After 7 years, bye bye Skywards Gold...

Old Jan 4, 12, 11:56 am
  #1  
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After 7 years, bye bye Skywards Gold...

...our relationship just isn't what it used to be anymore!

Over the past 7 years, Skywards Gold status has continuously been diluted, while Emirates flights got more expensive and the EK terminal and flights got fuller and fuller. In 2011, I decided to start to vary my bookings with different regional airlines. Key learnings from 2011:

Worth a mention: The Ettihad option
Ettihad flights aren't as heavily loaded so you got a higher chance of having empty seat near you and much better personalized service. The airport in Abu Dhabi is a breeze in and out and the taxi ride back into Dubai isn't half bad with a 60min commute to my home in the Marina. Dubai T3 is a nightmare in the early morning and late night. I timed it several times and I get home faster when I land in Abu Dhabi than when I have to deal with Dubai T3 madness (10pm-2am).

Most feared: EK regional flights early AM
Flying Emirates to a regional destination early in the morning (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman). You have to checkin in T3 (even if you're checked in online and carry a printed boarding pass), walk all the way through notorious traffic to T1 to your boarding gate, and then get bussed to T2 where they decided to overnight the planes --> A guaranteed recipe for delayed flights and missed business meetings.

Great deal: FlyDubai and T2.
Seats always available, T2 is tiny and you'll be in and out in a jiffy, and with a little extra you can choose and guarantee the exit/bulkhead seats at time of booking. Food onboard is actually fresh/healthy and again you get to choose what to eat. 30AED movies aren't bad if you forgot to bring along your iPhone/iPad.

To top it all off: Skywards Silver is just as good.
I got downgraded to Silver. Guess what? I still get priority check in, priority baggage, and excess baggage allowance. I lose Opening doors (never used it), eGate on Skywards cards (never used as I need a picture ID when I travel with DOB, hence stayed with traditional egate ID), Access to Gold Desk (ever since they changed their numbers, I never found it), guaranteed seat reservations (a joke, never came in handy in 7 yrs), lounge access (without the privilege of bringing in a guest, I stopped using these too and rely on my AMEX/HSBC/Priority Pass to gain access!)

Is Gold worth it in 2012? Try out FlyDubai and/or Ettihad (along with Saudia, Oman, and MEA with their new checkin facilities in T1) and let me know what you think!
ayass is offline  
Old Jan 4, 12, 10:04 pm
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Emirates has become a bit of a Joke in our circle of Friends and Family that fly through the Region Regularly, either to Other destinations in the Gulf or more often recently to Africa or Europe.

We (My Immediate Family) used to be loyal EK customers, almost always flying with them if the Routing was convenient (and sometimes not so convenient) and usually in full fare J or F as we loved the service and the DXB terminal.

I'd personally gone out of the way a few times just to fly EK, such as flying LHR-DXB-BEY, suffering a 5 hour layover when two direct flights between LHR-BEY were available, with a flight time of 5 Hours :-)

But as you mentioned, The advantages of flying with EK have declined, With fares having gone so high that I can usually fly J or F on other airlines for the price EK is asking for a Y ticket on the routing's I usually fly.

As EK has gotten more expensive, the service has declined and so has DXB airport with ever busy terminal and packed longues that the shift to T3 was supposed to alleviate, but does not seem to have helped much.

Nowadays we mainly fly Qatar Airways (QR) or Etihad (EY) depending which has the Better time and better pricing with Occasional Travel on Egyptair (Direct flight between CAI-DAR is very handy), BA, MEA & Gulf Air (GF)(Whose Service has some what recovered from the fall it took a few years ago)

If flying Y (Which most of us do have to, at least on occasion), along with Flydubai, I'll suggest trying out Air Arabia, as they have a really good regional and Sub-continental network and prices are pretty competitive, especially as you add in the generous Hand Luggage and Checked Luggage allowance (Which you pay for in Flydubai). While Sharjah Airpot is not that great, its bearable and the Airport Hotel was one of the more affordable ones I've used.
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Old Jan 8, 12, 12:21 am
  #3  
 
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My wife and I were EK gold for 11 years. Flew them exclusively ex. NBO usually in F. Prices became stupid, so we stopped and I am now blue
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Old Jan 8, 12, 4:47 am
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Originally Posted by ayass View Post
Most feared: EK regional flights early AM
Flying Emirates to a regional destination early in the morning (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman). You have to checkin in T3 (even if you're checked in online and carry a printed boarding pass), walk all the way through notorious traffic to T1 to your boarding gate, and then get bussed to T2 where they decided to overnight the planes --> A guaranteed recipe for delayed flights and missed business meetings.
I agree with most of your post, but I am not sure what you mean by this part. If you're departing from T1, and you checked in on-line, there is no reason why you can't enter through T1.

And I also don't know what you mean about T2. I have had to take a bus occasionally (probably 5% of EK flights), but never on these routes. And the bus goes to the aircraft, so, although it may be in the vicinity of T2, T2 itself has nothing to do with it. Are you saying that you get off of a bus and into T2 and then go to your plane from there?

Though I take the DOH flight at 8:25am frequently (including today), and have found the on-time record to be poor. Given an almost-always delay of at least 15 minutes, combined with the stupid buses in DOH, I don't think that I have ever arrived at immigration in DOH before 9:00, or half an hour late.
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Old Jan 8, 12, 11:05 am
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EK is not the best airline in the business if you are looking for a solid FF based relationship. Far from it. Even the much vaunted upgrades, well I have never ever ever been upgraded from j to f ( I never fly or book y) and have seen absolutely nothing special since becoming gold 3years ago. The Y to J experience is better I am told. Which is bad for me as paying J as the cabin is almost always stuffed.

They are an airline with a good soft product and good connections so I still fly them sometimes and getting gold on them flying J is almost automatic. Get it and forget about it if you don't get it no big deal As you say, silver gives you all.

My FF based relationships with LH and BA both give me excellent value compared to EK. They really know how to value J flying elites. I would be interested to know how EY fares on this count. QR is as bad as EK.

The J hard product is inferior to most Asian airlines and also To BA and SWISS among the euro airlines, plus EY and QR. That is a lot of airlines.
But be warned that the cabin crew intelligence and ground operations management on the last two are inferior to EK in my experience though I did have a couple of dud youngsters on my last two very recent flights with EK as
well.
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Old Jan 8, 12, 11:42 am
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EK is actually pretty competitive in SIN.
QR does have slightly cheaper promo fares generally but when comparing EK to SQ prices it's quite a significant difference.

Is EK more expensive ex middle east than other regions?
lsed is offline  
Old Jan 8, 12, 8:02 pm
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Originally Posted by rathin100 View Post
EK is not the best airline in the business if you are looking for a solid FF based relationship. Far from it. Even the much vaunted upgrades, well I have never ever ever been upgraded from j to f ( I never fly or book y) and have seen absolutely nothing special since becoming gold 3years ago. The Y to J experience is better I am told. Which is bad for me as paying J as the cabin is almost always stuffed.

They are an airline with a good soft product and good connections so I still fly them sometimes and getting gold on them flying J is almost automatic. Get it and forget about it if you don't get it no big deal
Very true. I have gotten 2 op ups DXB-SFO out of about 20 one way sectors. Not very good. Again, if I was in Y, the percentage of op ups to J would have been much higher.
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Old Jan 9, 12, 1:12 am
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Zol
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Originally Posted by CommittedLurker View Post
Very true. I have gotten 2 op ups DXB-SFO out of about 20 one way sectors. Not very good. Again, if I was in Y, the percentage of op ups to J would have been much higher.
I don't see how op-ups are a measure of how the airline values a customer. If there are overbookings you go up, if not you get what you paid for. It is not a right or a bonus for being Gold/flying in J
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Old Jan 9, 12, 1:33 am
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Originally Posted by lsed View Post
EK is actually pretty competitive in SIN.
QR does have slightly cheaper promo fares generally but when comparing EK to SQ prices it's quite a significant difference.

Is EK more expensive ex middle east than other regions?
Agree on that one, at least on my regular (Australian) routes EK offers a very attractive product compared to SQ, not mentioning QF. I also often wonder whether those residing in Middle East are getting a much worse deal.

I also admit that at times one needs variety. Been long times with other airlines in the past, always comes a time when the number of frustrations reaches a saturation point and one needs to jump ship. Usually this happens after 5-10 years with an airline and doesn't necessry lead to any better service but at least the frustrations will be different so for a while the routine changes which injects the much needed variety in traveling.
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Old Jan 9, 12, 6:32 am
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Originally Posted by khalid26 View Post
I don't see how op-ups are a measure of how the airline values a customer. If there are overbookings you go up, if not you get what you paid for. It is not a right or a bonus for being Gold/flying in J
Agreed But when there is a pattern such that one is always stuck with a fuill J cabin due to op ups from Y , which does not happen on other airlines, then this detracts from the J experience and the utility of the Gold card to a J pax.

In circumstances such as these a couple of upgrade vouchers as part of the gold offer would go a long way -- or a discounted upgrade offer, even.

I now know that this is not an isolated complaint but a pretty ubiquitous one and that EK is looking for ways to address the issue specifically for high J flying pattern Golds.. and no, ive been told this will not mean a published 4th tier
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Old Jan 9, 12, 6:34 am
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Originally Posted by khalid26 View Post
I don't see how op-ups are a measure of how the airline values a customer. If there are overbookings you go up, if not you get what you paid for. It is not a right or a bonus for being Gold/flying in J
You may also be interested to know that (I dissented, for the record) the frequency of op ups/compups was taken into account as a criterion for judiging the Skywards programme, based on poll responses AFAIK. You will fifind the thread somewhere here
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Old Jan 9, 12, 7:02 am
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Originally Posted by khalid26 View Post
I don't see how op-ups are a measure of how the airline values a customer.
Op-ups are not a measure of anything other than how poor the airline's revenue management systems are.
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Old Jan 9, 12, 7:26 am
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Maybe there is a number of FT users that are used to the US model where upgrades are a 'guaranteed' part of the status benefits. Outside the US, such model hardly exist. Even the IOs I know are not getting upgraded most of the time.
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Old Jan 9, 12, 8:01 am
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Originally Posted by B747-437B View Post
Op-ups are not a measure of anything other than how poor the airline's revenue management systems are.
How very true!

Could it also be a deliberate policy of overselling in Y knowing that J cabins are not full? Or -- to use your data from a previous post ref middle seats in J I (and I imagine any paying pax) would be furious to secure one of those awful middle seats -- as I have when its happened to me. Having installed them, is it poss that they just use them for upgrades knowing that it would do them more harm than good in the long run to sell those seats on LH/ULH flights? Thats a lot of cabin, I know buit still...
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Old Jan 9, 12, 10:10 am
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Originally Posted by khalid26 View Post
I don't see how op-ups are a measure of how the airline values a customer.
It's not on its own, but as a comparison (as the OP has done on this thread) to other airlines and their FFP's, it is relevant.

As an LH SEN, I am given 2 upgrade vouchers every two years, good for either 2 short haul or 1 long haul upgrades.
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