Reader Questions: Ritz-Carlton Rewards Status Buy Back, Thai Award Surcharges, Air China Award Segment Gone, Oil Tanks No Effect On Fuel Surcharges & Cannot Purchase United Ticket In Finland

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Here are five reader questions from the past week that I have decided to reply to publicly. You can always email me, leave a note or private message on Facebook, or Tweet me with your questions.

Reader Questions January 31 2015

Note that I can shorten the emails and edit them for clarity. I always remove the personal information of both the reader and front line employees. If there are managers involved, I may leave their names intact, however.

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Kapil’s question about Ritz-Carlton’s loyalty program

Does the Ritz-Carlton loyalty program also allow you a buy back for the last status held?

There is really no difference between the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott Rewards programs. It is merely a flag in your account what program member it displays you to be.

If they don’t allow you to purchase back the status under the Ritz-Carlton “program”, just ask them to switch you over to Marriott Rewards, do the purchase and ask them to switch you back to Ritz-Carlton one.

Advertising these two programs and keeping them separate makes very little sense. Marriott must feel that having some other brands associate with Ritz-Carlton would taint the brand.

You can access my piece for Marriott Rewards Status By Back here.

Paul’s question about taxes/fees on Thai award ticket that are higher than paid fare

I have enough points to cover a return flight to Bangkok however the additional costs and charges are more than a special airfare offered by Thai for a return booking.

This is one of the unintended consequences of those nasty fuel/carrier imposed surcharges. Sometimes the airlines must tinker with the amounts for sale fares because otherwise the base fare amount would need to be negative yet they continue to collect the full amounts for award tickets.

READ MORE: READER QUESTIONS: Expedia Best Rate Guarantee Woes, What Program In Singapore & 2 Extra SPG Nights Worth Getting SNA’s?

Question from Wu regarding US Airways issued award ticket and Air China segment that was dropped

I booked an award ticket from US airways with Air China and TAP Portugal. I got Eticket number and an US airway reservation code after I pay tax and miles.

But when I call Air China they told me US airway didn’t actually book the seat from air china. So in this case I can’t get board.

I called us airways several times but they didn’t successfully book the seat for me. They just tell me wait and wait.

My question is:

1. Shoiuld US airways be responsable to carry me to my destination on the specified date on the ticket?

2. If air china award seat is unavailable while they finally fixed this problem, should they book a paid seat for me ? Or do they have the right to cancel the ticket?

3. Which law or regulation is suitable in this case?

US Airways need to contact their Air China liaison to have the segment(s) reconfirmed. The problem is that US Airways is now member of the Oneworld and Air China is in Star Alliance, but they can resolve this issue for you regardless.

It is really US Airways responsibility as the airline that issued the ticket to resolve the problem.

There has been many issued with dropped Air China award segments (my friend had exactly the same problem), so this issue appears to be widespread. May be someone at Air China is just canceling award seats on full flights where they could sell revenue seats (this would be so against rules but who knows what they are really doing) or someone else is manipulating with these segments and canceling them.

It really depends where the ticket was issued, for what routing and where you live, what laws and regulations apply.

READ MORE: READER QUESTIONS: Accor Promo Issues, Securing IHG Rewards Club Platinum Status & Hilton Elite Benefits On Gifted Stay

Lower price of the fuel and no change in fuel surcharges?

With the recent enormous drop in oil prices over the last few months, the response from airlines in decreasing their ‘fuel/tax’ surcharges has been complete silence. I’d welcome if there’s any response that can be obtained on what actions they will take on these…. and perhaps finally either move these supposed fuel surcharges to the ticket prices, or call them what they are i.e. airline imposed additional ticket/flight charges.

The price of the fuel and the fuel/carrier imposed surcharges that the airline collect have very little, if anything, to do with each other.

The airlines charge these to screw (pardon my language but I feel very strongly about this issue) companies that have negotiated discounts that only apply for the base fare, not having to pay possible travel agent commissions on the surcharge amounts and to hit the loyalty program members with these junk fees at the time they use their miles for “free” tickets.

Why cannot use credit card issued in Finland to purchase airline ticket on United.com?

I have an interesting question.Do you happen to know why one cannot purchase an airline ticket using a credit card issued in Finland on United.com?

You can choose any of the other Nordic contries at the time of purchase, but Finland is not in the list. We tried few tricks, but all the purchases were unsuccessful at the end.

We were able to get the ticket issued by using he Skyscanner search first and then going through an outside agent.

United doesn’t fly to Finland, but that shouldn’t prevent them selling tickets,

You may found that checking number of websites can yield wildly different prices for exactly for the same flights normally depending of the SITI and SOTO (SITI = Sold Inside Ticketed Inside and SOTO – Sold Outside Ticketed Outside) requirements. Arline can also control the fare bucket availability based on the POS (Point of Sale) used.

The usual solution is to use a online travel agent (OTA) that is present in the market that the flight originates from. I often use Expedia as they are present in many different markets and don’t care where the credit card is issued that you use for the purchase (I have payment products issued in 5 different countries).

Couple of weeks back, I purchased BKK-HKG-BKK in Cathay Pacific’s business class. Cathay’s own website was selling the flights for 18K THB where Expedia’s Thailand website had the price at 14K THB (very competitively priced!). This is not unusual.

Also, the airlines websites are often picky what payment products they accept and sometimes may require you to present these at the time of check in. There is no such a requirement for tickets issued by OTA’s.

Conclusion

Keep the emails and messages coming. I will have these READER QUESTION pieces at least once a week (sometimes more often) and try to cover issues that would help LoyaltyLobby readers.

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