As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!
     

Visa Signature Concierge: Useless for Immediate Travel

This article was written by in Reviews, Travel. 18 comments.


As I’ve mentioned recently, my maternal grandmother passed away a few days ago, my second of two grandmothers to pass away in the past few weeks. A few years ago, she moved out to California to be cared for by my mother and brother who had also moved out to the west coast several years earlier. When my grandmother entered hospice care, I mentioned to my boss that I would be taking a few days off for the funeral with short notice, as I intended to travel to California to be with my family. On Tuesday last week, my mother called me to share the news while I was getting ready to leave work for the day.

I immediately began searching for a round-trip flight that would take me from the New York City or Philadelphia area to the Los Angeles area on Wednesday and back over the weekend. My primary tool for searching for flights online is SideStep, but I also look at websites for individual airlines. Not finding anything and wanting to leave the office to continue searching at home, I notified my boss that I would be out for the remainder of the week.

I decided to give the Visa Signature concierge service a try. I signed up for a Visa Signature card earlier this year for the purpose of putting its service through real-life tests and writing about them here. There is no annual fee, but the card is marketed offering exclusive perks and services, such as a 24-hour concierge and access to exclusive events. I called the Visa Signature concierge during the drive home with the intent of using the service to find and book my flight to California.

FlightThe concierge who answered the phone could not have been less helpful. To research flights, a travel specialist needs to be on call, and at the time I called, they had none. The best they could do is take my flight requirements and get back to me within 24 to 48 hours, and the impression I took away from the call is that all travel requests require this excessive turnaround time. Since this was Tuesday evening and I needed to travel Wednesday, this did not meet my needs. A regular travel agent would have been able to take care of my request immediately.

I thanked the representative for her help but I spent an hour or so doing my own research and booking the flight when I arrived home. I determined that bereavement fares, last-minute rates designed for people who need to fly in situations like mine, do no longer exist at most airlines. When they do, the rate is a five or ten percent discount off the full coach fare, not the non-refundable economy fare. I would be better off with the economy rate. I spent more than I would have liked, but the fare I chose was decent for a non-stop flight considering the circumstances.

I’m pleased I was able to be with my family in a difficult time, but I would have liked the process to be smoother, and the concierge service let me down.

Photo: Doug Letterman

Published or updated September 7, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

Email Email Print Print
avatar
Points: ♦127,380
Rank: Platinum
About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Erica Douglass

When my grandfather died and his funeral occurred, I could not justify the $1300 round-trip Delta wanted for the nearest airport (CVG), and no one in my family was able to make the 4+hour round-trip to IND, which would have been slightly cheaper.

I ended up not going and made me peace with him in other ways. I don’t really regret not being there, but it is unfortunate that the airlines don’t really help. Then again, verifying funeral dates, times, and relations is a lot of manual work and not really worth it for them.

-Erica

Reply to this comment

avatar Luke Landes ♦127,380 (Platinum)

It’s true, customer service above and beyond the call of duty is almost never worthwhile for companies. Many airlines used to make that type of service a way of doing business, but no longer.

Reply to this comment

avatar Jimmy

I’m sorry. The Visa concierge service let you down? Why does that not surprise me? If i were you I wouldn’t expect that service to be useful for immediate or long term travel. Waste of money.

end rant

Reply to this comment

avatar Greg

Flexo: First and foremost our condolences are with you and your family!

Years ago I also had to travel to California for a funeral. When I called the airlines they offered a bereavement fare of $1600. Seems to me that if an airline would cater to people in desperate times that loyalty would be their reward.

The airlines are the ones that made “customer focus” the in thing and now they are the farthest from it! I’ve been a 1K traveler for over 12 years I can say with authority that they are all lame!

Reply to this comment

avatar Randy

I tried the bereavement fares a few years ago and found they don’t really exist. The airlines (at the time anyway) didn’t try to rip us off, but didn’t offer a lot of other help either.

In a way, I can’t blame them. Verification is a pain and asking for some kind of proof just seems low. And the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. Customers show little or no loyalty and are always after the lowest fare. Why should they be loyal to us when we aren’t loyal to them? Sad, but true.

Sorry for your loss.

Reply to this comment

avatar harm

I also sympathize a bit with the airline and credit card companies, us consumers
are not exactly loyal, and if we can save a nickle by jumping to another service provider, we do
at the drop of a hat. But where did we learn that? From business. From what Flexo said, it
was Visa that pushed this ‘concierge’ service, promising, at least, a helpful service, and
delivering nothing.

Reply to this comment

avatar Jerry Hirsch

This is interesting. Would any of you out there who are choosing not to spend but rather are paying off debt give me a ring or email me please. I am a reporter at the LA Times and am on deadline today 9/8 with a story about plunging consumer debt numbers.. 1 800 LATIMES ext 75260 or 213 237 5260. Thank you.

Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment

Connect with Facebook

Note: Use your name or a unique handle, not the name of a website or business. No deep links or business URLs are allowed. Spam, including promotional linking to a company website, will be deleted. By submitting your comment you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Previous post:

Next post: