Tidbits from Joe Sharkey

Yesterday’s Joe Sharkey column in the New York Times contained a couple of interesting tidbits.

First, according to an American Express survey

    [M]ore than a third [of respondents] believe it is either “somewhat” or “quite” common for business travelers to submit expense accounts with “one or more completely false or bogus charges.”

This does not surprise me in the least. Taxicab receipts are usually provided blank to travelers. Other receipts are easy to fudge. And travelers find it easy to justify ‘a little extra’ in their expense report as compensation for long days and time away from home. When oversight is poor, and there’s the expectation of insufficient scrutiny, even the best and most honest travelers may fudge. I see it every day. (One small part of my job is making sure it doesn’t happen where I work.)

Sharkey also points to a change in the way that Continental processes upgrades. I’ve been meaning to blog about this for weeks, since I first heard about the change, because it’s significant.

    Effective March 16, Continental said, priority for upgrades will be given to OnePass elite members traveling on full economy fares, based on elite status and time of check-in. Next in line will be those traveling on fares less than full economy, with priority based on elite level, then fare paid, and then time of check-in. The policy for companion travelers accompanying Platinum Elite members also is changing. Companion upgrades will be sorted by the status level of the elite member and by the time of check-in. For instance, Continental said in an e-mail message to its elite members, passengers accompanying a Platinum Elite member will be upgraded only after all other Platinum Elite members have received upgrades.

Instead of considering elite status first for at-the-airport upgrades (also known as “battlefield promotions”), Continental will first look at fare paid on the day of travel. A full fare Silver elite will trump a discount Platinum. Continental is moving towards rewarding individual pieces of revenue rather than loyalty and revenue stream. This is a huge shift.

It seems strange to me, though, because even as Delta backslid and restored full elite qualifying miles on reduced fares, Continental has held on. That means that in order to earn Platinum status, a passenger must be buying tickets with a high fare basis or traveling nearly twice as much (or buying all tickets on the Continental website, which still produces an exemption from the punitive elite qualifying miles scheme). So you’d think those high revenue platinums would get recognized regardless of the fare they’re paying on any particular day. A platinum who buys full fare tickets on business and discount fares on the occasional leisure trip gets penalized under this change.

Companion upgrades will also receive a lower priority at the airport, so that leisure trip with a spouse by the full fare business traveler gets even tougher. Good news for other elites, but a dimunition of platinum.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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