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UA: Are They Cheating Us Out of Miles With More Stops and Fewer Layovers?

UA: Are They Cheating Us Out of Miles With More Stops and Fewer Layovers?

Old Dec 6, 14, 1:28 am
  #1  
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Question UA: Are They Cheating Us Out of Miles With More Stops and Fewer Layovers?

I have been trying to set up a few mileage runs with United, and I have discovered what could be an unfortunate trend. Every time I think I have something that will give me decent miles, I find that what should be a connection with a layover is actually only a "stop" (of at least an hour) that involves an aircraft change.

This shows up very well in an example of a trip from BWI to SEA. What could have been a trip of 3 segments and 3137 miles (BWI-DEN-SFO-SEA) becomes a trip of 2 segments and 2515 miles (BWI-DEN-SEA). The "stop" in SFO doesn't count. This problem has appeared in at least one trip I took earlier this year. I am currently trying to schedule a few trips for Jan & Feb 2015 and I cannot seem to avoid this issue. Are these recent experiences just coincidences, or is United playing even more games to reduce the number of miles we can accumulate?

Has anyone else noticed this?
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Old Dec 6, 14, 5:39 am
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Originally Posted by 5jnpLzuE View Post
I have been trying to set up a few mileage runs with United, and I have discovered what could be an unfortunate trend. Every time I think I have something that will give me decent miles, I find that what should be a connection with a layover is actually only a "stop" (of at least an hour) that involves an aircraft change.

This shows up very well in an example of a trip from BWI to SEA. What could have been a trip of 3 segments and 3137 miles (BWI-DEN-SFO-SEA) becomes a trip of 2 segments and 2515 miles (BWI-DEN-SEA). The "stop" in SFO doesn't count. This problem has appeared in at least one trip I took earlier this year. I am currently trying to schedule a few trips for Jan & Feb 2015 and I cannot seem to avoid this issue. Are these recent experiences just coincidences, or is United playing even more games to reduce the number of miles we can accumulate?

Has anyone else noticed this?
Is this the same flight # all the way? If so then you are only being given credit as if it where a direct flight.
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Old Dec 6, 14, 7:41 am
  #3  
LBJ
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Direct flight numbers that involve a connection are nothing new and not somehow unique to United. And, yes, all airlines use the point-to-point distance for mileage credit in such cases. I see no direct flights between DEN and SEA through SFO (which would be pretty illogical for a direct flight given that DEN has plenty of non-stop flights to SEA). There is a direct flight between BWI and SFO through DEN (flight 1057) which is far more logical routing to have a direct flight. Looks like you are confused about which flight is actually the direct flight in this case. There's a whopping 2 mile difference between BWI-DEN-SFO and BWI-SFO which is hardly worthy of getting upset about.

Last edited by LBJ; Dec 6, 14 at 7:50 am
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Old Dec 6, 14, 10:51 am
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Originally Posted by arollins View Post
Is this the same flight # all the way? If so then you are only being given credit as if it where a direct flight.
That would be a direct flight, which can have stop(s). Which credits the same as a nonstop flight.

But even with the same flight number, it can credit as two segments if it is at a fare break point. (i.e. where two one-way fares connect.) This is very common on UX, where the plane goes to a small airport and turns right around. Both directions can have the same flight number.

Another exception may be where there is an upgrade. In the BWI-DEN-(SFO)-SEA example, if only SFO-SEA is upgraded, then DEN-SFO may credit as K, where SFO-SEA may credit as ZK (assuming K ticket). As a consequence of being two distinct classes, they may need to split and credit separately. This has happened to me once, but as it was an IRROPS credit I can't be sure this is SOP.

I tend agree with LBJ, it often doesn't make much of a difference. For example, my recent UA896 SIN-(HKG)-ORD, it was 9321 vs 9390mi, a difference of only 69 miles. On the other hand, on 10/12 I was on UA1161 IAD-SFO, which continued on to BOS. If I did IAD-SFO-BOS and got 500mi, I would really be upset. Generally speaking, I think it hurts segment runners much more than mileage runners.

I think what really hurts us more are two things:

(1) reduction in transfers (fewer true layovers allowed)
Earlier this year, BWI-LAS allowed two transfers, now it's down to one. Same for IAD-SBP. This is true of most routes now. This easily reduces max mileage by 1k mi rt.

(2) stricter routing rules.
Earlier this year, BWI-BOS allowed connection at ORD, but not anymore. This reduces max mileage by 996mi. BWI-IAH-TPA was also allowed, not anymore. Another 1k mi gone.

On the plus side, I have never had a problem getting UA to give me ORC for IRROPS, which definitely helps my mileage. My most recent adjustment was +6485PQM, +3PQM and +11348RDM!

Last edited by wh6cto; Dec 6, 14 at 10:52 am Reason: grammar corrected
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Old Dec 7, 14, 4:49 pm
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Yes, a direct flight from DEN to SEA through SFO does indeed seem illogical. However, it does exist (which is why I made the post). The specific itinerary I was talking about is as follows:

Baltimore (BWI) to Denver (DEN) - Fri, Feb 6
United 1057 Dep: 4:03PM Arr: 6:13PM 4h 10m Boeing 737 Economy (G)

Layover in DEN 0h 55m

United Denver (DEN) to San Francisco (SFO) - Fri, Feb 6
United 1527 Dep: 7:08PM Arr: 8:57PM 2h 49m Boeing 757 Economy (G)

Stop in SFO 1h 38m

United San Francisco (SFO) to Seattle (SEA) - Fri, Feb 6
United 1527 Dep: 10:35PM Arr: 12:45AM Sat, Feb 7 2h 10m Boeing 737 Economy (G)

Seattle (SEA) to San Francisco (SFO) - Tue, Feb 10
United 1497 Dep: 5:20AM Arr: 7:38AM 2h 18m Boeing 737 Economy (G)

Stop in SFO 3h 22m

United San Francisco (SFO) to Newark (EWR) - Tue, Feb 10
United 1497 Dep: 11:00AM Arr: 7:29PM 5h 29m Boeing 737 Economy (G)

Layover in EWR 2h 57m

United Newark (EWR) to Baltimore (BWI) - Tue, Feb 10
United 5130 Dep: 10:26PM Arr: 11:33PM 1h 7m Embraer RJ-170 Economy (G)

This is from ITA. However, the same thing shows up on the United website. Please note the flight numbers and the length of the stops compared to the layovers. Here we see what would have been an itinerary for 6550 miles becomes an itinerary for only 5086 miles. That is a difference of 1464 miles (not 2 miles, as the truly confused might believe)! This itinerary is currently priced at $275. That means the cpm goes from 4.2 to 5.4.

And yes, I am familiar with the concept of a direct flight and how they are nothing new. However, the intent of my post was to discover if we are now seeing more direct flights (in situations where they might seem inappropriate) that are causing us to lose miles. If so, why is this happening?
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Old Dec 7, 14, 7:47 pm
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I believe the BAH route also can have a stop at KWI, which we can get 'cheated' out of. In this case, it is a legitimate transfer point, according to fare and routing rules. Another example...SIN-HKG-ORD has HKG as a stop, although it is a legitimate transfer point.

However, in your example of BWI-SEA fare, (1) only one transfer is allowed, and (2) SFO is not an allowed transfer point. So you can't do the second transfer at SFO on that fare. So in this particular case, I don't think we're being cheated. Of course, I would love it if UA would credit us for each mile flown. If that were the case, the "Island Hopper" would be very lucrative.

But I take your point, I do see weird distribution of flight numbers. I think I saw the BQN flight number all the way in ANC once. And definitely saw IAH-(EWR)-BQN, which cuts the mileage in half. Ouch.

Other posts seem to indicate that if the stop is at a legitimate transfer point, a cooperative agent can split it for you.
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Old Dec 7, 14, 7:59 pm
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If you call it in after booking, you might be lucky and find an agent willing to split the segments. YMMV
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Old Dec 12, 14, 11:00 am
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It would appear to me that in the last year (maybe a bit more), United is doing a lot more changing of flight numbers then other airlines (I'm also plat elsewhere). And there is a lot less sense of them.

As part of that, there is a lot more of the same flight number for two legs of a trip but with a change in planes at the mid-pt. There has always been some of that (I remember some CO flights to Europe where the feeder numbers into EWR were used for different metal outbound) but there seems to be a lot more of it.

Whether it is just incompetence at UA in can't figuring out how to do flight numbering properly or there is some reason for it, effectively what the OP says is true - there are more cases of reduced mileage with these changes of plans and reuse of flight numbers.
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Old Dec 12, 14, 7:51 pm
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If you book on United.com, you can use the multi city option to break the flight into segments and it will price the same as the direct flight.

For the run to BAH, I book IAD-KWI and KWI-BAH rather than IAD-KWI to get the extra miles and segment. Just be careful of the dates when booking the long overnight flights.
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Old Dec 14, 14, 4:02 pm
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A variation of the problem: what if the equipment changes? For example, this is typical on this flight:

UA73 EWR-HNL, 1 stop

EWR-SFO 738
SFO-HNL 764

Interestingly, Air Canada has this definition on their site:

In the aviation industry, a direct flight is defined as any flight between two places that carries a single flight number, but which may include one or more stops where you do not have to change planes.

Of course, it would mean a lot more if United said the same on their site.

But is it possible that UA already credits as separate segments whenever a separate boarding pass is required? I had SIN-HKG-ORD credit as two segments. Complicated by the fact that one cleared GPU, and also never flown due to IRROPS (and therefore ORCed), so I don't know if this PQM/PQS credit is standard.
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