Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The UpgrAAde

My original job description did not necessarily include a lot of traveling. Like anyone looking for work I indicated flexibility in saying I would accept whatever level of travel the position came with. In a tough economy the travel budgets were thin and being a rookie meant staying close to home and under watchful eyes. As the job evolved I ended up today managing a western United States territory.

Living near DFW Airport in suburban Dallas/Ft. Worth and having previously worked for American Airlines they were the natural choice for my preferred airline. It helped also that my employer enjoys a corporate discount program with them. That means that I am in compliance with policy and get to earn miles for nearly all of my travel. Sweet.

As can happen sometimes emergency projects pop up and somebody has to step up and help bring in the win. I ended up traveling from one side of the country to the other as a true road warrior over a span of nearly four weeks. One leg of the trip found me in Tampa, Florida from where I would fly home, swap out a fresh suitcase and keep going to the next stop on the itinerary. At the Tampa airport that Sunday evening I was checking in at the automated kiosk as normal when a different screen popped up, breaking the anticipated rhythm of the transaction.

For only $90, my own money of course, I could upgrade to First Class for the two hour flight home. Bag fee waived, dinner included, it seemed like a pretty good deal until the fine print starting hitting me in the face. I was booked for the 6:30PM departure but had arrived in time for the 4:00PM flight. I had already bought my upgrade and proceeded to the gate where I decided to see if I could get the earlier flight.

Yes, they said, I could stand by for the earlier flight but it would only be for the first available seat. It did not guarantee First Class. In fact, the way it was explained to me First Class was not an option at all. I would forfeit the $90 all together. There would be no refund for a service not only unused but declined!

What a one-way deal! They take the money, make it specific to a particular flight and won't honor the option of at least a stand-by for a different departure? I'd have to buy another upgrade option for the earlier flight but guess what? It wasn't on offer for that one, only the flight I was originally booked for. I'd already spent the money so I waited for my original flight and flew home.

I did a little sleuthing and discovered the UpgrAAde is only offered on flights that are basically hurting for business. Either the overall load factor is down meaning any extra dollar will do or they have unclaimed seats in First Class and, again, will take what they can get but ONLY on the flight THEY choose.

Please. Ninety bucks is ninety bucks; who do they know that will buy an UpGrAAde for each flight to cover the spread and end up using only one? It should at least be good for that segment on that day. Then came the final insult - no bonus miles. That settled it.

Never again. I appreciate the extra room of First Class but for only a two hour flight and the restrictions it is essentially not worth it. And our corporate policy recently changed to book the cheapest flight in the market; previously we were restricted only to the cheapest nonstop.

Gotta go!

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