United FF Program Useless?

Dec 15th, 2004, 04:04 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 7,090
United FF Program Useless?

I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions. My husband flies a lot and has been in the 100k club for years at United; plus we have a credit card where we accrue points. This year, our family (4 people) was unable to fly SEA/ATL over winter break because no seats were available. Granted, I was calling about 2 months in advance. But now, in mid December, I'm calling for mid April, which is the kids' spring break, and again, very limited flights, making the trip nearly impossible. I put a hold on a couple of unsatisfactory flights. I have a few days to decide, but once we book, we have to pay $100/ticket to return the miles to our account if we don't use the tickets in the next year or if there is a routing change, which is basically not something we have a lot of control over.

I used to be so happy with FF. We've been able to use the miles to Europe, Hawaii, you name it. But, I haven't used our FF for a few years, and wonder if there are a lot less seats available for FF, or if there is more competition for them.

Can we use a different airline with our United points? Any ideas are welcome.
Orcas is offline  
Dec 15th, 2004, 05:58 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
It's like this all over the industry, and UA is no worse than others. And make sure you ask about flights on USAirways. They are the domestic partner with United. Internationally, UA is in the biggest alliance - Star Alliance - so you can use your miles on any of those airlines, including Air Canada, Lufthansa, Singapore, etc...

So, I don't see you getting better treatment with a different airline's FF program.

And I don't know what you mean by being in the "100k club". What your husband needs is to be a "Elite" member - Premier, Executive Premier or 1K - meaning flying 25K, 50K or 100K miles in a calendar year. If he doesn't qualify, then it means zilch how many miles you have "in the bank".
rkkwan is offline  
Dec 15th, 2004, 08:44 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,154
Trying to pick up four minimum level award seats is a tall order for Spring Break. You would be better off not trying to book EVERYONE on an award seat and you probably need to be planning these things much further out, too. (TIP: Put the people who fly the LEAST on the award tickets because they don't earn miles. Put the people who fly MOST on paid tickets.)

You can definitely still receive substantial value from FF miles, but flexibility and planning are the key to making the most of the miles. I would suggest learning to use online booking tools as your primary means to search for seats and book tickets. Sitting on the phone playing shell games is a very frustrating and inefficient way to book award travel compared to online alternatives.
Flyboy is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 12:17 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 22,098
In our experience on AA and USAir, school vacation periods are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to book with minimum award miles (usually 25,000). For example, dtr and I are ticketed Boston to Florida over February Spring break and had to spend 40,000 miles each to get seats. We booked these months ago and there was no availability during that week, even with some date flexibility, at lower award level. (I know - not really cost effective, but trying to burn thru USAirways miles).

Are you sure YOU pay if routing change by airline - we have had this happen and not been charged a fee.

If you chose to check on USAirways, do so with caution - no one knows its future status or that of booked free tickets.
gail is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 04:16 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
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Flyboy made an excellent point about booking all 4 seats on FF miles. Airlines have a very limited of seats to be claimed with FF miles on each flight, sometimes 1, sometimes 0. Try ask about 1 or 2 instead of 4 and see what you can find.
rkkwan is offline  
Dec 16th, 2004, 04:43 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,037
United has two types of FF awards: Saver awards and Standard awards. Saver awards require fewer miles, but they are capacity controlled. Standard awards require more miles (40K or 50K for a domestic ticket; I can't recall without going to the site to look), but they are not subject to any blackout dates or capacity controls.

I agree with the others that four Saver awards will be hard to find on virtually any flight, but you might be able to find some combination of Saver awards and Standard awards. If you can't get four Standard awards, then that means the flights already are very full.

Sometimes Saver award capacity opens up closer to time of travel, but I wouldn't count on this during a busy travel period like spring break.
ms_go is online now  
Dec 16th, 2004, 12:35 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 7,090
I really appreciate all of your suggestions. I plan to go back to the drawing boards on this one and look at alternatives, like using the standard awards miles, paying for a ticket or two, and other options, so we can get better flights. And planning ahead farther would not hurt....It gets hard when the kids get older.

I'll check on the rerouting issue. The woman I was booking with was real clear on that. I told her it made no sense - that why would I care if I were routed through Denver or Chicago, but she said it made a difference to the airline. Maybe it depends on who you talk with. I have had that experience before.

I'll try to do this more on-line. Don't know if my husband has a password I need to know to access his acct. He's always flying somewhere!

rkkwan, I meant to say my husband is a 1K flier. In fact, he's getting real close to having 1 million miles flown with United.
Orcas is offline  

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