The Final Draft - A letter to Mr Seigel from a US1

Squonk

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Aug 20, 2002
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The author of this letter granted permission to share it in an effort to express the feelings of this Chairman Preferred customer. It is his desire to share this information with customers and employees alike so that we can gain a better perspective from one of our most loyal customers.
September 3, 2002
David N. Seigel
President and CEO
USAirways, Inc.
12345 Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22227
Re: USAirways' Fare Changes Anger Many
USA Today August 29, 2002
Dear Mr. Seigel:
I had the opportunity to read the comments attributed to Senior Vice President of Marketing B. Ben Baldanza in USA Today on August 29, 2002. If he was quoted accurately, his comments were an affront and an insult to every USAirways' preferred flyer who supported USAirways for years. Under Mr. Baldanza's theory, and presumably yours, "loyalty" as of January 1, 2003, will be based on the price of a ticket and not how often you fly. Thus, a traveler on USAirways who spends $10,000 per year on nonrefundable tickets will not be a loyal customer because they didn't spend $10,000 on business fare tickets. USAirways seeks to penalize those of us who fly weeky and consistently on nonrefundable tickets by denying us the ability to reach a preferred status level.
USA Today quoted Mr. Baldanza as saying, "Someone who flies a lot isn't necessarily loyal if what they're doing is buying the lowest-priced ticket each and every time they fly. That's not necessarily the kind of loyalty we want to reward." I have news for you. It is precisely the people who fly regularly and who have flown for years on nonrefundable tickets that should be rewarded. It is people like myself who have gone out of our way to choose USAirways even when your nonrefundable fare was not the lowest in the market and when travel time was twice as long as your competitor. It is this group of loyal customers who will bring USAirways back to viability. But how would Mr. Baldanza understand loyalty to USAirways when he has only been with the company for about nine months.
The last time I looked, the only premium service USAirways offered was an aluminum tube with a seat designed to move a traveler from Point A to Point B. Other than free beverages and a slightly wider seat in first class, there is little difference between the product USAirways offers versus that of its competitors. For some reason, your group apparently believes that a customer should spend $700.00 for a flight from DCA-ALB to demonstrate loyalty. And for this type of one-way loyalty, the customer gets to ride in a cramped Dash 8 and suffer substantially increased travel time. With this type of strategy, I don't see much future for this airline or Mr. Baldanza.
Company loyalty should also travel from the top downward. Leisure flying benefits for corporate officers and families, at a time when USAirways is in bankruptcy, seeking concessions from employees and looking to stimulate business is disingenuous. One must asked how USAirways justifies allowing corporate officers and their families to fly in first class for free at the expense of paying customers. I understand that a USAirways vice president recently flew to the islands for free with three family members in first class. It is my further understanding that each ticket, if purchased by a regular traveler, would have been in the neighborhood of $1200.00 per ticket. If my information is correct, this suggests reduction in costs and expenses applies to everyone but corporate management. Where's the loyalty here?
I stopped flying USAirways on July 9, 2002, because of repeated failures in your service and fare structure. I intended on reevaluating my decision in January 2003. Mr. Baldanza's comments closed the door on that reevaluation. I am now actively encouraging all of my chairman's preferred, gold and silver colleagues to stop flying USAirways until the "loyalty" policy is reversed. I am going to actively lobby DOT to reevaluate USAirways' failure to use the jet slots it holds from ALB-DCA. I am going to encourage my representatives and senators to ask DOT to take those slots away and give them to a carrier willing to provide jet service at a reasonable fare in that market. After reading Mr. Baldanza's insulting comments, I am convinced USAirways doesn't deserve loyalty in any way, shape or form.
Sincerely,
Stephen G. DeNigris, Esq.
Chairman's Preferred Customer
-END-
 

TomBascom

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Here's my latest $0.02 to Mr Baldanza on the topic:

Mr. Baldanza,

I wrote to you last week to express my initial dismay at the changes that were announced on 8/27. Your response and subsequent comments in the press have only added to my sense of outrage. But I've had a long and fruitful relationship with US Airways so I'm going to try one more time.

I have been flying US Airways for many years. As you can tell I have been a Dividend Miles member (XXXXXXX) and at the Chairman's Preferred level for some time. Last year I flew 134,000 miles on US Airways -- quite a lot of that was after 9/11. (FYI I also flew around 75,000 miles on Continental, Northwest and United) This year I made it to Chairman's in June. I travel on business 95% of the time. But you do not consider me the sort of "business traveler" that you wish to have flying your airline because I am able to plan ahead, be responsible with my customer's money and buy "discount" tickets.

I have often chosen to fly on US Airways when alternative airlines offered better schedules. Or more convenient airports. Even when the price has been better elsewhere -- but not when there is a dramatic price differential. I'm in business. I have a responsibility to my company and my clients to use their money wisely. I think that it is a wise use of that money to spend a little bit more to fly on an airline where, in the event of unforeseen problems, I can quickly and easily work through those problems with a dedicated phone line. I think that it is a wise use of that money for me to arrive at the job in an upbeat, happy and rested state of mind because I was able to enjoy a comfortable seat and, if I was lucky, a small snack or maybe even a meal along the way. I believe that it is worth a little something to be able to plug in my laptop and work at any seat on the plane (you still need to retrofit or eliminate the Boeings...) I think that it is a wise use of that money to travel on an airline that affords me priority check-in and early boarding so that my wait times are minimized. These things are worth extra personal inconvenience to me and a small amount of additional cost to my company and my customers.

I have sacrificed innumerable weekends and evenings with my family in order to fly US Airways when other carriers offered schedules that were more family friendly. Why did I do this? Because I thought that it was worth it to accrue miles in your FF program that I could use with my family to enjoy vacation travel. I had even become so enamored of your airline that I've been purchasing vacation travel for family trips -- my own tickets in order to earn miles and status as well as family tickets so that they too could enjoy the benefits of Dividend Miles. Instead of using my miles for my own travel and that of my family, I have been using those miles to bring along additional friends and extended family or sending people on trips that they would never take on their own -- touting to them the wonders of US Airways and the debunking their fears and worries about the airline. In other words I have been using my awards to evangelize new customers for you. But now you want to treat me as a second class citizen just because I chose to buy a discount ticket? Even if I were to swallow your reasoning behind "use it or lose it, no stand-by no-exceptions" as an "incentive" for business travelers (which I most emphatically do not agree with) do you seriously think that I'm going to take the risk of being subject to those policies while on vacation with my entire family and associated friends and relatives?

Your worst economic fears about who the "leisure travelers" really are are true. I don't know why this surprises you -- it has been obvious to me, and everyone in my circle of VFF friends, for years. That might be because our butts have been in your seats every week and we can easily see what is going on. It might also be because we try to make money the old fashioned way -- by earning our customers' business and providing value at a fair price.

This shouldn't be your worst fear. In fact it is your salvation if you choose to act on it. You have a golden opportunity to set the industry on its ear, take the lead and really lock in your customer base (assuming that you can somehow undo the damage that has already been done). Simply acknowledge the reality of who your customers are and what they want from you. Listen to your customers. We don't want high fares. We do want a "business airline". We're obviously willing to go to irrational lengths to keep that but one of those lengths, just as obviously, is not paying exorbitant amounts of money for a ticket. Rationalize fares -- look to airlines such as America West and, yes, even Southwest for examples -- take the blinders off and pay attention to what it is they are doing that customers love. Stop gouging your captive customers. Don't create more and more restrictive rules and ever more complex fares -- relax the ones that you have. Roll back the changes. Dump the Saturday night stay rule. Treat us with respect rather than as yet to be convicted criminals trying to cheat you out of a full fare.

Offer incentives not punishments. Make it fun to fly.

Offer additional flexibility (beyond the base changes that I list earlier) to a class of fares that is priced moderately above V & K (maybe $100). For instance, remove or soften the "stopover" restriction for those fares -- it will help business travelers who are coping with your schedule reductions among other things -- and it costs you virtually nothing. You'll need a few more incentives to make it worth $100 -- maybe allow those tickets to be waitlisted for upgrades ahead of the CP window or something (that last idea needs some thought, don't rush right out and do it...)

Offer an incentive to make changes ahead of time -- maybe something like the kiosk bonus (essentially worthless but it feels good.) Rethink the whole reissue process -- you're making a mountain out of a molehill.

Reduce or eliminate fees. Get rid of change fees, as such, altogether (Southwest doesn't have them...) A lot of these rules aren't just costing you customers -- they're driving up your labor costs. You need more highly skilled people and it takes them longer to do what ought to be simple tasks. Watching agents check people in is scary -- and having had a few of those long running transactions at the ticket counter I know that it isn't necessarily a major problem that is taking all that time.

Be radical -- eliminate F tickets & drop full Y to a sellable price level (2x V) and make the upgrade automatic. Establish a process for (voluntarily and with some sort of defined compensation) downgrading confirmed upgrades in favor of passengers paying full fares (if this really is a problem -- I can't see how it could be though because unless inventory management is totally messed up on a particular flight those people had first dibs on the seats in the first place...)

Relax capacity controls on awards. Think about phasing those controls out entirely as you recover.

If you do these things AA, DL, CO, NW, UA and the rest won't be able to touch you. No US Airways preferred flier would dream of leaving. On average, we'd be paying more than we do today and we'd be happy about it.

While you're at it bring muffins, bagels and especially cinammon rolls back to F on your morning flights. That idea you floated this morning about charging a la carte is awful :)
 

Art at ISP

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Aug 20, 2002
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They just added insult to injury. I am sitting in the DCA club because my FLL-DCA flight arrived 15 minutes early and they wouldn't let me on the 8PM shuttle because I am on a discounted ticket. The agent was apologetic--nothing he could do.

My letter will be similar to the one above, and then some.

Thanks and good luck to my friends at US Air--you're gonna need it.
 

PD

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Sep 4, 2002
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Tom they should hire you, but they won't. You make way too much sense.
 
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Squonk

Squonk

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Sorry about the original post folks. It didn't look that way when I pasted it. I'll try to edit it later. Must be the new board has a few quirks I'm not familiar with.
 

N305AS

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Lemme see if I've got this straight...Tom wants tons of flexibility, and low prices as well? Wow, what a surprise! Hey Tom, can Baldanza get you a cookie as well? Maybe fluff your pillow while he's at it? [:knockout:]

All your letter says is, "Waaaah! I want this! I want that! Gimme what I want!!!" Perhaps the idea is lost on you, but US Airways (and once again, I don't work for them) is in the business of making as much money as possible by carrying people from Point A to Point B. They think these changes will help them accomplish this goal, even though they may upset you. They are NOT in the business of accomodating your every wish, so you need to accept that and move on. Granted, you may choose to fly someone else, but I think they're willing to take the risk that you won't.
 

oldiesfan

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Aug 20, 2002
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Rocky River, OH
----------------
David N. Seigel
President and CEO
USAirways, Inc.
12345 Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22227

Re: USAirways' Fare Changes Anger Many

USA Today August 29, 2002

Dear Mr. Seigel:
----------------

Yo, "Esquire"...if you're going to send a letter to an airline CEO you might want to spell his name correctly!
 

RealityCheck

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Aug 20, 2002
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Besides the spelling error, I don't believe that letter will make it(if the postman follows the rules)..there is no 12345 Crystal Dr..there's a 2345 though..[;)]
A few good points nevertheless.
 

ClueByFour

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Aug 20, 2002
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On 9/4/2002 8:17:43 PM

They just added insult to injury. I am sitting in the DCA club because my FLL-DCA flight arrived 15 minutes early and they wouldn't let me on the 8PM shuttle because I am on a discounted ticket. The agent was apologetic--nothing he could do.

They are doing this on the Shuttle? I seem to remember the days when a shuttle ticket was a shuttle ticket, grab one any hour (so long as there is room). D-U-M-B. DL is gonna feast.
 

RealityCheck

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On 9/4/2002 10:07:52 PM

----------------
On 9/4/2002 8:17:43 PM

They just added insult to injury. I am sitting in the DCA club because my FLL-DCA flight arrived 15 minutes early and they wouldn't let me on the 8PM shuttle because I am on a discounted ticket. The agent was apologetic--nothing he could do.

They are doing this on the Shuttle? I seem to remember the days when a shuttle ticket was a shuttle ticket, grab one any hour (so long as there is room). D-U-M-B. DL is gonna feast.
----------------

I think the shuttle gate was correct(by technicality maybe but not in sense) in following the rule of the fare..Dca was the connecting city,not the brdng city, and shd be treated as such. Like Clt or PIT would be.The philosophy of the walk up passgr for the shuttle connx doesnt "technically" apply here. IMO,Its a gray area that someone chose to make B and W.
 

N305AS

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Geo-

While Southwest and jetBlue offer many of the same things that US Airways does, they do not offer some of the other amenities that US provides. Many people are quite content to fly whoever offers the lowest fare, and in many cases, US is able to match those fares from WN and B6. The only thing that is changing here is that US has decided not to grant Elite status to people who only want the lowest fare. It's entirely their right to do so, and anyone who says otherwise is simply ticked that things aren't going their way anymore.

Look, if you really feel so strongly, vote with your wallet and fly with anyone but US. And when they go under, you can spend all that money you saved on champagne to toast their demise. It just occurs to me that the anger you and others here are spouting over their changes amounts to nothing more than sour grapes.
 

geo1004

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Aug 22, 2002
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N305AS: The utter insanity of your comments that someone (in this case, Tom) who flies 200,000 miles a year does not warrant US Airways' recognition as a "valued customer" boggles the imagination.


You have been drinking too much Company Kool-Aid. You so readily accept the assumption that $700 (a hypothetical full fare for a short hop on the east coast) is the appropriate fare for a passenger to pay and that all other fares are "discounted" as if the airline was doing us a favor for offering those fares in the first place!!! Perhaps Timothy Leary taught your version of Econ 101 but simply because a price exists for a product in the marketplace does not mean the price is warranted....

Southwest and JetBlue have proven this to be the case... and they make mney! Hmmmmmm.
 

Rhino

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Aug 20, 2002
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Art & Tom, I'm not an FF for anyone, but having listened to the trials and tribulations you guys put your loved ones through in order to achieve/maintain a certain FF level! I don't understand why you do it.

Fly the cheapest fares. Charge them to a miles credit card and use your savings to buy the tickets on who you choose, when you choose.

Art, that story about you and your family coming back from SEA! You're out of your mind to put your family through that. You could have two-hopped to ISP on SWA at a reasonable hour.

What's your motivation in this?

You get what you pay for. And you guys didn't pay for any sympathy from the airline employees on this board.
 

RealityCheck

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Aug 20, 2002
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On 9/4/2002 11:04:37 PM

Perhaps Timothy Leary taught your version of Econ 101 but simply because a price exists for a product in the marketplace does not mean the price is warranted....

Southwest and JetBlue have proven this to be the case... and they make mney! Hmmmmmm.
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I'll have to remember this ecomomic precedent next time I go house hunting in Nassau County NY for a home built with the same nails, concrete, wood and asbestos as a house and land I can buy , say, in Delaware or Illinois for 1/4 the price..or when I go car shopping for A VOLVO made out of the basically same tin nuts and bolts as a Toyota but 3 times the cost. The business model for LUV may be envied to some degree, but Jet Blue isnt even in the same ball park let alone sport where major air carriers are concerned.