How Lufthansa Makes It Easier for Hackers to Steal Miles

A hacker stole more than 25,000 miles from my Lufthansa Miles & More account last week. Based on previous experience when reporting fraud to other companies, as I called the Miles & More U.S. phone line, I expected either to be connected with their fraud office or to be contacted by them as soon as possible, in order to get to the bottom of the incident.

Almost a week later, I’m still waiting.

Many airlines have taken measures in the last couple of years to prevent hacking of frequent-flier accounts. Lufthansa’s Star Alliance partner, United Airlines, for example, used to allow logging into an account simply with a four-digit PIN code. It no longer does, having realized that hackers have ways of figuring out such a number — after all, the possible combinations are limited.

Lufthansa, however, seems not to have received that message. You can still log into a Miles & More account with a five-digit PIN code. That was what someone — a Russian hacker, apparently — did last Monday…

Airlines wake up to benefits of mileage redemption for unsold seats

IMG_0439There are few more frustrating aspects of being loyal to an airline or a global alliance than the inability to redeem the miles you’ve worked hard to earn for what are known as award flights. There is, however, something even worse: Airlines choosing to send out flights with empty seats rather than make some of them available for mileage redemption.

I’m referring to saver award levels, not those that require double or triple miles. As it is, round-trip saver awards require as many as hundreds of thousands of miles these days.

Last week, I called out Air New Zealand, one of the worst offenders — particularly in Business Class — on Twitter. With a few hours left until its Los Angeles-London flight on Feb. 2, there were six unsold Business seats. Yet not one of them was available on miles. On the same flight the next day, 16 Business seats were open — again, no award space. The coach cabin was wide open on both days, so the carrier wasn’t protecting Business seats to accommodate a so-called oversell in economy…
 
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How not to sell hotel rooms

If you are in the hospitality business and a potential customer inquires about a product or service you are not offering at the moment, would you suggest an alternative or simply send the person away? The reservations office at the Dorchester South Beach Hotel did the latter last week, which I attributed to poorly trained staff.

I noticed on TravelZoo’s Twitter page a very attractive deal at the Dorchester, promising a room “across the street from the ocean in Miami’s trendy South Beach Art Deco District for $69 per night.” I just booked a trip to Miami in January, and though it seemed the promotion wouldn’t last that long, I thought I’d inquire anyway. I called the hotel’s in-house reservations number, and an agent named Alvaro told me the low rate was valid only through late October…

Travel companies teach customer-service lessons

One of the biggest misconceptions about the travel industry is that it offers the worst customer service around. In fact, in the last couple of years, airline and hotel companies have achieved significant improvements, and it would be wise for other businesses to watch and learn.

Regular readers of this column can testify that I’m no apologist for the travel sector — I try to point out both good and bad practices, though the criticism may sometimes outweigh the praise. But I get angry when I read or hear in the media that airlines are synonymous with bad customer service…

Hilton embraces ‘games-players’

It’s no secret in the hotel loyalty business that Hilton HHonors has been probably the least creative and attractive among the major programs in recent years. Fortunately, its management has recognized that weakness and begun to address it, albeit cautiously.

While competitors such as Starwood, which includes the Sheraton, Westin and other brands, and to a lesser extent the InterContinental Hotel Groups Priority Club, came up with various promotions quarter after quarter, Hilton’s strategy seemed heavily reliant on name-recognition and reputation…