Posts Tagged ‘Southwest’

Delta is ready — with more fees

July 17, 2008

It seems superfluous and redundant to rail against escalating add-on fees imposed by airlines, but how can I not?

Another additional fee?

And they're charging for baggage too.

For those of you in the dark (including Delta customer service reps, you’ll later see), Delta, US Airways and American Airlines are going to charge their “valued” award-miles customers money for using their “free” tickets. Delta’s fees start Aug. 15. I’m not sure about the others. For Delta, it’s $25 domestic and $50 other. The stated reason? Fuel surcharges, of course. They’re not charging *all* customers extra, mind you, only the valued ones.

Remember, all you dividend-miles holders, these miles are not “free.” They are what you earned and are part of a huge marketing scheme that has pulled in much revenue for the airlines and its legions of partners.

Something that really put me into a tailspin was some customers’ reactions to the surcharge in this article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Delta is based in Atlanta). One called it “a little unfair” and another said, “I don’t like the thought of having to pay it, but it’s part of what’s going on.”

Whatever happened to: We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”?

An interesting thing happened today when I was researching this. To back up, yesterday I sent an email to Delta customer service using their cumbersome process to complain about the new fees.

I got a form email back addressing not the upcoming fees I’d complained about but others I didn’t even know existed. Like, if you reserve less than three weeks out, you pay $100. Nice way to take advantage of valued customers in need of a flight.

Delta plane gets supplies in Salt Lake City

Delta plane during layover in Salt Lake City

Initially, when reading Delta’s email, I thought the new fee structure had changed. When I called customer service to check on it, the rep didn’t know about the Aug. 15 fee at all! She put me on hold twice and finally declared there was no surcharge. She was in Jamaica, so I thought maybe the news hadn’t traveled south. She transferred me to a supervisor, upon my request, who happened to be in Salt Lake City and totally on the ball, but even she didn’t know about the fees starting Aug. 15 — until I told her, that is. So I guess Delta values its poor employees about as much as it does its customers.

Luckily, my favorite consumer travel journalist and blogger Chris Elliott jumped right on Delta and other airlines about new fees, as I expected he would.

So did the always topical Michelle Higgins in this Practical Traveler column in the New York Times. What Michelle presented was particularly illuminating. For people who rack up miles mostly through their credit cards (like I do) she broke down the card fees and how long it takes to amass miles. For folks using their awards for domestic flights, they could potentially lose money. I use miles only for international flights. Deducting the card fees and new airlines surcharges, I’ll likely pay about $200 a ticket. But because I use the miles for flights that cost more than $500, and usually closer to $800-plus (like from North Carolina to Norway this summer), it’s still worth it financially if not spiritually for me to stick with what I have.

You should do your own calculations. As Michelle mentioned, it might save you money to switch to a no-fee card that gives you cash back.

Meanwhile, I’m sticking with my favorite airline — Southwest — whenever possible.

Late artist’s oasis casts a spell in Tucson

January 25, 2008

I’ve been to Tucson, Arizona, a few times, but only on my most recent trip, last June with Wessel, did the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun catch my attention. I saw a listing for it in the city’s tourism magazine, and it seemed interesting. But nothing prepared us for such a mystical place that reflects its desert setting. Do not miss it! 

Mission in the Sun chapelWhen artist Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia and his sculptor wife, Marion, moved out of downtown Tucson and into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains in the 1950s, only a small dirt road marked the way. Half a century later, his 10-acre retreat, home to a public gallery and chapel, sits just off busy Swan Road, a thoroughfare into the foothills and now a tony address.

DeGrazia (1909-82) was a painter and graphic artist who specialized in Southwestern and Native American life. He was most known for his illustration “Los Niños” (The Children), which graced a 1960 UNICEF Christmas card.

Lady of Guadalupe in Mission in the Sun chapelThe 13-room DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun featuring his original art and the tiny Mission in the Sun chapel are magical places, where admirers of Southwest art and architecture can go for a sensory overload of colors, textures, and religious iconography. The complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places in October 2006.

The artist and his Native American friends created the buildings literally from the ground up, using mud to shape adobe bricks. The colorful dry-brush painted walls and the floors of cholla cactus slices embedded in concrete could stand up to any of today’s decorative treatments.

The large gift shop sells some original lithographs and serigraphs and ceramics made from DeGrazia’s molds. Merchandise can also be purchased at the foundation’s website.

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, 6300 North Swan Road, Tucson, 520- 299-9191, 800-545-2185, degrazia.org. Free admission. Daily 10 am.- 4 p.m. except holidays. Chapel open daily sunrise to sunset.