Simplifying United’s New Award Rules and Cathay Pacific’s US-Based Flight Attendants Will Retire in Squalor

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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. If you are relying on social security for a significant percentage of your retirement income, then you’ll already be living in squalor anyway.

  2. “Simplifying United’s new routing rules: you get a free segment in your destination region on roundtrips where you return to the same region you originate in. Just don’t try to build your itinerary segment-by-segment”

    Exactly right. I had the chance to speak with a UA 1K Desk supervisor about their “new” multi-city award booking rules and what I was told was that it was essentially a “bug fix”, and I then to agree because that would now explain some weird multi-city award prices that I got before, which seemed too generous and I could not explain why I got them (like allowing me a stopover on a one-way award when that was verboten). According to the supervisor, the way things are working now is the way they were supposed work to before, but did not due to an IT problem. The system was way too generous with stopovers. So, this is a selective devaluation because people booking award trips that include no stopovers or have a single connection outside of one’s departure region to which they would return would get a free segment, i.e., a stopover. Open jaws are allowed galore on multi-city awards.

    The notion that the sky had fallen and that UA awards got as bad as DL’s as a result of the new rules were unwarranted exaggerations. I was, in fact, puzzled and wondered why UA would institute something that was a unfriendly as was initially claimed, when Oscar Munoz was trying to turn the company around? The answer is that they had not done anything that was overly unfriendly, like a wholesale award chart devaluation would have been.They just fixed a bug to avoid bleeding revenue at a time when they wanted to turn things around. The major change involved a redefinition or enforcement of “stopovers”, that are now working as initially intended: Good only on round trip award travel, with one allowed in a region other than the one where one originated and would return to.

    There are other nuances I learned about, like UA agents now see fewer *A awards than travelers booking a multi-city award online. Apparently, that’s because *A carriers now release and control their own awards, which are accessible only through general or public booking engines, but not through individual *A members’ systems — something, which I was able to confirm.

    All in all, call it a “stopover” or a “free segment”, that’s still better than what either AA or DL allows: neither program offers a stopover so that even after this so-called “bug fix”, UA still offers more flexibility. Importantly, however, they have stopped bleeding revenue by doing away with the prior overly generous and “buggy” stopover rule and implementing a more competitive stopover rule at a time when they are trying to turn the company around.

    No, I am not on the side of the loyalty programs. I am just not given to being too “emotional” until I have fully studied and understood a problem.


  3. “The major change involved a redefinition or enforcement of “stopovers”, that are now working as initially intended: Good only on round trip award travel, with one allowed in a region other than the one where one originated and would return to.”

    I disagree as to this not being a devaluation. The elimination of actual stopovers in regions you are passing through to get to your destination is a big devaluation for me. I can no longer stopover in Japan or South Korea on my way to/from SE Asia when flights on ANA or Asiana pass through those 2 countries. I had done this many times in the past and am very unhappy at the loss of being able to visit Japan and/or Korea as part of an Asia vacation.

  4. @Susie – Well, it is a selective “devaluation” because some things won’t change at all; you missed the part about how this was a “bug fix” and not a wholesale devaluation. You need to understand what United has done before crying foul. So, please follow the link to “TravelisFree” provided by @Gary above and read the pair of posts by a blogger who has studied this rule change and thoroughly explained it with example. I am sure that you’ll change your mind. The posts prove everything in my post here. Much of this change is actually going to be positive overall — for UA and for the consumer (^o^)

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