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How would you design the upgrade process if you were in charge?

How would you design the upgrade process if you were in charge?

Old Apr 11, 16, 7:57 am
  #61  
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Originally Posted by JBord View Post
My point was, and still is, that some form of "CPU" has to exist..............eliminating CPU's requires UA to replace them with a similar system anyway, so the calls here to eliminate CPU's aren't really benefiting elites in any way, as some people seem to believe.
You are, unfortunately, missing the point about the "elimination" of CPUs.

When UA (essentially) adopted the CPU system from pmCO, it eliminated the instrument (500 milers) system that had worked so well for so very, very long. I used them when I was first a 1K in the late 1980s.

The problem with CPU is that it does not allow elites of all levels to CHOOSE when / if to apply for an upgrade. It simply places 1Ks at the head of the list, whether they are willing to spend instruments, or not. This ordering process is what gives rise to TODs, much as it did under pmCO.

When we call for elimination of CPUs, I submit that we are simply calling for a system in which ACTIVE CHOICE plays a role in upgrade clearance percentages.

Dave
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Old Apr 11, 16, 8:52 am
  #62  
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E500 system worked well...

A cash bidding system would work fine as well if it was somewhat transparent and weighted by status, similar to how NZ does it
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Old Apr 11, 16, 8:55 am
  #63  
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Originally Posted by bseller View Post
You are, unfortunately, missing the point about the "elimination" of CPUs.

When UA (essentially) adopted the CPU system from pmCO, it eliminated the instrument (500 milers) system that had worked so well for so very, very long. I used them when I was first a 1K in the late 1980s.

The problem with CPU is that it does not allow elites of all levels to CHOOSE when / if to apply for an upgrade. It simply places 1Ks at the head of the list, whether they are willing to spend instruments, or not. This ordering process is what gives rise to TODs, much as it did under pmCO.

When we call for elimination of CPUs, I submit that we are simply calling for a system in which ACTIVE CHOICE plays a role in upgrade clearance percentages.

Dave
This. x 1000
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Old Apr 11, 16, 10:39 am
  #64  
 
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IMO the current process is:

1 - Upgrade via $$$ (mediocre offers)
2 - Upgrade via $$ (TODs)
3 - Upgrade via instrument
4 - Upgrade via CPU
5 - Upgrade via dumb luck/op-up

To be honest, the change from CPU to e500 would just comingle 3&4 in my example above, right? You still have UA RM quoting lower upgrade prices to non-elites. I was offered $649 on a flight a friend was offered $249. Same fare class, routing, etc.

To answer the OP, I'd make it clearer. I'd eliminate the CPU because the actual "benefit" doesn't really reflect the nature of how UA approaches upgrades. Then put in the e500 process.

A crazy thought -

I'd clearly ID how upgrades are being cleared on the "CPU" list:

Booked 11/12
SMI, J. GS/ PAID
SMI, J. GS/ PAID
1. XYZ, A. 1K/ 20Kmiles
2. BLA, T. G/ 20Kmiles

Well, everyone SMI, J paid for 2.. and I used 20k miles. In the above, I may jump on and see what the buy up is.. That way your elites can plan, play the game a little and move themselves around the upgrade list. You'll get more $$ and instruments FROM YOUR ELITES instead of randoms that you gave a nice TOD to. If I knew what the person(s) in front of me did there, I'd be able to maneuver into #1 or clear immediately.

Never going to happen.

Last edited by Tblack15; Apr 11, 16 at 11:19 am
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Old Apr 11, 16, 11:06 am
  #65  
 
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Originally Posted by bseller View Post
You are, unfortunately, missing the point about the "elimination" of CPUs.

When UA (essentially) adopted the CPU system from pmCO, it eliminated the instrument (500 milers) system that had worked so well for so very, very long. I used them when I was first a 1K in the late 1980s.

The problem with CPU is that it does not allow elites of all levels to CHOOSE when / if to apply for an upgrade. It simply places 1Ks at the head of the list, whether they are willing to spend instruments, or not. This ordering process is what gives rise to TODs, much as it did under pmCO.

When we call for elimination of CPUs, I submit that we are simply calling for a system in which ACTIVE CHOICE plays a role in upgrade clearance percentages.

Dave
I did not misunderstand. Some here want to simply eliminate CPU's, and others want to eliminate them and replace them with the 500's. I used them as well, and I recall that they worked, although there was also a prioritization system if multiple people applied them on the same flight. I remember using the last ones I had as a Premier Exec. I finally got them to go through on a PVD-ORD flight after trying on several others before they expired and were replaced by CPU's.

But that was a time when planes still had empty seats. I also remember sitting in the exit row and often having no one in the middle seat.

My point is, in today's airline, with more elites and fewer overall seats, many 1K's would be frustrated when they aren't able to use their certs on flights like ORD-SFO. And on the short UX flights, many of which have F seats, no one would choose to use their certs, which would force OpUps into F for free, the same way a CPU works today.

So...UA could certainly re-introduce the 500 mile certs, and they could even give them priority over CPU's, but they aren't going to let seats go empty, so in essence, they still need some type of CPU system, regardless of what they call it.

As for your assertion that TOD's are a result of CPU's, you're probably right. But they're a gold mine, they're not going away even if they bring back the 500 mile certs. So now elites will have a pile of unusable certs in a lot of cases, the same way we hear about 1K's complaining about how they're 8th on the upgrade list or someone buys a TOD at check in to get that last F seat.

Edit to add: I fully understand that the old system worked well, and agree. But I don't think it's accurate to think it would work very well now in the current environment.
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Old Apr 11, 16, 1:14 pm
  #66  
 
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Originally Posted by JBord View Post
If you are thinking of the year prior to the merger finalizing, it was more or less the same system as now. We just didn't have all the cheap buy ups, as I recall. So you're arguing to keep what's in place now, but add capacity as it was 5-6 years ago.
Yes, I was thinking just prior to the merger. (I hated the 500 mile certs, I could never get the "right amount" between two accounts. Always wasted some that were in the wrong account. If they could be "combined" between all traveling parties on the same PNR, it might not be as bad. I'm kind of coming at if from a different angle... these things are a bit more important to me since I'm usually traveling with a companion.)

And yea, it's basically the same now, except for TOD's and split records. Just get rid of both of those and I think I'd be happy. Even with current capacity.

(Maybe "often" was the wrong word... as silver I think my rate of upgrade was about the same as it is now being gold, maybe a little bit more. I KNOW it was less stressful. )
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Old Apr 11, 16, 1:33 pm
  #67  
 
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Eliminate CPU's.

Give out the following instruments pper year
Silver = 2 RPU's
Gold = 4 RPU's
Plat = 8 RPU's, 2 GPU's
1K = 12 RPU's, 6 GPU's base + additional

RPU's and GPU's can be applied regardless of fare class.

RPU's and GPU's clear immediately if there is any FC availability when they are applied

Use dynamic TOD pricing to fill remaining FC seats, if any. Include the ability to upgrade in real time through the app right up to the time doors close. Have a minimum TOD price.

If there are any remaining unsold FC seats, then flying with empty seats in that cabin. Might help to restore a sense of "prestige" to the FC cabin for a change.
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Old Apr 11, 16, 2:32 pm
  #68  
 
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Originally Posted by TA View Post

If I were an airline in a properly functioning market and with good management / strategic practices, my goal would be to aim to keep upgrades to as few as possible. Upgrades exist because the US carriers cannot get enough people to pay for the front cabins reliably.
If there were no upgrades and no possibility of upgrades, why would I fly United vs. AS or DL which give them? Or VX which does not give them, but has better service?

Although you can get 1K with $12K, most of those who are elites pay a lot more. And of those paying "a lot more" most (my guess is 95%) can't by corporate policy or client issues pay for F other than rarely for domestic travel.

Airlines make money off those who pay more, and complementary upgrades are designed to keep/attract the traffic of those who pay more.

I have personally moved my 100-150K BIS @ 30-40 c/mi domestic flying in chase of upgrades. I went from UA to TWA as TWA gave me upgrades. Then when AA took away those upgrades, I switched my flying to CO (and NW) for upgrades. When upgrades on CO became a sad joke c2005-6, I moved my flying back to UA, as I was going to get upgraded more with 500 e-certs and regional and SWUs than I was getting on CO. The math was very clear to me. CO was selling the FC seat for $50-100 more each way than it was selling my very expensive Y tickets. Since I was flying about 1 1/2 trips a week, getting into FC was going to cost me PERSONALLY (since my company would not cover in most situations) an extra $10,800 ($150 x 1.5 x 48). No way I was paying that, so I took my $50-60K in spending to an airline that would upgrade me to first class about 30% of my miles (500 mi+SWU+CR1s).

So did CO win on that deal? United then got years worth of B/M/E/H flying from me, all very profitable for them, due to CPUs.

I go to Seattle about every third week, because its a short flight, I will not buy FC. Always last minute, so I pay $400-800 RT (usually the higher end), and when I got to book, I can take DL (and sit in F as an "upgrade" at a PLT) or VX (no upgrade, but vastly superior E+ with drinks and snacks, and good coffee, as GOLD) or UA (and sit in uncomfortable seats in E+, with the FC seats going to TOD upsells, as a lifetime, but even as a 1K). Who do you think I book?

I am not against sales of First Class, but I think that those who are more valuable to United (not just GS) should be part of the equation.

For example, a flight with a several golds with $6K/year in spending on the WL for an upgrade, well perhaps a $109 TOD is a good use of that first class space. But if its a 1K who spent $40K on united last year, perhaps selling that TOD is not a good idea, if it causes that $40K in revenue to go elsewhere.

It is probably beyond UA's IT capacities, but I think the spread between (1) A/P fares and Y fares at any time, and (2) how much a TOD is priced at, should be not fixed, but related to who is on the upgrade list.

To give an example, on a route like SFO-ORD (4.5 hours), where United has a bunch of 1Ks with high spending on certain flights, perhaps it should not set the spread between A/P and Y at less than $200, and set TODs as the amount that would top off the Y fare to that A/P fare bucket when its available. Yes, United would leave some revenue on the table, but it would have a pay back in less losses of high value travelers who fly domestically.

Last edited by spin88; Apr 11, 16 at 2:38 pm
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Old Apr 11, 16, 5:01 pm
  #69  
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Originally Posted by Tblack15 View Post
A crazy thought -

I'd clearly ID how upgrades are being cleared on the "CPU" list:

Booked 11/12
SMI, J. GS/ PAID
SMI, J. GS/ PAID
1. XYZ, A. 1K/ 20Kmiles
2. BLA, T. G/ 20Kmiles
There is roughly zero chance that the company is going to give away this much data to competitors.
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Old Apr 11, 16, 6:45 pm
  #70  
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Originally Posted by sbm12 View Post
There is roughly zero chance that the company is going to give away this much data to competitors.
And few customers would be pleased at that level of private information being publicly released.
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Old Apr 11, 16, 7:37 pm
  #71  
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I actually liked the E500 system at UA and (similarly) the same kind of system at AA in the late-2000s. Why exactly UA promises free upgrades to elites and silently offered buy ups is something that needs to be ditched. Happens at DL as well but that's not terribly surprising either.

I'm not aware as to what went on at CO - except my Dad flew them a lot as a plat when I was younger and usually copped upgrades on CO or NW metal. However by the mid-2000s something changed and he rarely got upgraded and most of the regional routes ex-EWR had become ERJ driven.
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Old Apr 11, 16, 8:40 pm
  #72  
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I don't think the policies are the real problem. They have multiple simple upgrade methods that when combined do result in significant complexity, but I think they need to keep each method simple to get uptake. Some of the proposals upthread, like replacing it all with a voucher-entry auction, will get zero uptake from the non-FT-regular crowd.

What I'd like to see is better execution, and better transparency about what we're being offered:
- Stop making us guess if an observed behavior is a bug or a new feature.
- Stop making us guess if a particular cash offer will earn bonus PQM (and make it clear it won't earn PQD/RDM if it's not going to).
- Stop acting like different TOD/HOD prices for elites and non-elites on identical tickets are some sort of bug they're going to look into. Accept and own that it's price discrimination, just like they do on airfare in general.

Transparency on the upgrade list is a non-starter, for the reasons above and more.
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Old Apr 12, 16, 9:48 am
  #73  
 
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Adopt AA's Upgrade system(Legacy UA upgrade system)

For the top elite to be happy, they have to adopt the old upgrade system. Now that the fare class does not trump the elite levels, top elites see higher upgrade priority than before, which is a good news. If UA needs to keep the TODs going, they must reverse that algorithm to the top elite vs kettle -> Top elite getting the TODs, whereas kettle getting slightly more expensive pricing scheme. You can't really allow $49USD for an upgrade so the kettles can completely bypass the E+/baggage/Priority boarding lines. When TODs are slightly more expensive than the E+ fee, then we have a problem.


Also, instrument upgrades, especially for BF->GF. I posted it in another thread:

One way that UA can fix this problem is easy - Get the BF->GF cabin to be GPU on any fare. Not just C, D, J, I mean P. If 1Ks, or GSs get the P fare, with expiring GPUs left, that will be much more helpful to get it up to GF with the GPU.

With the mileage earning is so low now especially for international discount Y tickets, I hope UA can adopt the GPU upgrade with no fare restrictions from Y->C.
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Old Apr 12, 16, 11:11 am
  #74  
 
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I think United reached the final stage of their version of designing the upgrade process on 2/1 with the doubling of PQM for P fares. This was the final stage of TOD's etc.

I just purchased a last minute vacation trip 10 days ahead. Agreed, this was to a vacation location, CUN, but both legs were via SFO/IAH during the workweek.

F in P $652.80 PQM 9788

Cheapest Y $528.98 PQM 4894

Both legs in F, SFO/IAH/SFO are on lie-flats so popular selections for CPU hopers.

If UA prices like this it doesn't matter what system FF's would wish for, the upgrades are are just going to be less and less available.

Last edited by sgfood; Apr 12, 16 at 11:23 am Reason: spelling
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Old Apr 12, 16, 12:24 pm
  #75  
 
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Originally Posted by sgfood View Post
I think United reached the final stage of their version of designing the upgrade process on 2/1 with the doubling of PQM for P fares. This was the final stage of TOD's etc.

I just purchased a last minute vacation trip 10 days ahead. Agreed, this was to a vacation location, CUN, but both legs were via SFO/IAH during the workweek.

F in P $652.80 PQM 9788

Cheapest Y $528.98 PQM 4894

Both legs in F, SFO/IAH/SFO are on lie-flats so popular selections for CPU hopers.

If UA prices like this it doesn't matter what system FF's would wish for, the upgrades are are just going to be less and less available.
I think this is how UA is going mostly moving forward. Like many other posters on here I have to buy the lowest fare when traveling for work but I can pick any flight during the day of travel. I have started trying to pick flights that have low P fares and I will book the Y fare with my company card then usually pay out of pocket the difference for the P fare when I get the offer to buy up (either at purchase or TOD). The 2x PQM on these lower P fares was a huge reason for me to do this. It makes reaching Gold fairly easy for me with almost all fairly short haul domestic flights. If P fares were priced similar to what they were last year I do not think I would buy these upgrades very much and just get whatever status I would end up with (most likely Silver).

One thing that is ironic is that these easier methods to reach gold may also devalue gold status as well. Since CPU's seem to be much harder to get (cheaper P fares being a big reason) the gold status will actually have lower value for myself. Sure I will still get the two checked bags and E+ at time of purchase but for what I travel that is not that much of a benefit to me.
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