# Saturday, June 7, 2003

Las Vegas, Nevada (Speaking at Advisor DevCon)

Wow I was only home for 24 hours. I got into New York in the afternoon yesterday: went to the office, went home to eat, do laundry and unpack and repack. I got up this morning (after sleeping for 10 hours- more than the last few days in Dallas combined) to ride a 40k bike training course with my teammate Tom Halligan. The next round of triathlons comes up in August. I need to get the ball rolling. The training today was good, we did 22 minute 10K splits, about 2 minutes off where I want to be. It was cold and raining (when did New York turn into Seattle?) and a woman's 10K run was also going on so they had to stop us a few times. That was good since I was not as strong as I should have been due to my leg injury last Saturday on the same course (Outer loop in Central Park). Also I did not sleep enough in Dallas, nor was my nutrition in order. I did not get enough calories (not anywhere near my 4000 a day minimum) and my carb to protein ratio was way off. 

Ok, let me address that here, since everyone who I meet asks. I eat 4000 calories a day, minimum. I am trying to gain weight. I am 5'8 and weigh 170 lbs. My body fat ratio is 10%. I want to put on another 10lbs of muscle. I have been working on this goal for over a year (since April 2002) with very slow progress (which is ok, too many people gain muscle too fast). What is happening is that I am gaining muscle and losing fat without any weight change, I went from about 15% body fat 18 months ago to 10% today. I basically lift for an hour a day 3 days a week. I also work on the swimming, biking and running between 6-10 hours a week, depending on my schedule. I am prehaps more obsessive about my climbing, triathlons and trekking than computers.

Ok, it is also time for me to rant about just how much American Airlines sucks. I have flown over 750,000 miles with American in the last 8 years and have well over a million frequent flyer miles in my account. I have so many issues with American, but this is the last straw. Having never written a letter to American in the past, here is a copy of the letter I wrote on the plane:

Saturday June 7th, 2003


To Whom It May Concern:


            I have been a loyal American Airlines top-tier customer for several years now. I am not the type of person to complain and this is the first letter of dissatisfaction I have ever written. A few months ago I received a letter in the mail saying that as a Platinum customer I am entitled to unlimited domestic upgrades when you purchase a coach ticket. With this new benefit in place, my profile on American says to always request an upgrade.

            Today I have a flight from Newark to St. Louis, connecting to my final destination, Las Vegas. I flew American Airlines over competitors who offer cheaper fairs like JetBlue because I can upgrade for free and utilize the AAdvantage program even though I have to connect and spend more money. I was notified that my upgrades went through. When I checked in for the flight, I was informed the fair I purchased on AA.com did not qualify for the free upgrade program and I would have to fly coach. While annoying, this was expected since I have flown domestically several times this year since the program went into effect and have never once had a ticket that qualified. Compare that to other airlines. A friend of mine has status on Northwest airlines and all domestic flights, regardless if they are a “y-class” code or not are automatically upgraded. While this misleading program is a problem, it is not the purpose of this letter.

            I happily move my ticket to coach for the Newark-St. Louis leg but I was told that I was not able to be checked in on the St. Louis to Las Vegas flight since the flight was oversold by 11 tickets in coach and the only way on the flight would be to purchase two upgrade stickers for $100 to keep my upgrade. When I was upgraded, my seat in coach was given away, not allowing me to move down to coach. I asked if there were any people in coach holding a ticket with an upgrade request to free a seat for me. I also asked that since I had Platinum status and have flown 10,000 miles with the airline in the last 2 weeks, would I be on the front of the standby line. This information was never provided to me and the agent said that she could not get it from the system. The check-in agent was in-effect powerless to help me and kept reminding me that this was my fault. When I told her that I have flown over 100,000 miles in the last 18 months and have been an Exec Platinum or Platinum cardholder since 1997, her response was that in order to get to Platinum, I know how the upgrade game works. 

            I find it totally unacceptable that a benefit program is so misleading and then in addition it causes me to have to pay $100 just to make my flight. I usually fly on other airlines a few times a year and have always have had better treatment. In addition, the fact that your agents are unable to help a top-tier customer is a sad state of affairs considering the economic situation of American Airlines. This action has driven me to search for another airline to do business with. I was not asking for a free upgrade (even though it should have been offered), I was more than willing to fly coach, but the system would not allow the agent to work with me, the only two options presented to me were to purchase an upgrade for $100 or be the 12th person on standby for coach.        

            For the most part I have been satisfied with American Airlines in the past, but this action just shows me how American treats a top-tier customer in a situation where it has the power to be a little flexible.



                                                                                    Stephen Forte


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