How to recognize and fight airline tricks

There have been hundreds of media stories in the last week about the Delta Airlines website “glitch” that overcharged members of its loyalty program on airfare across the board, but what none of those stories tells us is how to recognize and fight such airline practices — whether deliberate or accidental.

As this column has pointed out before, airlines try to overcharge customers all the time, and a decade ago, I used to fall for some of those tricks. That’s why I decided to learn the system — and that’s one of the reasons I wrote “Decoding Air Travel.” If you ever needed proof that knowledge means power, look no farther.

So how could you have known that the Delta website was charging you more than the lowest available fare? First, you have to understand what an airline tariff is: A list of all published base fares on a certain route, along with their rules and permitted routing — they carry a code corresponding to a letter of the alphabet. The second thing is the flight inventory, or the number of seats in each booking class made available on a certain flight…

Delta SkyMiles needs new leadership

Delta Airlines has cemented its status as the network U.S. carrier with the worst frequent-flier program, further devaluing its long-cheapened SkyMiles. The leadership of the program or the airline — or perhaps both — doesn’t seem to understand what the loyalty business in 2011 is about. It may be time for a new team at the top.

For more than a year, Delta failed to publish an award redemption chart for most of the world, resulting in lack of transparency about how many miles were really needed for an award ticket. When it finally unveiled a chart this week, the mileage rates on many routes were increased significantly. Many loyal SkyMiles members felt cheated and disrespected, calling Delta’s move a “stunt” in comments posted on FlyerTalk, the largest online travel community…

All your loyalty programs on one screen

Are you tired of logging in to dozens of accounts for your airline, hotel and rental car loyalty programs? It was high time a website came along that displayed all those balances on one page, so you can see quickly when your miles expire or how many more hotel points you’ve earned since your last log-in.

Last year, I received an e-mail message from one of the founders of AwardWallet.com, suggesting I write a column about the new site. I wanted to wait until I’d tried it, and that took a while, but now that it’s been a few months since I signed up, I’m glad it came along. The site supports hundreds of programs, including schemes for credit cards, dining and shopping, such as OpenTable, iDine and CVS’ ExtraCare, and it’s constantly adding new ones…