With all the travelling I have been doing around the world, I ended up accumulating quite a few miles. While I usually did choose my flights according to pricing more than anything else, I still flew mostly in and out of Switzerland, so I ended up having quite a few miles with Lufthansa and Swiss, which are both Star Alliance members.
Miles last for around three years, so the miles I got from originally flying to the US are going to expire soon, so I basically have to start spending them. This is not as easy as it seems. I first though about upgrading my flight from Zürich to San Francisco, impossible, the flight was in a cheap class that cannot be upgrade. You can buy the additional miles, but there is a cap to the amount of buyable miles, so I can’t buy enough to buy a flight for Japan. So I bought my flight for going to Japan this summer, checking that the class was upgradable. Surprisingly the direct flight from Zürich to Tōkyō by Swiss was reasonably priced, how things change…
This brings it to the next problem the miles and less program web-site. This is yet another web-site designed by a guy with no idea what user-friendly or rationality for the matter, means. All the useful matter is buried in weird places, the important information only available in PDF files and the interface won’t you do dangerous operations like copy-paste your ticket number (12 digits), or type in airport codes, no you have each time to navigate thru a menu with all the countries in the world and then go thru the of airports in that country. Way more efficient.
Swiss is supposedly part of the Star-Alliance, but the booking code of the flight was not recognized, but instead of saying so, I get a weird error message with a error number. So I typed in the information of the flight by hand (remember, no copy-paste), and I get a message that I don’t have enough e-vouchers, what are those e-vouchers, this is a mystery. OK, the web-interface does not work, big surprise, we are talking about airline companies, not exactly Web 2.0 people, or even Web 1.0 for the matter.
So I grab the phone I start calling. The phone system has the advantage that it is clear who is important here, people with better frequent flyer cards are kindly asked to call other numbers while mere mortals rot on the line. Finally I get a lady that tells me that she can put me on the waiting list. Can I get an e-mail to know if/when I get the ticket? No. I must basically call every other day to check. Cool. So I called back today to be told they can’t get any data about that flight, I should call Swiss directly. OK I do this. I end up with quite agressive guy that tells me that it is impossible to upgrade the flight. Why? There is no available slot, I should basically ask just before the flight (at which point I’ll have lost some miles).
I can’t say I had many illusions about the system, but at this point it is basically worthless. The condition to use the miles and the abismal service are basically meant to prevent anybody of actually using their miles.