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Wow - selling the upgrades at the gate so explicitly.

Wow - selling the upgrades at the gate so explicitly.

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Old Mar 30, 18, 10:36 pm
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When the upgrade programs were implemented they were designed to attract the premium customer. Before all the mergers and reduced competition, airlines competed by offering generous upgrades. They had large first class cabins such as Northwest having 16 first class seats on the DC9s and Avros. US Air had 26 first class on the A321. Once the mergers killed the competition the upgrades dried up. Airlines should now be upfront and not tout free upgrades without pointing out they are only available on rare occasions, especially for Platinum, Gold and Silver members.
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Old Mar 30, 18, 10:39 pm
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Long time lurker; seldom poster. I didn't read through all 24 pages of replies, so I apologize if my thoughts have already been discussed.

Wouldn't this issue best be solved by returning to the "old days" of instrument-based upgrades? I'm not advocating for a return to the e-500 days specifically, but a modernized version could work something like this:

- Each flight you take earns you an amount of "Premier Upgrade Dollars" (PUDs). The dollar accrual rate could be scaled and variable based on a combination fare paid, miles flown, and/or level of Premier status.

- Available first class seats could be marketed for sale by United with all customers having the opportunity to purchase an upgrade. But in addition to cash, the "currency" of payment for United MileagePlus premier members could be PUDs. Yes, United would need to develop enhanced account management tools for us to choose when & on which flights to apply our earned PUDs (including an option for "auto apply")... and the devil would be in the details. But it's possible, IMHO.

As a Premier Silver, I rarely get upgraded. But under the above model, I could bank my earned PUDs and save them to use on the one or two flights a year I really desire an upgrade. Premier members at higher levels would have a larger bank account of PUDs and could apply them to more flights. Regardless of status level, this type of system is transparent and allows for upgrade expectations to be aligned with the delivery reality.

Want an upgrade for a specific flight? Redeem your PUDs. Don't have any PUDs left in your account? Pay cash... or sit in the back.

Why not?
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Old Mar 31, 18, 12:16 am
  #363  
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Originally Posted by PDXalways View Post
... Wouldn't this issue best be solved by returning to the "old days" of instrument-based upgrades? ....
Best for whom?

UA would then lose the revenue from cash upgrades.

There is the flip-slide of rewarding your frequent customers , .... but revenue seems be the more important metric for UA. (it is a for-profit company)

Now we can all go down the route it would be better for UA to have happy customers, but we have had that discussion dozens of times -- and the demonstrated actions of UA is all that matters and that is not their present modus operandi regardless of what we might think on FT.
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Old Mar 31, 18, 7:02 am
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Originally Posted by onthesam View Post
.

The guess is somewhat informed in that I have presumed that UA has analyzed the economics of these practices and determined that in the end the bottom line looks better when they sell elites (the subset who pays up to W) the potential for seats and sell everyone the actual seats.

The UAL shareholder in me likes this. The 1K/FTer in me wishes UA made their decisions based on many of the opinions expressed on this forum.
theyve definitely done an analysis - likely a while team does, and often. Those on this board have their own best interest in mind- of course, and thatís not a bad thing. However, many times what is in the carrierís best interest is not the same as what is an individual customers best interest.

On on some level - they have to accommodate each otherís interests - UA needs passengers to keep it making a profit, and the passenger needs the airline to get them from A to B. While not always in the way pax likes it - UA does keep this in mind - thatís why they have the certain in the first place. Otherwise, they could just not have them, and make people pay a business fare (or upgrade fee) to be in a busiensss seat. But they have certificates to use. They also keep out an eye on revenue with the fare minimum.

Lets not not pretend this is the only model - outside of North America, most carriers donít have this - they allow you to sit in a premium cabin only when youíve paid the fare for that premium cabin. And while weíre debating whether the certificates are Ďfreeí or not, Iíd say thatís semantics - the point is one uses them to get a premium seat for an economy fare - it means the passenger doesnít shell out additional revenue, but also means the carrier doesnít get additional revenue.

Originally Posted by Phil Level View Post
This!


The other thing UA should(could) do is recognize buying power. I buy tix for our family of 4, but the way the system is set up, there is no incentive to reward this type of buying power. I know other people who make the buying decisions for groups of flyers and spend a lot more $ than I do, but UA only gives credit for the miles an individual flies, rather than the $ of buying they control. The IT systems easily could recognize $ spent on United on a credit card when multiple tickets are purchased at the same time, on the same credit card. These are the people who control the decision to fly UA vs another airline.... IMO it's smart business to recognize those people.
Be careful what you wish for. Many on this board make status when traveling for work. If you switch to a system where the purchaser, not flyer, gets the benefits, youíre going to have a lot fewer high elites, and even more complaints. Donít think many on this board would agree with that.

Originally Posted by BF263533 View Post
Airlines should now be upfront and not tout free upgrades without pointing out they are only available on rare occasions, especially for Platinum, Gold and Silver members.
maybe, but thatís not how marketing works. Not just in airlines. Have you ever seen a Big Mac served at McDonalds that look remotely as good as the picture on the menu board? This is essentially the same thing.

Originally Posted by PDXalways View Post

Wouldn't this issue best be solved by returning to the "old days" of instrument-based upgrades? I'm not advocating for a return to the e-500 days specifically, but a modernized version could work something like this:

- Each flight you take earns you an amount of "Premier Upgrade Dollars" (PUDs). The dollar accrual rate could be scaled and variable based on a combination fare paid, miles flown, and/or level of Premier status.

- Available first class seats could be marketed for sale by United with all customers having the opportunity to purchase an upgrade. But in addition to cash, the "currency" of payment for United MileagePlus premier members could be PUDs. Yes, United would need to develop enhanced account management tools for us to choose when & on which flights to apply our earned PUDs (including an option for "auto apply")... and the devil would be in the details. But it's possible, IMHO.

As a Premier Silver, I rarely get upgraded. But under the above model, I could bank my earned PUDs and save them to use on the one or two flights a year I really desire an upgrade. Premier members at higher levels would have a larger bank account of PUDs and could apply them to more flights. Regardless of status level, this type of system is transparent and allows for upgrade expectations to be aligned with the delivery reality.

Want an upgrade for a specific flight? Redeem your PUDs. Don't have any PUDs left in your account? Pay cash... or sit in the back.

Why not?
Probably because the Ďold daysí are over, and the airline models have changed...quite significantly.

PUD as above could be a modern spin, however, that as a silver in there says if E-500s, I barely got any - in fact, I think I got them once. I was able to use them, but Iíve gotten many more uogrades through CPU (though fair enough, less in the last couple of years compared to before, but Iíve still gotten my share).

Trust me, any system like you suggest above would be structured so that silvers wouldnít reward enough PUDs to actually use them.
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Old Mar 31, 18, 9:33 am
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
Best for whom?

UA would then lose the revenue from cash upgrades.

There is the flip-slide of rewarding your frequent customers , .... but revenue seems be the more important metric for UA. (it is a for-profit company)

Now we can all go down the route it would be better for UA to have happy customers, but we have had that discussion dozens of times -- and the demonstrated actions of UA is all that matters and that is not their present modus operandi regardless of what we might think on FT.
Yes it is easy to calculate the immediate gains/loses and that is all UA considers. It takes more work to calculate the long term gains/loses when it comes to loyalty and happy customers so they dont bother. Now, (my original reply form months ago that someone dug up), how many people actually change airlines due to not getting upgrades or even this incident, I'd say very few to none. No short term effect, maybe contributing to a long term effect.


Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Yes, they absolutely do. First, the passenger buys an economy ticket he or she might not otherwise buy (might have either flown another airline, or not at all). Second, the passenger must buy a W fare or higher to use the GPU. The typical W premium is in the $200-500 range per roundtrip. UA keeps that money regardless whether the upgrade clears.
Also, you can argue that by upgrading you, they've freed up a Y seat they can now sell. If J isn't going to be full anyways, UA does not lose anything by upgrading you. If they can't fill the Y seat, then don't gain anything either but it wouldnt have made any difference. They only lose something if they could have otherwise sold the J seat. I recall an old thread where someone had dinner with someone who works at UA corporate and the UA employee said UA hates GPU's because they are losing thousands of dollars (the full cost of a J ticket). I'm sure this is their mindset but they ignore the fact that we already bought a Y ticket, paid for a higher fare bucket, and however you define loyalty, if you're 1K, you've probably locked in most of you travel spending to UA. But "loyalty" does not enter into their mindset. It's only immediate cost.

I'll say this if I was just starting out with no status and UA had no CPUs or GPUs, but Delta or AA did, I certainly wouldn't choose UA. I remember, the primary reason I chose UA was that they had E+ and at the time AA, US, DL, NW, either did not have it or it was very limited.

Last edited by eng3; Mar 31, 18 at 10:14 am
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Old Mar 31, 18, 9:58 am
  #366  
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Originally Posted by Kacee View Post
Yes, they absolutely do. First, the passenger buys an economy ticket he or she might not otherwise buy (might have either flown another airline, or not at all). Second, the passenger must buy a W fare or higher to use the GPU. The typical W premium is in the $200-500 range per roundtrip. UA keeps that money regardless whether the upgrade clears.



That's really unnecessary. You know I understand perfectly. I just don't agree with you
There was no insult intended. Let me expand on my thinking.

Sure a customer may pay more for a chance at a free upgrade such as your example of having to buy a W for a chance at using your GPU. But this is money UA already has. If you don't get the upgrade you don't get anything back. You are paying to enter the lottery basically. UA wants more money so will sell it over giving it away. They don't take money they already have into consideration. And for CPU's all the RPU's and GPU's do is put you higher on the list, it is still a free upgrade. So no matter how you look at it CPU, RPU, GPU it is a free upgrade in UA's eyes as money already in their pocket doesn't enter the equation. If they can get more, they will. Is that clearer?
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Old Mar 31, 18, 10:41 am
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Originally Posted by Baze View Post
There was no insult intended. Let me expand on my thinking.

Sure a customer may pay more for a chance at a free upgrade such as your example of having to buy a W for a chance at using your GPU. But this is money UA already has. If you don't get the upgrade you don't get anything back. You are paying to enter the lottery basically. UA wants more money so will sell it over giving it away. They don't take money they already have into consideration. And for CPU's all the RPU's and GPU's do is put you higher on the list, it is still a free upgrade. So no matter how you look at it CPU, RPU, GPU it is a free upgrade in UA's eyes as money already in their pocket doesn't enter the equation. If they can get more, they will. Is that clearer?
For many OAL the W fare premium gets you into premium economy with similar upgrade instruments available versus a 17.x" wide seat . Paying the upgrade lottery premium on UAL is a fools errand.
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Old Mar 31, 18, 10:53 am
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Originally Posted by prestonh View Post
For many OAL the W fare premium gets you into premium economy with similar upgrade instruments available versus a 17.x" wide seat.
Not on the routes I fly. W is often the cheapest fare class published, and even when it isn't, it's not that much more than K. I've never paid more than about $240 one-way in fare difference. (Admittedly, I've never seen a G fare on the routes and days I want to travel). PE is significantly more expensive on those routes.

Then again, I've also never waitlisted an international segment. I've been lucky enough to have flexibility on dates and destinations.
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Old Mar 31, 18, 11:14 am
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Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
Yes it is easy to calculate the immediate gains/loses and that is all UA considers. It takes more work to calculate the long term gains/loses when it comes to loyalty and happy customers so they dont bother. Now, (my original reply form months ago that someone dug up), how many people actually change airlines due to not getting upgrades or even this incident, I'd say very few to none. No short term effect, maybe contributing to a long term effect.
UA prepare short, intermediate and long term forecasts, regardless of how much work it takes.

Originally Posted by prestonh View Post
For many OAL the W fare premium gets you into premium economy with similar upgrade instruments available versus a 17.x" wide seat . Paying the upgrade lottery premium on UAL is a fools errand.
Excellent choice of language. Upgrade lottery pay-ups these days fall in large part under 'greater fool theory' of economics. Look it up...
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Last edited by onthesam; Mar 31, 18 at 11:17 am Reason: added the words 'these days'
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Old Mar 31, 18, 11:42 am
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
Not on the routes I fly. W is often the cheapest fare class published, and even when it isn't, it's not that much more than K. I've never paid more than about $240 one-way in fare difference. (Admittedly, I've never seen a G fare on the routes and days I want to travel). PE is significantly more expensive on those routes.

Then again, I've also never waitlisted an international segment. I've been lucky enough to have flexibility on dates and destinations.
On my routes, W is often $1000 more for the roundtrip than the cheapest fare I can find. I could justify it somewhat by the fact that work would pay Business if the price is reasonable and they do pay the cash portion if I use miles and cash to upgrade and they do pay the TOD price if I take it. But, then, it's a lottery and the uncertainty of getting upgraded when I paid $1000 more made me change my feelings about it.

I thought that I had plenty of flexibility on dates as I can choose if and when I go someplace and can shift dates to days around or weeks around the target date but have not been able to find a flight with R>0 even when booking flights 2-5-7-10 months in advance. I don't have so much flexibility on routes as already to take the TPAC, TATL or domestic flights, I have to connect through ORD and I'm unwilling (I know, my fault) to add an extra segment. But that is due to 30 years of real bad experience: any additional segment increases my chances of getting stuck somewhere in the middle of the trip.
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Old Mar 31, 18, 12:00 pm
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Originally Posted by tryathlete View Post


if theyíre gonna make every upgrade an auction, then might as well stop benefits above gold. No reason for Plat it 1K. Maybe itís getting close to the time when thereís simply no reason to stay loyal anymore!
Which is pretty much how I look at I. Iím 1K by happenstance, not loyalty. And I admit to buying a lot of TODs, even if I have certificates applied. I also do it on OAL.
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Old Mar 31, 18, 12:15 pm
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Originally Posted by StuckinITH View Post
On my routes, W is often $1000 more for the roundtrip than the cheapest fare I can find. I could justify it somewhat by the fact that work would pay Business if the price is reasonable and they do pay the cash portion if I use miles and cash to upgrade and they do pay the TOD price if I take it. But, then, it's a lottery and the uncertainty of getting upgraded when I paid $1000 more made me change my feelings about it.

I thought that I had plenty of flexibility on dates as I can choose if and when I go someplace and can shift dates to days around or weeks around the target date but have not been able to find a flight with R>0 even when booking flights 2-5-7-10 months in advance. I don't have so much flexibility on routes as already to take the TPAC, TATL or domestic flights, I have to connect through ORD and I'm unwilling (I know, my fault) to add an extra segment. But that is due to 30 years of real bad experience: any additional segment increases my chances of getting stuck somewhere in the middle of the trip.
It could just be bad luck of the routes you usually take. If you typically fly EWR-SFO-SIN and back, I can see you never having an upgrade and never winning the lottery. But there are certainly other routes where it is not that difficult to find R>0

Now if I had to do that every month and another airline offered a similar route that could upgrade me, I'd certainly switch airlines for that single reason.
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Old Mar 31, 18, 1:35 pm
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
Not on the routes I fly. W is often the cheapest fare class published, and even when it isn't, it's not that much more than K. I've never paid more than about $240 one-way in fare difference. (Admittedly, I've never seen a G fare on the routes and days I want to travel). PE is significantly more expensive on those routes.

Then again, I've also never waitlisted an international segment. I've been lucky enough to have flexibility on dates and destinations.
I'll give you an example. YVR-SYD. L-class on UAL for mid Apr 10 day return is USD1408 and W-class is USD1784. lowest premium economy is $1788. And there is no chance of clearing W on a SYD flight. You can do this for most of TPAC routes I have priced where there is a PE cabin.
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Old Apr 1, 18, 2:04 pm
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
Best for whom?

UA would then lose the revenue from cash upgrades.
Not necessarily. The earning algorithm could be as generous or as restrictive as UA desires. In a most beneficial model to the airline, Premiers might only one upgrade dollar for every $100 spent on airfare. A 1K member who spent exactly $12,000 in a year would only earn $120 in upgrade credits each year. That would barely pay for a one-time upgrade from DEN to the West Coast. On the flip side, if the upgrade dollar earning accrual was one dollar for every $5 spent, the same 1K member would have $2,400 in upgrade credits to apply - a much more generous model for the customer. Both of these examples are extreme and not based in reality, but I use them to illustrate how there could be a sweet spot for UA that allows for cash upgrades to still be sold at the desired volume & yield... along with accompanying opportunities for Premier members to guarantee occasional upgrades by applying their banked upgrade dollar credits at their discretion.

Under this model, domestic CPUs would completely disappear. Everyone pays for an upgrade - either with cash or with the stored value of their banked upgrade dollars. The airline can be as generous or as stingy as they want in how they determine who earns upgrade dollars and at what accrual rate. It has the benefit of potentially being more revenue-positive (transactionally) for UA if they're tight with it - and it offers Premiers the system transparency needed to allow them to self-manage when & how they upgrade domestically.
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Old Apr 1, 18, 2:22 pm
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Originally Posted by tryathlete View Post


no way! 35%~ you mean 350k miles? Youíre not even vested yet!
Yeah, 350K lifetime miles.
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