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Spoke to Gordon Bethune -- he heard my words but did not appear to listen :o(

Spoke to Gordon Bethune -- he heard my words but did not appear to listen :o(

 
Old Nov 17, 03, 8:16 am
  #1  
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Spoke to Gordon Bethune -- he heard my words but did not appear to listen :o(

Wednesday Nov. 12 I saw Gordon Bethune walking alone in Houston terminal C. I went up to him and introduced myself as a multi-year Silver elite. I stated that I enjoyed flying CO as often as possible, but was very concerned that the new elite requalifying rules (no segments and only 50% mileage accrual for discounted fares) would make it virtually impossible for me to requalify in 2004 (since I can only fly deeply discounted fares).

He told me that the 2004 changes were a business decision based on the fact that it saves CO $6 each time a ticket is booked on line vs using a reservations agent. And he said I could get 100% elite requalification mileage if I used CO.com.

I purposely made my comments as friendly as possible and thanked him, and explained that I understood this, but that in order to coordinate flights and passengers I really needed to use either a reservations agent or, preferrably, a City Ticket office agent. Thus, the CO.com option really would not be a viable alternative for me and, given that fact and the elimination of segments, would mean I'd need to fly 50,000 miles in 2004 to requalify. Unfortunately, there's no way I'll fly that much. Thus, I'll lose elite status despite planned flying approximately 30,000 miles/30 segments in 2004.

Then he told me that I should book higher fares to get the mileage. He said that it was CO's intention to make it harder to requalify and, thereby, to have fewer elites qualifying for a limited number of upgrade seats. If I requalified I'd then have a better chance of getting an upgrade.

I then said that I understood CO's desire to reward those who spent the most on their tickets, but that I wondered why CO didn't choose to give those folks additional rewards or incentives for purchasing more higher-priced tickets. I told him that as proposed the 2004 rules are a harsh blow to CO's loyal but "smaller-spending" customers. Why not let us requalify as in the past while at the same time rewarding those who do spend the most? Why "kill" the little guys?

He then again told me to try to requalify on higher-fare tickets.

I thanked him for his time and went to my plane.

I came away with the impression that he just does not appreciate how much of a blow these changes will be to a lot of loyal elites who simply can't pay the higher fares to requalify and/or don't find CO.com a viable and convenient alternative for booking tix.

He talked about the economics of $6 differences, yet he seemed oblivious to the likelihood that a large number of loyal, lower-level elites will depart for other carriers. It was as if he doesn't believe it will happen, or that he believes it's a simple matter for many/most of us to book higher fares to requalify.

All in all it was a disheartening experience talking to him.
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Old Nov 17, 03, 8:33 am
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"I am Gordo ... The Great and Powerful! ... Who are you?"

"The Great and Powerful Gordo knows why you have come! Step forward!"

"Do you presume to criticize The Great Gordo??"

"Do not arouse the wrath of The Great and Powerful Gordo!"

You should have already known what the interview confirmed: Gordo could give a rat's @$$ about anyone not paying full fare for his pathetic coach-class product.
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Old Nov 17, 03, 9:10 am
  #3  
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Mr. Bethune is trying to get business to spend more. It's as simple as that. His statements on record imply he believes that business will bend to his desires and spend more. Maybe not hundreds or thousands more, but he figures if every "business" ticket brings in an extra $100, that should keep CO humming along.

I wonder if CO has already made the same "deal" with their corporate contracts that they have with the website? In other words, full credit on all flights.

Allowing full credit on continental.com means the leisure traveller and mileage runners are unaffected. Since they can (and probably always do) book online, they will continue to get full credit and renew. So those elites are still going to be around in 2004 and still competeing with the higher-fare lower-level elites for First Class seats.

To then hold the corporate contracts hostage seems counterproductive. Now the Travel Manager might not care, but if they get enough "pushback" from those sitting in the seats, it might convince them to move to a competitor.

Then again, maybe Mr. Bethune will be proved correct. FT CO flyers are a very small percentage of all CO flyers - business and leisure - and while they will vote with their feet (if they can), a lot more might just "suck it up" and pay more, or accept loss of elite benefits because they don't have the flexibility of choice that the CO FT community does.
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Old Nov 17, 03, 9:32 am
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Whether Gordo is right or wrong, at the minimum, he is more accountable to CO's future than most CEOs having significantly set its direction in a noticeable fashion. If CO goes to bankruptcy, he will indeed get the blame regardless of any other contributing factor. If CO grows up to be a leader (in volume, size, returns, etc.) amongst the majors with more than just the claim of being the one-eyed king in the land of the blind, he will indeed be seen as a very good CEO.
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Old Nov 17, 03, 9:50 am
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Sounds like bad news for CO flyers. I have pretty much given up on CO. My miles flown next year will be no wheres near this year. I might make gold this year. One run and I make it but with minimal flying next year I see no resaon to go for it. It seems as though for now NW will do the trick for me. I am just waiting for the online games to begin with CO. If one was able to maintain status by buying online fares, than 05 could be a great year for upgrades. Time will tell whether Gordo is right or not.
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Old Nov 17, 03, 9:51 am
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Old Nov 17, 03, 10:09 am
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Although my divorce w/CO will be final soon, I think we have to give Gordon some credit here. He did stop and take the time to talk to a customer. Whether he actually listened is another story, but he did explain the reason for the new EQM's and didn't pass the buck. Unfortunately, that's more than some head honchos would do.
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Old Nov 17, 03, 10:29 am
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I think the good news in socraf's recount of Mr Bethune's message is that, for those who do quality for elite, there will be better upgrade chances.

I moved by biz to NW because as a silver elite, I hardly ever got an upgrade on CO.

This is better for silver elites.

I am also a riff-raff elite, though, so I will need to book online to keep my full mileage credit.

-First in Class
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Old Nov 17, 03, 10:46 am
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I disagree with people who say that CO is trying to "make" people spend more money. I think even Bethune realizes that no company is going to allow employees to book into higher fare classes solely so that they can get full elite miles. I think, instead, this is an effort to be able to reliably deliver upgrade benefits to CO's best customers (in revenue terms). As sort of a quid pro quo for lowering CO's ticket distribution costs and, so as to not alienate frequent leisure travellers and as a hedge against their strategy in case it does not work, CO is allowing people to get full elite miles for travel booked on Continental.com. I think that everyone must agree that the upgrade benefit has become extremely hard for people to get on a consistent basis, especially for lower level elites. I'm ok with the changes as long as continental is able to deliver better on the upgrades. Whether CO's strategy will actually result on revenue and margin gains remains to be seen...

I have to say that it's nice to hear of Bethune out "kicking the tires" once in a while. Wish he would do that in EWR once in a while. It would put a little bit of the fear of God into the employees over here...

Cheers,
Brooklynflyer
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Old Nov 17, 03, 11:20 am
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by brooklynflyer:

I have to say that it's nice to hear of Bethune out "kicking the tires" once in a while. Wish he would do that in EWR once in a while. It would put a little bit of the fear of God into the employees over here...

====

And I agree. It was nice to be able to speak with the top exec at CO, and I really did appreciate that he gave me a few minutes of his time.

As it turned out we were on the same flight to Los Angeles (he in FC, of course. Your correspondent sat in steerage) &lt;g&gt;

The flight got off to an interesting start. Pulled back from the gate and stopped. Had to return immediately so that paramedics could come on board to check on and then remove a passenger in respiratory distress.

Once that was done we pulled back again and again stopped. This time a red light in the cockpit... Maintenance checked on that.

Finally, about 45 minutes late we were able to take off.

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Old Nov 17, 03, 11:29 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by brooklynflyer:

As it turned out we were on the same flight to Los Angeles (he in FC, of course. Your correspondent sat in steerage) &lt;g&gt;

</font>
I wonder.....has Gordo ever experienced his Award Winning Coach Product? Nah....
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Old Nov 17, 03, 11:31 am
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The Great Leader certainly listened, but honestly, CO's back is against the wall on this one. To the chagrin of many FTers, the upgrade percentages for many CO Elites are unacceptably low -- as I mentioned previously, a CO supervisor once told me that the upgrade percentage rate for CO PLATINUMS is only 74%, while the NW Platinum UG rate is supposedly near NINETY percent. While some folks will inevitably get lost in the shuffle, CO is banking on the notion that an ability to better "guarantee" Elite benefits will result in more bread-and-butter high-yield customers choosing and remaining with CO for their travels.

It is interesting to note, however, that the new EQM/MQM system will have differing effects on DL and CO: DL's Medallion ranks will INCREASE, while CO's Elite ranks will decrease as a result of the change (according to comments from both carriers).

------------------
Has YOUR airline won an award lately?

[This message has been edited by avek00 (edited Nov 17, 2003).]
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Old Nov 17, 03, 11:32 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by SEA_Tigger:
Allowing full credit on continental.com means the leisure traveller and mileage runners are unaffected. Since they can (and probably always do) book online, they will continue to get full credit and renew. So those elites are still going to be around in 2004 and still competeing with the higher-fare lower-level elites for First Class seats.</font>
Yeah, but he does't see the potential emotional response to these changes. I can, and do often, book on CO.com. I will probably not continue to use CO.com or Continental metal if I am able to get comped over to NW. I could benefit greatly in '05 from use of the website next year. However, I (A)will not be suporting CO based on the principle of these changes, and (B)don't trust Gordo or the management at CO to not change something again, making my status even less valuable.

He fails to realize he has lost a good many of his FF's trust with this (and many previous) changes.


K
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Old Nov 17, 03, 11:35 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by Kaeokai:
Yeah, but he does't see the potential emotional response to these changes. I can, and do often, book on CO.com. I will probably not continue to use CO.com or Continental metal if I am able to get comped over to NW. I could benefit greatly in '05 from use of the website next year. However, I (A)will not be suporting CO based on the principle of these changes, and (B)don't trust Gordo or the management at CO to not change something again, making my status even less valuable.

He fails to realize he has lost a good many of his FF's trust with this (and many previous) changes.


K
</font>
Again, CO realizes that some people will get lost in the transition -- in fact, CO is BANKING on that taking place, so that there wll be less overall competition for Elite perks.

------------------
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Old Nov 17, 03, 11:42 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by brooklynflyer:
I disagree with people who say that CO is trying to "make" people spend more money. I think even Bethune realizes that no company is going to allow employees to book into higher fare classes solely so that they can get full elite miles.</font>
Not so sure.

He is on record stating that he believes that if one needs to be in SFO the following day, they will pay $1800.

Is it too much of a stretch to believe that Mr. Bethune thinks that business will spend an extra $100 a ticket to maintain elite status - an elite status he is waving around as a justification to spend more to fly CO?

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">
I think, instead, this is an effort to be able to reliably deliver upgrade benefits to CO's best customers (in revenue terms). </font>
Yet by allowing the "riff-raff" elites to continue to be elites if they book online (and I bet most do, since you get miles for the purchase), the only elites they are reducing are those that fly on a mix of low leisure and high business fares and demand full credit for those leisure flights. Travellers who generate more revenue to CO then the "riff-raffs" who always fly on low fares.

Now in theory this will change in 2005, when the "riff raff" get cut off. Though if CO changes their mind, again, and continues to offer full credit, then the problem continues.

[This message has been edited by SEA_Tigger (edited Nov 17, 2003).]
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