Old Feb 14, 13, 12:17 pm
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: BWI
Programs: AA Gold, HH Diamond, National Emerald Executive, TSA Disparager Gold
Posts: 15,127
Originally Posted by mechteach View Post
I'm not the original poster, but I think I can respond to this. I'm in PIT, and switched over to UA in the beginning of 2008, when I felt that US routes and benefits were going downhill. (I had been with US for 8 years before that, earning anywhere from GP to CP during that time.) Not to threadjack, but this might be useful to others considering making the jump to UA.

For the first ~3 years, UA was great. I made it up to 1K (=CP) level and stayed there, and I felt incredibly valued as a FF. Both when UA used 500-milers for upgrades and when they went to unlimited upgrades, I sat up in the front easily 90+% of the time. Moreover, my companions were also upgraded at the time window, and I had instruments (tons of CR-1s & 6-8 SWUs each year) that I could use for upgrades for my family on long-haul domestic (like to Hawaii) and international flights.

However, after the merger, IME, the following happened:

1) UA started flying more RJs to PIT from ORD, and more props (vs RJs) to IAD. Not my favorite kind of planes, and a degradation in upgrade availability.

2) The fare differential for upgradable international flights increased. To use a SWU - now a GPU - requires a minimum fare class. That used to be on the order of ~$100 or so. For US-Europe flights (in general) that has now increased by a LOT. (It can still be reasonable on US-Asia flights, depending on the route.) Since you aren't guaranteed that the SWU will clear, this is a more expensive gamble.

3) The frequency of my complimentary domestic upgrades decreased. I started getting upgraded only 50% of the time, and most of those only cleared right before boarding, rather than in advance. That change in the upgrade window meant that I had to haunt the gate, rather than stay in a club or something. Also, it means that my companion no longer inherits my status for an upgrade clearing, which generally means that the companion doesn't clear at all.

4) The availability for instrument-based upgrades went downhill. It used to be that with a little advance planning, you could find R-space (upgrade space) a few months in advance. That has not completely disappeared, but it is much sparser. Also, there has been a big decrease in the number of CR-1s/RPUs (regional instruments) that you can earn. It used to be an easy 8 per year for a 1K, and now it is 4.

So, if you are used to sitting up front on US, especially as a mid-level flyer (GP or PP), you will not have the same experience on UA. As I said above, as a 1K, the highest tier (except for purely revenue-based elites, the GS), I had less than a 50% success rate. My husband is a GP, and he can count his upgrades on 1 hand. UA greatly emphasizes selling upgrades rather than giving them to elites (much more so than US, IMHO), and often targets those offers at non-elites specifically. If you search the UA thread for "TOD" or "HOD" you will find numerous examples of this.
I'll +1 this as I was the one it was originally directed to. Mechteach summed it up pretty well.

TOD/HOD offers are what really suck on UA these days. To those that aren't familiar with UA, TOD/HOD refers to upgrades being sold for Tens of Dollars, or Hundreds of Dollars on international routes. US sells upgrades, but only does so after all elites have been upgraded and they have seats left over. UA tries to sell seats out from under elites and then gives them what's leftover. The problem with this is that general members are often offered significantly lower prices for upgrades than 1Ks. So the 1K sits in the back while the Kettle sits in front on a cheap upgrade.

UA also tends to treat every elite the same, regardless of how much they fly. The 1K is often treated no better than the Silver. UA used to treat its FFs very well, but that's changed since the merger completed. The famous 1K line/desk is gone.

UA's hurting badly now as a lot of people have left, ironically for AA. However, its leadership seems to think it can make up the difference selling cheap upgrades to Kettles.

The SWU situation certainly sucks on UA, but it's no better on DL either. DL has to buy even higher fares as only Y/B/M can be upgraded.

Bottom line is that things suck, IMO. While we don't know what's going to happen with DM/AA, we do know things aren't terribly rosy at their competitors either.

In my mind, moving over to UA would pretty much be foregoing upgrades as I expect them to be nonexistent.
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