Frequent-flyer-miles Catch 22

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An impossible situation occurred in September ’06 while I was booking a February ’07 air trip. My wife, Tina, and I would fly Delta from New York to Amsterdam, then take KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to Hong Kong, take a cruise, then fly out of Bangkok to Amsterdam and back to New York.

After much difficulty, we were able to hold two business-class tickets through Delta’s SkyMile program using KLM. However, we were short 78,000 frequent-flyer miles, so we wished to transfer 78,000 Starpoints from our Starwood American Express program.

The Delta program cancels the hold after 48 hours, since their cooperating airline KLM won’t hold reservations after 48 hours without ticketing, but the Starwood program takes two to four weeks to transfer points. Furthermore, it limits transfers to 32,000 Starpoints daily, which in our case would have translated into more than 48 hours.

On both counts, we lost our time-sensitive flight reservations to meet our cruise. All companies involved were sympathetically helpless to solve this conundrum, citing “corporate policy” and agreements between Starwood and Delta.

Now I have my points trapped in the Delta program that cannot be used with a carrier that is user-friendly. What can we do? Are other travelers caught up in this problem?

CALVIN H. HABER

Woodmere, NY

ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Delta Air Lines (1020 Delta Blvd., Dept. 978, Atlanta, GA 30320), KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (a SkyTeam Alliance partner with Northwest Airlines, 2700 Lone Oak Pkwy., Eagan, MN 55121) and Starwood Resorts (1111 Westchester Ave., White Plains, NY 10604) and received the following replies.

I’ve read the letters, but am not sure what the passenger is asking for at this point.

Based on what I believe I read, it took the customer three days to transfer enough miles to acquire the tickets, but the hold on the tickets lasted only two days. When he had sufficient miles in his account, the tickets were gone.

I will pass this letter over to customer care, but, again, I’m not sure what he’s looking for at this point.

ANTHONY L. BLACK, Corporate Communications Sr. Mgr., Media Relations, Delta Air Lines,

Thank you for your interest in Northwest Airlines. As this is a matter involving Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles frequent-flyer program, we would respectfully suggest that you direct this inquiry to them. The customer involved was a SkyMiles member, and Delta manages the relationships, contracts and terms and conditions associated with their various SkyMiles air and credit card partners.

KURT EBENHOCH, Director, Media Relations, Northwest Airlines

ITN received an e-mail from Starwood Resorts with instructions to contact their Public Relations department. ITN followed the instructions and received no reply.

In a follow-up, Mr. Haber told ITN that he and his wife did take the cruise but did not get the air dates they wanted; they extended their trip with a post-cruise week in Bangkok. He used Delta air miles after first transferring Starpoints to his Delta account.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

An impossible situation occurred in September ’06 while I was booking a February ’07 air trip. My wife, Tina, and I would fly Delta from New York to Amsterdam, then take KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to Hong Kong, take a cruise, then fly out of Bangkok to Amsterdam and back to New York.

After much difficulty, we were able to hold two business-class tickets through Delta’s SkyMile program using KLM. However, we were short 78,000 frequent-flyer miles, so we wished to transfer 78,000 Starpoints from our Starwood American Express program.

The Delta program cancels the hold after 48 hours, since their cooperating airline KLM won’t hold reservations after 48 hours without ticketing, but the Starwood program takes two to four weeks to transfer points. Furthermore, it limits transfers to 32,000 Starpoints daily, which in our case would have translated into more than 48 hours.

On both counts, we lost our time-sensitive flight reservations to meet our cruise. All companies involved were sympathetically helpless to solve this conundrum, citing “corporate policy” and agreements between Starwood and Delta.

Now I have my points trapped in the Delta program that cannot be used with a carrier that is user-friendly. What can we do? Are other travelers caught up in this problem?

CALVIN H. HABER

Woodmere, NY

ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Delta Air Lines (1020 Delta Blvd., Dept. 978, Atlanta, GA 30320), KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (a SkyTeam Alliance partner with Northwest Airlines, 2700 Lone Oak Pkwy., Eagan, MN 55121) and Starwood Resorts (1111 Westchester Ave., White Plains, NY 10604) and received the following replies.

I’ve read the letters, but am not sure what the passenger is asking for at this point.

Based on what I believe I read, it took the customer three days to transfer enough miles to acquire the tickets, but the hold on the tickets lasted only two days. When he had sufficient miles in his account, the tickets were gone.

I will pass this letter over to customer care, but, again, I’m not sure what he’s looking for at this point.

ANTHONY L. BLACK, Corporate Communications Sr. Mgr., Media Relations, Delta Air Lines,

Thank you for your interest in Northwest Airlines. As this is a matter involving Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles frequent-flyer program, we would respectfully suggest that you direct this inquiry to them. The customer involved was a SkyMiles member, and Delta manages the relationships, contracts and terms and conditions associated with their various SkyMiles air and credit card partners.

KURT EBENHOCH, Director, Media Relations, Northwest Airlines

ITN received an e-mail from Starwood Resorts with instructions to contact their Public Relations department. ITN followed the instructions and received no reply.

In a follow-up, Mr. Haber told ITN that he and his wife did take the cruise but did not get the air dates they wanted; they extended their trip with a post-cruise week in Bangkok. He used Delta air miles after first transferring Starpoints to his Delta account.