Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Miles&Points > Airlines and Mileage Programs > United Airlines | MileagePlus
Reload this Page >

WSJ: Best and Worst Airlines for Award Travel

WSJ: Best and Worst Airlines for Award Travel

Old May 8, 14, 4:41 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: SFO
Programs: UA GS / MM
Posts: 208
WSJ: Best and Worst Airlines for Award Travel

Years ago, when I joined M+, it was because of the prospect of free travel. I've redeemed many miles for award tickets. Is this still one of the predominate reasons one flies UA or is it all about grapes and limes now?

Today's WSJ has an article, The Best and Worst Airlines for Spending Frequent-Flier Points. To summarize,

1. US is the stingiest, US team is now running AA, will AA become as bad?
2. DL had internal debate prompted by the low ranking in the survey, even though they knew "lack of award availability was Delta's top customer gripe" and announced changes to be less conservative.
3. UA suffered a decline in 2014. Long-haul routes bore the brunt, with an 11% drop in award-seat availability. Mr. Sorensen notes that airlines like United and Air France, both of which are trailing competitors' profitability and both of which had declines in reward availability this year, sometimes reduce availability of reward seats to get more paying customers instead. A spokesman for United said the airline's strategy on frequent-flier awards this year is consistent with past years. The decline in 2014 "may simply be the result of the change in booking demand in March of this year versus March of 2013."

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/...hatsNewsSecond

GS8101 is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 4:48 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: SFO
Programs: UA 1K, Marriot, Hilton
Posts: 740
Good to know southwest is the highest rated rewards if I want to fly oak-providence with 2 stops
jasonp622 is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 4:57 pm
  #3  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Bay Area, CA
Programs: UA Plat 2MM; AS MVP Gold 75K
Posts: 34,985
This study is more a rating of the website usability than anything else.

Look at the spread between UA and TACA. The currency is much the same (yes there are some restrictions here and there that make things different), but they have much the same availability, but with TA's crappy website, you have to call.

Same with US -- they were the same currency as UA for the most part (up until 3/31), and now they're more or less the same currency as AA. The US website just sucks.
channa is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 5:03 pm
  #4  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: SFO
Programs: AA EXP; AS 75K; WN A List; UA 1K 1MM; Hyatt Globalist; Marriott AMB; Hilton Diamond (Aspire)
Posts: 45,232
Originally Posted by channa View Post
This study is more a rating of the website usability than anything else.

Look at the spread between UA and TACA. The currency is much the same (yes there are some restrictions here and there that make things different), but they have much the same availability, but with TA's crappy website, you have to call.

Same with US -- they were the same currency as UA for the most part (up until 3/31), and now they're more or less the same currency as AA. The US website just sucks.
I'm not sure what the methodology details are, but I'm also doubting some of these numbers.

When US was part of *A, it tended to offer better domestic availability than UA on most routes.

And I'm really questioning the 71.4% figure for UA. Certainly does not square with my recent award search experiences. Are they counting standard awards or something?
Kacee is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 5:09 pm
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: SFO
Programs: UA GS / MM
Posts: 208
Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
And I'm really questioning the 71.4% figure for UA. Certainly does not square with my recent award search experiences. Are they counting standard awards or something?
They are counting "saver" awards, though their timing may be "off peak"? In January I booked a February TPAC ticket with one-way in saver, so my percentage is 50%.
GS8101 is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 5:15 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Redwood City, CA USA (SFO/SJC)
Programs: Last 1K flight 1/21/11; fun while it lasted, 1P in 2011, Plat for 2012,13,14,15 & 2016. Gold in 17 &
Posts: 8,538
I've had some ancient DL miles that I've been trying to use up, and it's not easy. It's darned near impossible, unless you want to redeem at their "standard" (or step below) levels which are draconian. Complete mile-suckers. Sky Pesos. United is far, far easier to find saver fares. You have to be ready to pounce, you have to be a bit flexible sometimes, but they do pop up. And if I recall correctly, UA's standard awards are cheaper than the highest-level at DL.

We can trash all sorts of things at United, but perhaps we don't want to bring too much attention to something which, even if it's been slightly gutted, is still a lot better than most.
Mike Jacoubowsky is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 5:20 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: NYC / YUL
Programs: UA 1K, Marriott Plat, Hilton Diamond, Hyatt Courtesy Card
Posts: 1,973
I can't understand the analysis method, and it ignores the litany of other items that make a program useful (points to redeem for a seat, whether or not the airline flies to useful places, ease of accumulating miles). Rarely do the major publications come out with something useful on this stuff.
fjfv19 is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 5:36 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: BOS, PVG
Programs: United Global Services and 1MM, Marriott Titanium
Posts: 8,802
Originally Posted by Mike Jacoubowsky View Post
I've had some ancient DL miles that I've been trying to use up, and it's not easy. It's darned near impossible, unless you want to redeem at their "standard" (or step below) levels which are draconian. Complete mile-suckers. Sky Pesos. United is far, far easier to find saver fares. You have to be ready to pounce, you have to be a bit flexible sometimes, but they do pop up. And if I recall correctly, UA's standard awards are cheaper than the highest-level at DL.

We can trash all sorts of things at United, but perhaps we don't want to bring too much attention to something which, even if it's been slightly gutted, is still a lot better than most.
+1

DL at saver level is nearly impossible. Ten times worse than UA.
kb1992 is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 5:42 pm
  #9  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: SFO
Programs: AA EXP; AS 75K; WN A List; UA 1K 1MM; Hyatt Globalist; Marriott AMB; Hilton Diamond (Aspire)
Posts: 45,232
Originally Posted by fjfv19 View Post
I can't understand the analysis method, and it ignores the litany of other items that make a program useful (points to redeem for a seat, whether or not the airline flies to useful places, ease of accumulating miles). Rarely do the major publications come out with something useful on this stuff.
Yup. They just pick a very limited set of supposedly "objective" criteria and then purport to definitively determine who's "best" based on these limited criteria (and often dubious methodology).

And now UA gets to proclaim "best" award availability among US legacy carriers for another year.

"We suck slightly less" would probably be a more accurate description.

btw, I appreciate and respect comments from the folks who still have a positive outlook on MP availability. I do wonder though whether they've tried to put together an international itinerary with domestic connections in the past two or three months.
Kacee is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 5:43 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: WAS
Programs: UA 1K, AA EP, WN A-List Pref & CP, Hyatt Glob, Marriott (LT) Plat, Hertz PC
Posts: 1,007
I've managed to only redeem saver. I refuse to use miles otherwise. On DL, I used the last if miles for two J on AF. UA is definite better than DL and easier to use. Increase in partner awards is a huge negative for UA though.

You're not going to be able to redeem every flight. It's about the trade offs and being content overall.
Duke777 is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 6:05 pm
  #11  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Bay Area, CA
Programs: UA Plat 2MM; AS MVP Gold 75K
Posts: 34,985
Originally Posted by Duke777 View Post
I've managed to only redeem saver. I refuse to use miles otherwise. On DL, I used the last if miles for two J on AF. UA is definite better than DL and easier to use. Increase in partner awards is a huge negative for UA though.

DL is overall more difficult, but there are some sweet spots.

VA to Australia
TN to Tahiti
KE to Sao Paulo
G3 (GOL) within Brazil
AF from the East Coast
SU
AM
DL longhaul metal from their hubs at times
AS

The above are usually pretty reasonable, but it takes work to find them and some agent prodding to make it happen, especially if you're mixing/matching carriers. The challenge is getting to the gateway on DL metal. If you're a short DL flight away, it's usually somewhat reasonable (e.g., WAS-NYC or SFO-LAX). But if you need SFO-JFK or LAX-JFK in J to pick up a flight forget about it.

The problem with DL is the DL metal itself. Even on my recent Brazil trip (SFO-LAX-GRU, GRU-IGU, IGU-GRU-LAX-SFO), I had great flights on KE LAX-GRU-LAX in J and G3 GRU-IGU-GRU (G3 is Y only), I had a good LAX-SFO in F, but had to settle for SFO-LAX in Y, even as DL Platinum. They never released a single F seat as low. I got the upgrade at 5-days out as Plat, and laughed as we pushed back with empties in F.

Anybody here who came from CO on the SkyTeam side should know the drill.
channa is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 6:12 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Redwood City, CA USA (SFO/SJC)
Programs: Last 1K flight 1/21/11; fun while it lasted, 1P in 2011, Plat for 2012,13,14,15 & 2016. Gold in 17 &
Posts: 8,538
Originally Posted by Duke777 View Post
I've managed to only redeem saver. I refuse to use miles otherwise. On DL, I used the last if miles for two J on AF. UA is definite better than DL and easier to use. Increase in partner awards is a huge negative for UA though.

You're not going to be able to redeem every flight. It's about the trade offs and being content overall.
Fortunately, the way it's seemed to work for me is that the outrageous $$$ ticket flights are the ones that often have saver award availability. It's very rare that I have to redeem at standard rates (and, as a Plat, it's been the case all but once that I've been able to swap at no cost to a last-minute saver seat that became available).
Mike Jacoubowsky is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 6:14 pm
  #13  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: NYC
Posts: 69,202
Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
I'm not sure what the methodology details are, but I'm also doubting some of these numbers.
Search online only for two seats on various routes. Pretty sure they search over a week or so in March for travel during the summer. If it is a revenue-based program then the line is drawn at 25,000 points regardless of the internal earn or burn valuations of the points within the program.

The methodology is flawed in many, many ways.
sbm12 is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 6:29 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Programs: 6 year GS, now 2MM Jeff-ugee, *wood LTPlt, SkyPeso PLT
Posts: 6,520
If I were Delta, I would like this article. They are at 55% and are quoted as saying more awards would open up over this year. Promising good things. United? Not so much....

I found this most interesting:

"Airlines have been under intense pressure from customers, accountants and banks to make more seats available for awards so consumers can use their miles. It's the accounting rule changes and pressure from banks that seem to be driving the most change now.

The majority of airline miles and points are sold to banks, which give them out as credit card rewards. When customers have a difficult time cashing in the miles, they may switch to other cards. In addition, accounting rules adopted by many airlines now let carriers record only a portion of revenue when miles are sold to banks and defer the rest until miles are redeemed."


I might add that while they were searching short (10), medium (10) and long (10) flights, its unclear if these are for long international flights, and these were all searches in COACH. There is no doubt that I can find a UAL award Y seat from SFO to SEA, or LAX, and probably to ORD as well. But to PVG? Or HKG? In J? I don't think those type of flights were being looked at, and it is what most of use miles for.
spin88 is offline  
Old May 8, 14, 6:31 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: Bay Area
Programs: UA 1K
Posts: 87
Originally Posted by Kacee View Post

btw, I appreciate and respect comments from the folks who still have a positive outlook on MP availability. I do wonder though whether they've tried to put together an international itinerary with domestic connections in the past two or three months.
Did you take into account that due to the mileage devaluation earlier this year that a number of folks probably booked trips in Dec/Jan for later this year? We booked a Portugal/Paris trip in late Jan for October and I'm sure if we did it earlier, we'd have had more choices.
DiscHandler is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: