If you think frequent flyer programs are rigged at times, a lawsuit filed recently against United Airlines may confirm your fears.
Robert Gordon of Jersey City says he tried to use his United miles to book a three-day stay at a hotel during a trip to Japan. Turned out he didn’t have enough miles. But when his friend and fellow traveler Melissa Chan—who had more United miles in her account–tried to do the same minutes later, she found the award required her to surrender even more miles.
When Gordon called United to complain, he said he was told the airline uses an algorithm that charges frequent flyer members with more miles in their accounts to spend more miles for an award than members with fewer miles.
And so now we have a lawsuit. For its part, United told the Chicago Tribune the suit is—quote—without merit both factually and legally. Unquote.
Other airlines have admitted to showing different results to different people based on their loyalty to the airline.
But charging your best customers more?
That’s just plain wrong.
Every day, more than 200,000 taxi passengers in New York City use their credit or debit cards to pay fares by swiping their card through a simple device in the back seat of their cab. Now, if you have an American Express card that earns Membership Points, you have another option.
Many Amex cardholders earn an Amex “membership point” with every dollar they spend. Those points can be turned into airline tickets, hotel rooms, restaurant certificates, and hundreds of other items.
Now, New York cabs equipped with a VeriFone systems—and that’s what more than 7,000 cabs there have—will let Amex card holders pay for their rides with their points. You just swipe your Amex card, and a screen pops up telling you how many points you’ll have to give up for your ride. And it’ll let you know if you have sufficient points in your account to cover your tab.
You can choose to do so or not.
Until I learn how many points you have to sacrifice per dollar, I can’t say whether this is a good deal or not. But it sure is any easy way to burn some points and save some bucks.
Who says there is no free ride in life?
The famous, late, gonzo journalist who made his reputation as a hard-drinking, drug-consuming writer with Rolling Stone, Hunter S. Thompson, would be delighted. He lived outside of Aspen, the glitzy ski resort in Colorado where the city council recently approved legislation that will allow for the sale of recreational marijuana
Each municipality in Colorado gets to vote on whether to –in effect—legalize marijuana or not, and Aspen came down on the side of “yes.” However the number of retailers will be capped at the number of existing medical marijuana facilities currently operating until January first of 2015, when competitors can obtain permission to open up new shops.
It’s funny—some cities in The Netherlands are banning the country’s famous “coffee shops” that were permitted to sell dozens of brands of dope while places like Aspen take an opposite tack. Footnote to fans of Amsterdam: earlier this year, that city decided to continue to allow those establishments to continue.
In Aspen, meanwhile, one city council member said, “It would be nice to see some kind of non-alcohol-serving places to consume marijuana, like some kind of coffee-shop atmosphere.”
Amsterdam could be the model. Meanwhile, remember if you’re in Colorado, the state’s laws aren’t uniform. Check each town before you light up.
Starting next summer, Norwegian Air Shuttle will launch low-cost flights that will undercut the competition by hundreds of dollars. Over the decades, deeply discounted, trans-Atlantic airlines have started up and then fallen by the wayside—think Peoples Express and Laker Airways, among others.
But the discount carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle would like to be the first to succeed, and the airline’s CEO placed a very big bet last year when he ordered an astounding 222 planes from Airbus and Boeing. And you can thank the new, Boeing 787 Dreamliner for this revolution in airfares.
According to the CEO of Norwegian Air Shuttle, the 787s, with their carbon composite bodies and more efficient engines, make profits possible. The airline will soon receive its third 787 and has opened a crew base in Bangkok, Thailand, and intends to do the same in Fort Lauderdale and New York.
It’s clear the airline wants to capture the business of Americans seeking low fares to not only Europe but also Asia. All good, I say.
For months, New York State has been trying to shut down the rental of private apartments in New York City by sites such as Airbnb. State law prohibits the rental of almost all apartments in NY for less than 30 days. But a few weeks ago, consumers won a victory when New York’s Environmental Control Board ruled that as long as one permanent occupant of a rental unit is present during a stay, the short-term rental law doesn’t apply.
But the battle isn’t over.
New York’s top prosecutor is demanding Airbnb turn over data on city residents who have listed their properties on the popular site. And the city’s tourism agency, NYC & Company, issued a statement saying private rentals deprives the city of tax revenue and offers no consumer protection against fire and health-code violations.
I travel frequently to Manhattan—used to live there, in fact. And I know it’s very difficult to find hotel rooms most of the year there, and when you do, the price is usually sky high.
I wonder if private renters paid lodging taxes if the city would change its tune? Sites such as Airbnb, Flipkey.com, and housetrip.com offer much-needed alternatives to hotels.