The little nuisances of travel purchases and loyalty programs rear their ugly heads when it comes time to cancel, change, or follow-up on missing credit, points, miles, and refunds.
I know some of you out there must be like me and blow off some miles, points, or cash now and then just because it is too time consuming to track down the travel details and receipts to seek a fair solution.
As consumers we play with a double-edged sword on the travel field. We have an expectation that we will receive benefits automatically and we trust our points and miles will post correctly without our intervention. The sharper edge of travel is when we need personalized attention and just want a rational response to exigent circumstances that require a change of travel plans.
All too often we then face the travel rule book known as the “terms and conditions” or “fare rules”. Bending the rules in favor of customer service can be a daunting journey for the traveler consumer.
I have loads of travel issues going on currently that many other travelers face at some time or another.
First on my travel woes is canceling our sub-$500 V Australia tickets to Sydney, Australia next month.
Last October I landed the incredible fare launch with V Australia, the new low-cost airline for Australia and the USA. The deal was a $185 fare + $300 tax for a $485 roundtrip ticket Los Angeles – Sydney, Australia for two weeks in July.
After calling to check my ticket options I was informed that I can have a whopping $97 credit on my ticket or rebook for a change fee of $100, but the trip has to begin by October 2009. The young woman at V Australia told me it was 4am in Australia and perhaps a supervisor can provide more assistance if I call back in another five hours.
I’m pulling the cancer card and hoping to get some relief. After missing a half year of work for cancer treatment scheduled to end in September, my wife will not be excused from her classroom to use her $500 ticket to Australia for a much needed vacation in October. The Sheraton Noosa and Noosa Beach must be grand in October. I’ll have to be a sweet talker to work this one out.
Starwood Preferred Guest free weekend nights are supposed to be about planning that dream night in a favorite city. Well, I had no problem making a reservation at the lovely St. Regis San Francisco using one of my free nights earned last month (I am currently at 7 free nights).
The lowest room rate currently listed for the St. Regis San Francisco comes in at $397 all-in per night for a AAA rate Superior room. On the other rate extreme is $1,017 all-in per night for a high floor Metropolitan Suite.
So here is the part of the dream hotel stay that gives me a cold sweat. The cancellation penalty is a stellar $649 for the night if I no-show for the hotel.
Is there tax added to that?
I can imagine a San Francisco car crash (it seems I narrowly avoid one every drive into the city) and telling the ambulance driver – “Please stop off at the St. Regis so I can check-in, and then take me to the hospital.”
After 16 nights in Starwood Hotels in May 2009 I went through my points earned. The new Starwood Preferred Guest activity listing specifying hotel name and points earned or redeemed certainly is an improvement for the member tracking hotel activity.
I was missing about 8,000 points from 5 different hotel stays in May.
I probably spent close to 30 minutes with the Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum desk agents. I am confident the points will post over the next week, but tracking down points and miles is just another chore that is an inherent task in maintaining a loyalty program account.
Overcharges – Last week I paid $58 for parking at the Burlingame Parking Center for a week. That is an incredible deal for parking at San Francisco Airport. My issue was that this great deal was actually advertised as $40 per week on the sign at the parking lot entrance. The entire lot is automated so I could not complain about the overcharge when I paid the fee with my credit card.
At home I call the number on the parking lot receipt. The number is the parking lot ticketing machine company and they are simply equipment suppliers. I look up Burlingame Parking on the web. The contact number does not work as a functioning business number. The message just loops and never connects to a person.
I call the website number listed for persons needing after-hours parking lot pick-up service. I am surprised to reach the front desk of the Sheraton Gateway San Francisco Airport. I guess Burlingame Parking is owned by the hotel owners. I explain that I have been overcharged and she connects me with a hotel accountant. Supposedly I will receive a credit to my credit card.
Something else I need to follow-up on and verify next month.
(Update: the credit posted on my card within one day of my call.)
OMG – I am Passport-less
My passport expired two weeks ago. I am trapped in the USA.
Trying to get an appointment at the San Francisco Passport Agency, but the process requires having a ticket for a trip out of the country within 14 days.
The passport renewal fee is $75 whether by mail or in person at an agency.
There is a $60 expedite fee for mail-in applications for passports and this speeds up the process from 4 to 6 weeks down to 2 to 3 weeks.
Alternatively, there is only a $25 fee to get a same-day passport at a U.S. Passport Agency.
I have a feeling I won’t be canceling that July 2009 travel V Australia ticket just yet.