Fuel Rewards Signup Bonus, United Upgrade Changes, and Miles and Points Goes Mainstream

News and notes from around the interweb:

  • Mommy Points was back on ABC’s Nightline this time helping a family leverage their everyday activities to earn points.

    It was like a reality show, Kitchen Nightmares where Gordon Ramsey does a makeover of a restaurant, Summer drives up to a home and gives a miles and points makeover — and helps a family earn enough points for a trip in just a few weeks. Go, Summer!

  • New Fuel Rewards Network signup bonus

  • Use of United’s Global Upgrade certificates on Lufthansa has gone electronic which is an improvement over the old paper system. Only Q fares in economy and higher are eligible for upgrading with these on Lufthansa, and the cheapest fare bucket in premium economy and in business will not allow upgrades to a higher cabin.

  • Uber apparently charged an airport fee – higher than the real one – for trips to San Francisco airport, and then didn’t pay it. They’re being sued.

  • Uber kicked out of Thailand, in discussions with Vietnam.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Wow, two negative Uber stories in one post.

    Also, Uber (a) charged for background checks that (b) they advertised they performed but that (c) they literally never did:


    So not only are they lying about something incredibly important (i.e. they vet their drivers and even know who they are) but they are charging you for something they didn’t do. In most places that’s called theft. But, it’s disruptive.

    Also, Portland, Oregon. Literally the most hipster city in America:


    What scoundrels. An amazing service to be sure: but would it kill the company to install some “people who are not straight-up a-holes” in the C-suite? Eric Schmidt is probably made of pure evil but he did run Google with the appearance of adult responsibility.

  2. The Portland thing in fairness is pure cronyism, hipsterism aside anti-uberism in many places is corporate welfare.

    I’m generally pro-Uber but there’s also much work to be done in a company that has expanded as rapidly as they have.

  3. The issue isn’t their rate of expansion, the issue is their openly-stated disdain for the law (insurance), business regulations (background checks), their employees (tip nabbing), and their customers (Ride of Shame).

  4. You have to wonder why the investors who have effectively kept this company afloat haven’t forced adult management into place to control or displace the sleazebags running the operation.

    I would love to be in a position to short Uber. Their latest $40B valuation is preposterous.

  5. @LarryInNYC they were constantly doing battle when they started up, trying to create a business for which there wasn’t much precedent and no way to comply with laws that really didn’t anticipate them. So they were swashbucklers always under attack. They seem not to have come out of the seige mode that made sense for their true startup phase. There are culture changes that have to take place, and instead they’re growing rapidly without the culture or infrastructure in place. My uninformed guess anyway about what’s actually wrong there. They need to fix it or they will have real problems. My guess is that they’re beginning to realize it and have a good chance to do so.

  6. Gary, that is a romantic origin myth for Uber but as far as I can tell it is only a myth. They have consistently stated their intent to flout the law in their pursuit of unregulated commerce.

    The laws that they are flouting were put in place EXACTLY because unregulated taxi syndicates such as Uber WERE contemplated. Uber may not like those laws, you may not like those laws, and even I may not like some of those laws — but they do exist, they are the law of the land, and in each case they have their origins in genuine concerns for public safety and order.

    What you’re seeing with Uber (and largely ONLY with Uber as opposed to the many similar organizations) is not a breakdown of a responsible business culture under stress of expansion but the baring of Uber’s true underlying “us and only us” culture. That culture (flout the law and kill the competition) does allow fast growth but is ultimately unsustainable. Just look at drug gangs: they appear, grow fast, and never last that long.

  7. @AS: Yes, one has to wonder: how much does a company with such disdain for the law care about GAAP?

  8. @Gary: But let me add that you deserve kudos for reporting some negative stories about Uber as well notwithstanding your general support for the company and its business model.

  9. @Gary: I don’t actually care that they are flouting the laws are it pertains to cronyism / anti-competative. Those laws act to artificially lower the number of providers. Good work for them.

    What I care about are the things they actively don’t care about: background checks, insurance, cap on FU pricing / scamming the customer. There is absolutely no reason Uber can’t do background checks consistent with local regulations for cab drivers. The only reason not to is to make more money and show everyone how much they care about the law and their customers: zero. The same is true with insurance: cabs don’t have a required amount of insurance because it’s a scam intended to raise the price of rides and limit competition. It’s because when you kill a 6 year old girl off the clock in SF because you’re a cab driver on the road only because you’re a cab driver you should have insurance. The airport fee scam at SFO is classic – cabs have to swipe a key card on the way out, and you pay the fee. Uber drivers just drive out like a regular person – but you still paid that fee. Truly WTF.

    Anyway, these are not rocket science level questions. They disrupted and they now have a market cap LARGER than American Airlines (5 billion more – 40 bn v 35 bn). Time to grow up and act adult. Can you imagine the Doug Parker talking trash like this? Or Smisek, a terrible CEO but at least he doesn’t run his company or business like a spoiled frat house.

  10. @LarryInNYC – far from an unbiased observer but one in a position to know, peter thiel says they’re the least ethical company in silicon valley. That’s one scenario and it may be correct (note that Lyft acts in violation of many of the same laws in terms of entering markets that uber does, thiel is an investor there). my hypothesis is that they were in battle mode and fast growth mode and they’ve made mistakes and need to figure out how to shift the culture to one of grown ups and it’ll be interesting to see if they can.. if they can’t they’ll be destroyed, so i’m betting they can out of necessity and because they’re clearly smart.

  11. Haha mommy points’ TV segments are hilarious. Five digit miles, meaning 10,000 miles, which will get you exactly nowhere. The average consumer is better off with a free card than a miles earning card.

  12. What I’ve read about securing a Medallion in NYC, it seems on par with getting a seat on the NYSE. Lets not forget that the clowns running NYC have decided what type of vehicle will be used as a taxi in the future. After catching Billy on the ABC Sunday morning news show, I pity those New Yorkers who didn’t vote for this socialist buffoon.

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