Rewards Credit Cards Ease the Pain of Air Travel Delays

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For passengers affected by air traffic delays caused by the recent sequester-related spending cuts, some rewards credit cards helped ease the pain.

Sequester-related budget cuts

Budget cuts forced the FAA to require employees to take an unpaid day every two weeks, which effectively reduced the air traffic controller workforce by about 10% each day. Cascading flight delays and cancelations ensued immediately at airports across the country. Although all of the late and cancelled flights over the last couple of weeks can’t be blamed entirely on the furloughs, Congress moved quickly to fund the FAA and get the air traffic controllers back to work, in response to public outcry. Delays and cancellations beyond what is “normal,” are simply unacceptable for many travelers.

Although travelers in all classes were affected by the furloughs, it is a fact that those with elite status or other special privilege generally get better service than low-fare, bargain-hunting travelers and infrequent travelers. Airlines reward customers who are loyal to the airline, who take more trips, and who pay for a higher class of service. United is a great example.

The United MileagePlus® Club card, issued by Chase Bank, is a high-level credit card that comes with many benefits. The primary cardmember and eligible travel companions can enjoy access to all United Club locations and participating Star Alliance™ affiliated lounges worldwide. Also, the primary cardmember and one companion traveling on the same reservation can each check their first two standard-sized bags for free on United-operated flights when purchasing tickets with the primary cardmember’s United MileagePlus® Club card. Save up to $280 roundtrip with this perk!

Better customer service for Club cardholders

Club members with tickets – even in coach class – on canceled flights were among the first to be cheerfully rebooked on another. “The Chase United card was a huge help during the debacle of our returning flight,” exclaimed one satisfied flyer. “My neighbor traveled on the same day. She waited 12 hours for a flight to California. She was going to a wedding. In the end, she got as far as Las Vegas via Denver at 4AM and went to a hotel, at her cost. We relaxed in the airport club for about two and a half hours, got on the next flight, and arrived home only four hours late. The flight, on a partner airline, was arranged by the concierge in the club.”

Standard travel protections offered to cardholders are far more generous than what bargain travelers can hope for. Weary discount travelers with no affiliation to the airline and no special club card in their pocket were, of course, accommodated to the extent required by law.

Fees

The annual fee for the United MileagePlus® Club Card is $450 per year (which can be recouped by primary cardmember and one companion traveling on the same reservation who check two bags each on two roundtrip trips in one year). New cardmembers may also be eligible for 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. With flights that start at 12,500 miles one-way, you could fly four times with the bonus miles!

The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card is one level down from the Club card. There is a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.  You and your eligible traveling companion can each check your first bag for free – that’s a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip.  Also receive up to $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSAPre✓®  every four years when you pay for either program on your United MileagePlus® Explorer Card.

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Published May 2, 2013
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