Bits ‘n Pieces for May 24, 2012

News and comment from elsewhere:

  • Over at Conde’ Nast Daily Traveler I review the best credit cards that offer benefits for having the card as opposed to putting spending on that card.

  • The Wall Street Journal today runs a piece on the challenges of the United-Continental integration.

    Everyone has their pet peeves (and I’ve found few fans). But we often conflate technical challenges or glitches and changes in policy.

    On the award redemption side, I love relaxed routing rules and the end of Starnet blocking, and hate no more free holds on awards when your miles are already in your account at time of reservation.

    I abhor the new policy where full fare tickets trump elite status level.

    And I hate that when you change a ticket you can’t pay the fee out of the residual value of the ticket, you have to use new cash (even if the new ticket is less expensive than the old one).

    To me it’s the policies more than the technical challenges that underscore this is really Continental, just like the tail livery, regardless of the name of the airline…

  • Delta is adding several new flights from New York to the Caribbean. Point Me to the Plane surveys what Skypesos award availability looks like for the coming winter months.

    He finds that saver coach awards to Nassau and business class awards to Aruba are possible (and you might as well spring 60,000 point for business class to Aruba when medium level coach award space runs 50,000 points). New York to St. Maarten on Saturdays for 70,000 miles roundtrip in coach does not seem like much of a deal…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hey Gary — Love the blog and your insightful comments on travel, but can you please spare us the “COdbaUA” comments? United is United and that’s all there is too it. Those comments are one of the reasons that I no longer view FlyerTalk, and to me, it would be much appreciated. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  2. “I abhor the new policy where full fare tickets trump elite status level.”

    Really, so your $150 ticket should trump a full fare $1000 ticket? There is a reason they changed that rule. It makes much more sense.

  3. Yes Label, but it’s more like $150 + $350
    + $250 +$650 trumps $1000. That’s why they call them FREQUENT flyers.

  4. Except who wants to play DL’s inflated award prices when you can burn fewer Avios to fly AA…

  5. While I agree with Gary’s reasoning regarding upgrade priority, others in Boarding Area agree with the UA model and make some good points.

    It is difficult to argue that a premier with an expensive Y fare should not take priority over someone in a higher elite tier, but discounted fare. But at the same time, the elite consumers who travel on Y fares are corporate travelers not spending their own money, captive to a corporate travel policy or contract. Of course, many of the top elites are corporate customers as well, so perhaps the argument is moot.

    Ultimately it is up to UA to decide how they wish to run their business and the market will be the judge.

  6. I Iive in Baltimore and did not realize Alaska flew out of DC, that’s huge. Does the $99 companion only cover one segment or does it cover an entire r/t? That’d be sweet!

  7. So wait, Gary, are you saying that you can put a UA award ticket on hold if you don’t have enough miles in your account, but not otherwise?

  8. @Dbest… Full Y transcon fares runs about $2,500-3,000 nowadays [usually more than discounted F fare]. Let’s be more fair, we will use B fares in this basic example…

    1K has to fly 20 roundtrips to reach 1K
    Silver has to fly 5 roundtrips to reach Silver

    I’ll go with the most expensive discounted coach fare [S fare, which will average out with some tickets on G/K/T/L fares and some on W/V/H/E fares].

    S fare- $498 roundtrip before taxes
    B fare- $1,816 roundtrip before taxes

    1K, flies 20 roundtrips at an average of $498 per roundtrip for a total of $9960.

    Silver, flies 5 roundtrips at an average of $1,816 for a total of $9080.

    The Silver flies 75% less than the 1K, yet gives UA 91% of what the 1K brings to UA. The Silver customer’s profit margin is ~70-75% higher than the 1K’s.

    If you ran a business, which customer would you rather reward or entice more business from?

  9. 1) A single full-fare ticket doesn’t trump an elite. The trump only happens if the passenger is also an elite, so that means they have been flying with some loyalty, not just a one-hit wonder. Of course that gets ignored because it doesn’t support the rant.

    2) The cherry-picking of a few specific policies to claim that the company is all legacy CO or legacy UA is downright stupid. Presenting that as fact is horribly misleading. Take a look at a list of all the policies the company had to streamline and you’ll see that there really is a lot from each side of the ledger at play.

    Don’t get me wrong – I completely understand being focused on the things that affect you personally most when deciding whether you like the changes or not. But that doesn’t come close to presenting the whole picture.

  10. @Seth I have presented *my* issues both good and bad, the things I care about, and flagged them as such. And I’ve been quite clear, over and over, on the details of the policy on upgrades usually describing it as “a full fare (including government YCA fare) Premier Silver trumping a 1K on a lower fare”

  11. Actually, your post here doesn’t mention at all that the full fare trump requires one to have status. That’s misleading IMO.

    And your broad sweeping claim that the policies are all CO simply doesn’t mesh with reality. Have you read the link I included above? It is fine if the changes don’t work for you. But at least present the facts as they really exist.

  12. Or at least have the courage to disclose that the changes that you want serve your own interests.

  13. No need to be disingenous – it’s clearly more CO than UA

    What stayed from UA – names (UA, MP), and things (E+, C9, Int’l F)

    What stayed from CO – policies/processes (SHARES,, YBMs, TODs, etc.), which to anyone w/o blinders on is really what flyers experience, and what is causing all the FF anger.

  14. We also got CO’s superior website (*A awards bookable online), a mix of CO and UA’s SDC policies (24 hours vs 3 hours, but requires original booking class instead of H), an extra elite level at 75k for those of us who fly more than 50k but less than 100k, superior Central America coverage via Copa, and more European destinations with lie-flat 752s (many of them non-stop from EWR, which should be great for those in NYC).

    Yes, the upgrades are harder to get this year, but I’m also getting a whole bunch more good stuff above. And yes, I’m a G/K/L/T/S flier.

  15. @colpuck I don’t want any changes, the changes are what I decry, and I’ve already explained that (1) I benefit greatly from the changes to award rules and availability, but (2) living in DC the role of government fares as they apply to the new upgrade order means that I choose not to fly United. No secrets, I’ve written extensively on this.

  16. @Seth this post was a bit of a ‘quick hit’ including this item with several others rather than a full discussion. I’ve very much discussed this in great detail, the positives and the negatives of changes at United, and in some cases which came from United and which from Continental. Overall I do think that the airline’s key policies are “more Continental” but it’s not an issue of loyalty to the old United, it’s more about “hey this is different let’s understand how” and the policies that interest me most are mostly Continental 🙂

  17. I agree that we should all try to understand how things are different. That’s why I get annoyed when half-truths are presented as fact. 🙂

  18. @Seth well, I think there’s a difference between speaking colloquially, where i’m writing about the things that effect me the most, and offering a fully detailed analysis. And I think you know and would agree that I have offered the latter on more than one occasion — we may differ in our analysis 🙂 but I hope you’d feel my treatments have been fair even when coming from a different direction with them 🙂

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