your correspondence, not by their proper name of US Airways. Their low-level CSR making minimum wage can get it right, why can't someone trying to take advantage of their loyalty program?

exactly how loyal are you mr. james?!?!?

Moda di Magno said...

The airlines are such darlings. Why do they fail so? Here's a miserable American Airlines experience I had with my beloved Tom: http://www.slideshare.net/modadimagno/yours-is-a-very-bad-airline/1

After a couple of months of ignoring me, a customer service rep did reply with an "Oh my God" and a gift of two airline tickets.

Catch Up Lady said...

I almost never leave links in blog comments, but since someone else already did and it's totally on topic I'm going to go for the gold here: http://catchupblog.typepad.com/catch_up_blog/2007/06/i-hate-us-airwa.html

Based on my bitter (but well documented) experience you just have to set aside four hours of your life to refuse to get off the phone until the matter is resolved.

God speed friend!

Phil said...

In making new reservations with USAirways I found that without notice my 166,559 Dividend Miles had been forfeited for account inactivity. USAirways states their forfeiture policy is published in e-statements and on their website. However, e-statements are not sent to inactive accounts and I had no reason to be casually reading their website. No forfeiture policy notification was provided by mail or computer. USAirways states the forfeiture is permanent. With notification I could have easily kept the account active.

frequent Flier said...

Why am I not surprised to see these comments. I too had a similar experience with this low life airline. When I joined US Air Frequent Mileage Program, they had a policy that the miles would never expire. However, during the merger with America West, they decided to change the policy without informing their customers or making a serious attempt. I can simply say that I am done with US Air. 30K miles will cost them a lot more. I travel a lot from to Charlotte/Raleigh area from the West Coast. I will make sure to fly with others and will instruct the same to my team. The net loss to US Air will be far, far greater than my 30K miles. Go figure. Who's running this company?

tm_ssss said...

My mileges were forfeited too although they should never expired. Anybody was ripped off from US Airways 2007 policy, please contact me at tm_ssss@yahoo.com. Maybe, we can do something about it.

MikeTwo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MikeTwo said...

I'm currently experiencing my worst travel experience, courtesy of US Airways. Allow me to share:

The original plan was a flight from Los Angeles to New York, with a stopover in Phoenix. I made it there, but bad snowing in NY made them hold my flight to JFK for 4 hours. Ok. Reasonable enough so far.

They reopen JFK and we're told we're going. In celebration everyone boards the plane, we taxi out, and the captain informs us we're next in line.

And then he tells us they're going to be over their crew rest rules, so we can't go. There's no crew to replace them, so they cancel the flight and call it a "weather cancellation" -- absolving themselves of any necessity to pay for a hotel for my evening in Phoenix.

The next day they have me booked on a tour of the US -- to Denver, to Charlotte, then finally to New York.

42 hours after I first started my planned 7 hours of travel, I make it to LaGuardia.

They've lost my bags.

I try to file a report, but the lady behind the counter was being a real bitch, without provocation. She was also inept, and in COPYING my information she managed to misspell my first name, my last name, my street address and my telephone. The only thing she got right was the city and zipcode.

Now it's been 24 hours and although I can check the status online, the airline has no way of contacting me because of Ms. Retardotype behind the counter. I tried calling the service center to update the information, but after an hour on hold I gave up.

It's FREEZING in NY and I have no clothes or toiletries, I'm down a hotel price and have little hope of retrieving my bags without another trip to the LGA counter -- which would be faster than calling, apparently.

Let's see where it goes from here...

fern said...

Oh' that was really bad! I also wonder why they treat you like that. Anyway, Customer service isn't about being perfect. Customer service is about making things right, not just the immediate problem, but the root cause.
And it is totally about listening and care to the customer. Thanks for the post.

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