United’s Flight Attendants Speak Out About Complimentary Domestic Elite Upgrades

This Flyertalk thread points to United’s flight attendants union’s statement on the airline’s plan to offer complimentary domestic upgrades to elite passengers:

Unlimited Elite Customer Upgrades – Say Goodbye to First Class

…United had previously announced their intention to implement this program last month to United’s elite customers, and is just another kick in the teeth to Flight Attendants and other loyal employees.

My thoughts.

1. It’s true, without upgrade certificates there will be more passengers upgrading, and fewer seats up front for employees.

2. That hardly seems like a kick in flight attendants’ teeth.

3. If United’s flight attendants provided more consistently high levels of service they mght attract more passengers. Whoops, I guess those passengers might achieve elite status and steal flight attendants’ first class seats. Better not do that, then.

4. Or, wait, maybe more passengers would mean more flights, more planes, more flight attendants, better job security and higher pay. Oh, wait, That has to be wrong.

5. As one Flyertalker said, this is much ado about nothing: “they can still nonrev into three cabin F, especially intl.”

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. It’s a kick in the teeth in the sense that they market this as a perk of the job. I know a UA flight attendant and this is a very big deal for them.

  2. Why don’t the flight attendants look at how Continental, and American Attendants deal with this? They’ve had Complementary Elite Upgrades for a long time now. Sad that MP Elites are falling in line with other Domestic carrier upgrades, but UA Attendants should see that having a job is better than not right now.

  3. There have been many theads over the years about the “entitlement” UA employees feel toward first class travel. So I guess I’m not surprised.

    Of course, anyone who thought about this for a second would realize how idiotic it is. Those seats should be primarily for customers, not employees.

    Good thing all the bean counters think that int’l long haul upgrades would be a bad thing, as travellers would be reluctant to pay the generally ridiculous prices for such service — and would choose instead to take their chances with an upgrade.

    So it would seem like the first class seats that REALLY matter — the transpacific and transatlantic ones — will remain an employee lounge.

  4. For me as a German it is always surprising that flight attendants generally are much less friendly than all the other service employees I encounter in the U.S (or than flight attendants in Asia or even in Europe). There are exceptions, of course.

  5. The issue is not the upgrades per se, it’s the fact that the first class cabin is now a greatly diminished benefit. I’m a United employee (not an FA), and you must realize that management touts free first class travel as a huge benefit, in fact it is used as a reason to pay less in salaries. And, it’s kind of understood that when you take an airline job you are forfeiting a percentage of salary in return for travel benefits. This move lowers the utility of those benefits. So, I’m for it as it just puts more pressure on the company to increase salaries in the current round of negotiations.
    I would love it if travel benefits were rescinded and I was paid a “normal” wage. But, I am in the minority.

  6. My mom and dad have been non-reving for years working for and even after retiring from DL, and with the exception of going through ATL these days, generally 85% of the time clear biz elite on domestic and international legs–think this will die down after they see this realy won’t effect clearing biz/first for employees.

  7. Non Rev travel has changed for good and it has been that way for at least 10 years.

    United should look into providing positive space travel rewards for employees each year, and that may help with the full flights and lack of First class availability.

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