Jared at Online Travel Review asks an interesting question — “as passengers on award tickets, do we have any right to complain about any aspect of our trip, other than getting to our destination safely and on-time?” He basically wonders whether passengers on award tickets, especially in premium cabins, should be complaining about the service, food, etc.
To me the answer is simple: yes! If you’re on an award ticket, you’re entitled to all the same services as someone on a revenue ticket. I’ll take it one step further — it doesn’t matter how you got into a cabin, once you’re there, you should be treated equally well. Now, I have no problem with giving meal priority to an invitation only top tier flyer or thanking them for their loyalty, though on the whole everyone — from a full fare customer to a non-revenue employee — should expect the stated benefits and good service that the airlines promise to deliver.
Not only is this true in theory, but also in practice. I’ve flown dozens of airlines in premium cabins on award tickets. Not once have I felt like I’ve been treated as a “second class” citizen. I’ve always gotten my meal choice and been thanked for my business, so I think the airlines definitely side with me on this. Heck, United even lists award passengers as “full fare” passengers on the manifest, in my experience.
I guess the bigger question here is really why single out award passengers? What about those that upgraded from business class to first class? What about those that booked a cheap $2,000 one-way first class ticket nested out of an Asian city with especially low fares? What about those on cheap round the world first class tickets? And what about differentiating between those that paid out of pocket vs. those that have a company footing their bill? I mean, ultimately I think someone that works for a company with a huge, heavily discounted corporate contract (where they have no control over the airline they fly) has less of a right to complain than a leisure passenger spending money out of pocket to fly a given product. That being said, I think both parties have a right to complain, and equally so.
Lastly, Jared brings up my recent post about Singapore’s arrogance about premium cabin awards on Singapore Airlines:
Do we have a right to complain if an airline doesn’t make “enough” seats available for reward travel (at least at the base redemption level)? Not to call out Lucky (who, I can’t say enough, is pretty brilliant about this whole thing), but he did say a couple of weeks ago that he found Singapore Airlines to be “arrogant” for blocking award redemption on SkySuites on their A380s. Is that arrogance?
It’s actually not necessarily the SkySuites that I have a problem with, but more business class. Singapore Airlines has had a policy of not offering award redemptions on aircraft featuring the new product. I can live with airlines being very stingy, offering maybe one seat per flight, but my issue with Singapore is that they don’t release any award seats to Star Alliance partners on those aircraft, which now comprise a majority of their longhaul fleet. At what point is a “new” product not new anymore? Singapore voluntarily joined the Star Alliance, allowing members to earn and redeem miles on more airlines. They’re definitely not being very friendly on the redemption side. I do happen to think it’s very arrogant of an airline to never release award seats, especially when there are plenty of business class products out there that are just as good. It says to me “we’re too good to allow award passengers in our cabin” and “we don’t belong to no stinkin’ alliance.” Neither should be the case.
That being said, I’ll be enjoying my Singapore Airlines A380 business class flight from Los Angeles to Singapore via Tokyo come May.