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

Wow - selling the upgrades at the gate so explicitly.

Wow - selling the upgrades at the gate so explicitly.

Reply

Old Mar 24, 17, 12:46 pm
  #196  
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Austin, TX
Programs: AA EXP/3mm+, UA 1k/1mm+, National EE, IC Plat, Marriott Plat
Posts: 2,590
Originally Posted by Boiler84 View Post
Why would a person fly any airline to achieve a certain status if the person was not going to fly the airline after that status is achieved? Isn't the status, and essentially the money / time spent flying the airline, wasted in that case?

If there is a different airline that better meets the needs of that person (whether it is due to routes/schedules, fares, status benefits, or something else), just fly the other airline.
While I generally choose UA for non-stops, for some of us who have to travel primarily on 1-stops or in a market where multiple airlines compete near equally (like ORD), it can absolutely make sense to do what I am suggesting so that the year following, I have a choice of two airlines for my weekly work travel without losing elite privileges. So there is waste, but it is temporary.

Originally Posted by MBS MillionMiler View Post
I'm curious what the nay-sayers think about what UA did to me last week...

I had an RPU applied on a 1-stop flight. It was two separate 2.5 hour flights. Segment A cleared right away--like 2 days after booking. Segment B was actually a little longer of a flight (by ~20 minutes or so).

As of the day of departure, there were 4 of 20 seats left open on Segment B. I was #1 on the waitlist from check-in to departure. I never moved from that #1 spot.

I did, however, receive an "upgrade this flight for $129" message, which I did not take. I stupidly thought I had a good chance (using an already-redeemed RPU).

So I blew an RPU on a single 2.5 hour flight, and UA undoubtedly sold out upgrades from under me on the other flight--heck, they even offered it to me with an RPU waitlisted and applied to my flights for that day.

I'm just checking--there are people here that think this type of behavior is okay? Just curious. Personally, I see a lot wrong with it--maybe it's just me.

I'll also add I'm a shareholder in UAL, with around 5% of my retirement portfolio in this stock--and I think this is wrong--not just to me, but to others that undoubtedly go through this on a daily basis as well.
I've had worse. I was #2 with 8 out of 16 seats open at t-25 and I never cleared. It is really becoming the norm.
AAExPlat is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 24, 17, 12:46 pm
  #197  
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: SFO
Programs: BART Platinum, AS MVPG 75K
Posts: 834
Originally Posted by MBS MillionMiler View Post
So I blew an RPU on a single 2.5 hour flight, and UA undoubtedly sold out upgrades from under me on the other flight--heck, they even offered it to me with an RPU waitlisted and applied to my flights for that day.
Look at it this way: at least your RPU cleared! I won't be at all surprised if I end the year with two expiring RPUs.
milypan is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 24, 17, 1:29 pm
  #198  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: ORD
Programs: UA Silver, Marriott Titanium/LT Platinum, Hilton Gold, AA Platinum
Posts: 4,196
Originally Posted by MBS MillionMiler View Post

So I blew an RPU on a single 2.5 hour flight, and UA undoubtedly sold out upgrades from under me on the other flight--heck, they even offered it to me with an RPU waitlisted and applied to my flights for that day.

I'm just checking--there are people here that think this type of behavior is okay? Just curious. Personally, I see a lot wrong with it--maybe it's just me.
I don't know that right or wrong ("ok" as you state) is the way to judge what happened. The question is whether or not UA is clear that upgrades are based on space availability and that they intend to sell F seats up until departure.

In my opinion, it's clear, and what you experienced is clearly a possible outcome when applying a RPU to multiple segments. To others, it seems not as clear. But is it right? Yes. As customers, we cite UA's rules all the time when we don't get something we want. All UA did was follow the rules...they sold the seat, no space was available, and thus no upgrades were processed on your 2nd leg. For you it was a second leg, for many others it was the only flight they took that day and they may have decided to pay for F.

My fear is that with all the entitlement regarding upgrades in this thread and others, UA will decide it's just easier and better to get rid of the system, making whatever op-up upgrades they process even less transparent.
JBord is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 24, 17, 4:30 pm
  #199  
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Austin, TX
Programs: AA EXP/3mm+, UA 1k/1mm+, National EE, IC Plat, Marriott Plat
Posts: 2,590
Originally Posted by JBord View Post
I don't know that right or wrong ("ok" as you state) is the way to judge what happened. The question is whether or not UA is clear that upgrades are based on space availability and that they intend to sell F seats up until departure.

In my opinion, it's clear, and what you experienced is clearly a possible outcome when applying a RPU to multiple segments. To others, it seems not as clear. But is it right? Yes. As customers, we cite UA's rules all the time when we don't get something we want. All UA did was follow the rules...they sold the seat, no space was available, and thus no upgrades were processed on your 2nd leg. For you it was a second leg, for many others it was the only flight they took that day and they may have decided to pay for F.

My fear is that with all the entitlement regarding upgrades in this thread and others, UA will decide it's just easier and better to get rid of the system, making whatever op-up upgrades they process even less transparent.
That already happens, too. The old CMO was on the record saying that UA was circumventing the published process to award upgrades to folks who may have missed multiple in a row previously. So they have a published process they circumvent by selling upgrades and rejiggering the order of the list for certain individuals.
AAExPlat is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 25, 17, 6:53 am
  #200  
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Marin County
Programs: None - previously UA
Posts: 2,546
Originally Posted by JBord View Post

My fear is that with all the entitlement regarding upgrades in this thread and others, UA will decide it's just easier and better to get rid of the system, making whatever op-up upgrades they process even less transparent.
Doing away with CPU's would be better for everyone except GS. But I suspect they won't change. They want to have their cake and eat it to. The CPU is more of a marketing tool than a benefit, unless you're a GS. I do find it amusing that people are only realizing now how bad the upgrade situation has become. It's been like this for 4 years now at least.
escapefromphl is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 25, 17, 7:12 am
  #201  
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 7,882
Originally Posted by escapefromphl View Post
Doing away with CPU's would be better for everyone except GS. But I suspect they won't change. They want to have their cake and eat it to. The CPU is more of a marketing tool than a benefit, unless you're a GS. I do find it amusing that people are only realizing now how bad the upgrade situation has become. It's been like this for 4 years now at least.
You are extrapolating from your own experience to all non-GS flyers. I can assure you that I would not do better without CPUs. Your upgrade chances have more to do with route and time than anything else, and that wouldn't change. This morning's first SFO-IAD flight -- again, just picking two hubs on a CPU route, and Saturday morning is off-peak for business travel, right? -- a 772 with 28 F seats. Booked full, 5 upgrades cleared, and 92 on the waiting list.

UA is selling their first class inventory. Therefore, they are not going to implement a plan whereby they give it away instead, unless that plan comes with some serious drawbacks. (e.g., fare-class restricted e500s and RPUs). Furthermore, there is no upgrade system in the world that is going to satisfy 97 eligible travelers in a 28-seat F cabin, even if UA were to stop selling F entirely.

I fly off-peak times and generally don't fly hub-to-hub or transcon, and my upgrade percentage is fine, and a lot better than it would be with an e500 system. The actual people who would benefit from ending the CPU system are low- to mid-level elites with a similar flying pattern to mine, as they would get my seat. The person who is #75 on the SFO-IAD list would just be, say, #65. It would make no material difference.
jsloan is online now  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 25, 17, 8:28 am
  #202  
Hilton Contributor BadgeMarriott Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: TOA
Programs: HH Diamond, Marriott LTPP/Platinum Premier, Hyatt Lame-ist, UA !K
Posts: 3,182
Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
The actual people who would benefit from ending the CPU system are low- to mid-level elites with a similar flying pattern to mine, as they would get my seat. The person who is #75 on the SFO-IAD list would just be, say, #65. It would make no material difference.
It might not make a material difference to you but it might to those who don't travel too much but are MP members with enough flying miles to move up to Silver or Gold.

And perhaps that's the psychological game of the CPU - the chance of the upgrade. It seems a bit like a lottery mentality that enables UACO to dangle the opportunity, however small, for an upgrade.

David
DELee is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 25, 17, 8:44 am
  #203  
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: LAX & EWR/JFK
Programs: UA 1K
Posts: 1,417
Originally Posted by AAExPlat View Post
The problem with all the upgrade selling is that when the instruments don't clear, there is no reason for anyone to fly UA past the status they aspire to. So in my case, it may end up costing UA the incremental $13k in flying that I can now plough into AA to reach EXP.

UA will never know what it is missing because they can't see the revenue they lose unless I am sending them receipts for AA bookings...which is far too cumbersome.

I can't be the only one who thinks that way. Question is...do others do the same if they are primarily AA or DL fliers at such a scale that it all cancels each other out.
+1 - You aren't the only one who thinks that way.

For the past few years, our family of 4 goes NYC twice a year so our two mini-Levels can visit with the NYC based grandparents. This summer we are booked to fly UA LAX-EWR and B6 JFK-LAX for the return. I doubt the UA system is smart enough to realize they lost the return flight segment. And I doubt the system is smart enough to pick up if we start using another carrier for these semi-annual trips. I doubt UA even cares, but the point I am trying to make is that there is an established travel pattern on UA for several years, and that pattern is about to be deviated from, and revenue lost.
Phil Level is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 25, 17, 11:50 am
  #204  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Programs: ba silver
Posts: 172
Originally Posted by AAExPlat View Post
While I generally choose UA for non-stops, for some of us who have to travel primarily on 1-stops or in a market where multiple airlines compete near equally (like ORD), it can absolutely make sense to do what I am suggesting so that the year following, I have a choice of two airlines for my weekly work travel without losing elite privileges. So there is waste, but it is temporary.



I've had worse. I was #2 with 8 out of 16 seats open at t-25 and I never cleared. It is really becoming the norm.
I' m pretty certain the airline doesn' t care. As most of you have noticed flights are running full these days. If they don't sell you a ticket they will sell it to somebody else. United won' t lose all of their elite members, especially those who live in hub cities. Flyers will just have to get used to it. Like I' ve said before, you don' t see Emirates or Singapore or BA or any other non-US based airline offering this perk, even on short flights with the same continent. Last I checked they were doing pretty well attracting premium flyers.
stevendorechester is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 25, 17, 2:05 pm
  #205  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Programs: 6 year GS, now MM Jeff-ugee, *wood LTPlt, VX Gold, SkyPeso PLT
Posts: 6,087
Originally Posted by stevendorechester View Post
I' m pretty certain the airline doesn' t care. As most of you have noticed flights are running full these days. If they don't sell you a ticket they will sell it to somebody else. United won' t lose all of their elite members, especially those who live in hub cities. Flyers will just have to get used to it. Like I' ve said before, you don' t see Emirates or Singapore or BA or any other non-US based airline offering this perk, even on short flights with the same continent. Last I checked they were doing pretty well attracting premium flyers.
United cares, or at least Oscar does. As I posted up thread they are very well aware of how much valuable traffic they have lost. That said AFAIK they have not done any systematic effort to find out what the triggers were for passengers who left. OALs do this, but so far not United. There is absolutely no doubt as shown by PRASM numbers that United has replaced higher fare passengers (many if not most were elites) with lower fare passengers, buying on price. And the people who left were those who had options or paid more so they did not need the devalued status UA was offering.

Your last point was addressed before, surprised you just repeat it.

(1) there is no place that I can think of that (a) has so much domestic traffic flying more than 50+K miles/year (b) directly competitive airlines on so many routes, and (c) so many longer flights were upgrades become important. The closest developed market I can think of is Japan, and if you have flown JAL/ANA domestically they do lots of Up-Ops for elites.
Is it a "published" benefit, no, but In my last 6 or 7 or so domestic flights as *G on ANA I have had 3 up-ops.

(2) All of the major foreign airlines that have substantial domestic traffic, give other major perks to their elites. They all (perhaps someone can come up with an exception, I can't think of one) give lounge access, and to much nicer lounges than the UnitedClub.

(3) IMHE elites overall get a much greater level of attention and service.

With four major airlines at this point (DL, AA, SW, UA) and one airline that is a semi-major (AS+VX), America is simply a much larger, more competitive market, with far more very valuable travelers to fight over.
spin88 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 25, 17, 3:47 pm
  #206  
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Programs: Hyatt Globalist, SPG Plat, UA GS
Posts: 234
Originally Posted by stevendorechester View Post
Like I' ve said before, you don' t see Emirates or Singapore or BA or any other non-US based airline offering this perk, even on short flights with the same continent. Last I checked they were doing pretty well attracting premium flyers.
They also offer a much stronger premium product.

FWIW, as a 1K flying out of LAX on B/M fares, I've cleared 75% of my RPU/GPU on PS flights and 90% of my other routes.

If they were to remove the CPU perk, I would not be flying UA and they could likely fill my $2K weekly fare with a $500 one. You're right that occupancy would stay the same, but the margin would drop.
esquesk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 25, 17, 4:29 pm
  #207  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: FLL/LAX/YYZ/TPE
Programs: CO Platinum 1K, United 1K, SPG LT Platinum, National Executive Elite, Platinum TSA Hater
Posts: 32,843
Loyalty is a two way street. If UA wants my continue loyalty, there needs to be balance between benefits and business. I fly a mix of fares, and that mix now includes more domestic P fares. That means I am buying into the cabin far more often than before due to the more reasonably priced FC fares and I can see many others are doing the same - and that is fine. However, I still expect that some of my flights will have CPU results, and some will still have RPU results - it can't be "buy F or sit in coach 99% of the time", otherwise the value of being 1K takes a substantial hit. I am not flying 100k a year just so I can cancel/deposit award tickets for free, or board in G1, or get a free snack box

I don't think anyone here is legitimately suggesting UA price F so far out of reach that no one buys it, the cabin stays empty and it can be filled with CPUs.

However, monetization cannot be done in a vacuum without regard to micro-analysis of how it affects not only loyal customers, but UA's own bottom line.

Fare difference buy-ups, offered proactively or subtly, are fine - that's the policy WE asked for years ago - the ability to re-ticket a coach fare into the lowest F fare without a change fee. It's short sighted to think UA wouldn't extend that policy to others, even market the option - it was never a trade secret meant only for Flyertalkers, however the issue with upgrade pricing is something that was brought to Larry Kellner's attention that many years ago - the very same issues still exist today, and either United is unable to fix them, or has decided not to.

The issue can be distilled into two very simple examples:

1. Kettles without status being offered day of departure "segment fee" upgrades (not fare difference) at a fraction of the price that Elite customers are offered the same upgrade. That needs to stop.

2. Segment fee upgrades offered to Kettles should not be priced at a level that results in a net loss to UA due to the opportunity cost of lost checked bag fees, E+ sales, onboard F+B, etc. Right now there is no workflow, or thought into how revenue can be maximized from a non-status customer.

What should the workflow be? At check-in, online or by kiosk, the system should do the following:

1. first, ask if the customer is checking bags - if the answer is yes, then full stop - NO segment fee upgrade. UA should collect the bag fee revenue right then and there, it's free money. From there, customers can be offered E+, priority access, or other products not yet available, like discounted onboard food vouchers.

2. if not checking bags, the customer can be offered a buy-up to E+ first. Actually, I've been trying to get UA to start packaging products into logical groups to entice people to buy:

For example, don't just offer E+ - offer it with a discounted coupon for onboard food or wifi, or package it with priority security and G2 boarding...or just offer priority security for $x with a pop-up saying the current checkpoint wait time is x minutes. Put together a mix of products that produce incremental value adds to the customer. The F seat should be the LAST item offered for buy-up during the check-in process.

If the customer has declined the other product offers, then, and ONLY if there will be empty F seats at departure, the system can offer a segment fee buy-up at a cheap price. If they want to sell the seat out from the CPU list, the buy-up really needs to be either a fare difference, or a segment fee charge significantly above the revenue from checking bags and E+ and food, and if the segment fee buy-up is offered to a Kettle, it needs to go to an Elite for the same amount or less, never more.

So, there are other products United can and should be using to entice incremental spend before selling F out from the CPU list.....and auctioning it at the gate with people, some of whom are GS, standing in the boarding line? Very, very bad taste - that also needs to stop. All it takes is ONE of those customers to take ONE ticket to a competitor and the revenue from that buy-up sold for $89 is now a loss. I can't imagine any GS or 1K standing in line listing to the sale of the last F seats out from under the and thinking "good for United! go get that revenue, I'll keep my seat in coach"

Originally Posted by stevendorechester View Post
I' m pretty certain the airline doesn' t care. As most of you have noticed flights are running full these days. If they don't sell you a ticket they will sell it to somebody else. United won' t lose all of their elite members, especially those who live in hub cities. Flyers will just have to get used to it. Like I' ve said before, you don' t see Emirates or Singapore or BA or any other non-US based airline offering this perk, even on short flights with the same continent. Last I checked they were doing pretty well attracting premium flyers.
Flight are not "running full" - UA has yet to report a 100% system load factor. In fact, many flights are running with open seats - obviously not "sold to somebody else."

As to your other examples? SQ and CX are losing money hand over fist, and that's with subsidies. In the US we need to pay money to join a lounge which is very substandard to the lounges offered for free to foreign carrier Elite customers - so, should SQ, CX and the gulf carriers start charging for lounge memberships? By your logic, no one should get anything for free - no more free perks - take what we give you or get lost.

The gulf carriers offer a nice product and they make money through subsidies whether someone buys it or not. Let's see how well they do if the electronics ban is picked up by other countries and business travelers flee the gulf carriers. LCCs are starting to fly international routes and offering decent premium products for a fraction of the cost of legacy carriers. Let's see what that does to revenue and loyalty.

At this point I'm better earning Amex points and using them to buy-down the difference between coach and first on domestic flights - however, without loyalty, I am just shopping for the cheapest F seat, and quite often I find a cheaper option on Delta or AA so what do I need United for? I can find cheap business class tickets to Asia and Europe if I am flexible, sometimes for the same price as a W or V fare - what do I need GPU's for?

By your theory, what do we need frequent flyer elite tiers for?

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Mar 25, 17 at 6:19 pm Reason: merging consecutive posts by same member
bocastephen is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 25, 17, 6:02 pm
  #208  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: SFO
Programs: UA 1K 1MM; AS MVPG; Marriott Plat Premier; Hilton Diamond (Aspire); Hyatt Refugeeist
Posts: 38,514
Originally Posted by JBord View Post
My fear is that with all the entitlement regarding upgrades in this thread and others, UA will decide it's just easier and better to get rid of the system, making whatever op-up upgrades they process even less transparent.
UA doesn't make decisions like that based on FT comments.

And I don't see much "entitlement" in this thread. I see lots of people frustrated that UA has effectively changed the rules on upgrades without changing how it markets the MP program. Those changes include not just the sale of upgrades post check-in, but the substantial reduction in advance R releases on domestic flights (which I personally find much more frustrating).
Kacee is online now  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 25, 17, 6:34 pm
  #209  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: MSP
Programs: UA 1K, DL, WN, Global Entry; +others wherever miles/points are found
Posts: 8,244
Originally Posted by bocastephen View Post
I am not flying 100k a year just so I can cancel/deposit award tickets for free, or board in G1, or get a free snack box
Well no, presumably you're flying 100k a year because those planes are also taking you somewhere you want/need to be

I don't want to single you out on this, and I understand your point, but especially from the perspective of a UA stockholder, I think it's important not to lose sight of that. Many other industries make do with no loyalty program at all, and manage to keep customers by offering a quality product at a favorable price compared to the competition. Some of my miles on UA last year were as a result of having 1K benefits. It's nice I could choose to fly 600mi segments, pay for Y, and know that I have a good shot at CPU or at least free E+, a snack and a drink (personally I still have a 100% rate albeit on a very small and carefully chosen sample size). But the bread-and-butter of my business would probably be on UA even if they had no FFP at all. AA and DL don't fly SFO-WAS nonstop, and UA blows VX completely out of the water (in F) for both price and schedule.

Loyalty programs can be helpful in driving some decisions, but I hope nobody is suffering an inferior schedule, worse product, etc. in return for some perceived loyalty benefits. Presumably there's a reason you chose UA in the first place, and it wasn't "FFP program so good I'll fly a terrible airline just to get it". And when DL or SY F is ~$25 more than UA Y, I fly the other airline instead of relying on my benefits, because no upgrades are not a sure thing.

Originally Posted by bocastephen View Post
1. Kettles without status being offered day of departure "segment fee" upgrades (not fare difference) at a fraction of the price that Elite customers are offered the same upgrade. That needs to stop.

2. Segment fee upgrades offered to Kettles should not be priced at a level that results in a net loss to UA due to the opportunity cost of lost checked bag fees, E+ sales, onboard F+B, etc. Right now there is no workflow, or thought into how revenue can be maximized from a non-status customer.
I firmly believe there's been no systematic evidence to suggest that (1) is true. By and large it seems that both elites and non-elites are given upgrade offers at checkin which are roughly equal to the route fare differential [nb. this is not the close-in fare difference]. And for (2).. how many E- pax were really going to the airport planning to pay for E+, check (the usually two I see argued here) bags, and buy food onboard the aircraft? The typical kettle is checking at most one bag, and is probably going to eat at McDonalds before munching some pretzels in E-. If UA can get them to bite on a $129 First upgrade on e.g. SFO-DEN, I think they're coming out ahead for that passenger.
findark is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Mar 25, 17, 8:21 pm
  #210  
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Programs: UA 1K; DL GM 2MM
Posts: 8,110
Just my $0.02.

1. The loyalty program is essentially a discount given to high volume customers.

2. The discount takes a mix of forms... free flights, UGs, exemption from fees, etc.

3. UA is constantly trying to adjust the discount rate and what form it takes in order to maximize profits. (This is natural and we should expect them to do it.)

4. Price discrimination is a key part of airline pricing strategy and profit maximization and TODs are an increasingly important part of that strategy.

5. The problem with the TODs is that they allow UA to maximize revenue on any given flight, but IMHO they have a long term adverse effect on retention of their best customers which I think UA has underestimated and which I think UA can not accurately measure.

If anyone at UA is listening....I want a consistent experience... i.e. a comfortable seat at a reasonable price. I'm not interested in playing a lottery or wasting time trying to constantly figure out the right strategy for sitting in the front of the plane without getting ripped off. If you can't provide this consistent experience, I'll definitely go shopping for another carrier.

I suspect a lot of us feel the same way.
5khours is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread