United Miles - new policy

Mar 23rd, 2010, 05:23 PM
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United Miles - new policy

I'm an American expat living in Taipei and am starting to book my tickets home for a summer visit. I usually fly United. I have been paying around $1900 and using my miles to upgrade. Most often, I have been upgraded from TPE-SFO-JFK.

Their new program requires me to pay either $1700. plus $500 at the airport for each over-water upgrade (or $2700), or to pay $2100 and $350 for each available upgrade (or $2800). Go figure. Evidently, the domestic part of my route would not be covered.

It seems to me that my miles have been significantly devalued. What are people doing with their miles? Using them for hotels and cars? Saving until they have a free flight? Is there any solution to this situation?

Perhaps I should just forget US carriers and stick to Asian carriers, and then rely on JetBlue and Southwest when I'm in the States.

My travel agent in the States says most airlines are now following this policy. People were complaining that they were paying for an upgradeable fare and then not getting it. However, this new policy is a lot more money, for a lot less in upgrades.

Advice is welcome. Thanks for any insights.
jgmc is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 02:16 AM
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Try posting (or just reading) on www.flyertalk.com There is a United Airlines board over there and probably lots of info on this (along with a lot of whining, we do it well on Flyertalk)
CarolA is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 06:45 AM
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Thanks, CarolA. I've posted on flyertalk, but haven't found any information there yet. My head is spinning trying to figure all this out.
jgmc is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 07:32 AM
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Sorry, usually they are pretty good over there about responding. (I don't fly UA enough to have this issue)
CarolA is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 07:47 AM
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I fly American. It uses a similar system. You pay in miles plus a copay to upgrade on many flights, although on full coach fares, there is no copay, just the miles for the upgrade.

I think you have to look at this way: If you were buying a business class ticket outright for this trip, would you be able to get it for $2,700-2,800?

I question this: Are you sure it wouldn't include an upgrade on the U.S. domestic portion of your trip? It should, if it's like American.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 09:58 AM
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f you were buying a business class ticket outright for this trip, would you be able to get it for $2,700-2,800?

Actually, you probably could buy a business class ticket for that, or just a little more.

I plugged some random dates (lv Aug 11, ret Aug 25) for Asiana Airlines, and they offer a r-t business class fare of $3113, inclusive of all taxes/fees. Asiana is a top-flight airline (in an entirely different class from United), you'd get miles for the flight (which could even be credited to United), and you wouldn't have to put up with all of the date restrictions of frequent flyer tickets.

The real point is that business class fares in many, many markets have come down tremendously in the past few years. It used to be that biz class would automatically cost $8-10k, but that is all changed.
DonTopaz is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 10:03 AM
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When I flew to Shanghai earlier this month they wanted $350 plus 25,000 miles to upgrade each way. I think the price depends on the ticket you buy (not just the class but the fare code). I decided to go for it on the return and was 6th in line for an upgrade. Only the 1st person on the list got upgraded. Flights are so overbooked now that it's often a moot point.

What will I do with all the miles I've accumulated? Try to use them to fly my daughters around?
Grassshopper is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 02:12 PM
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You posted in the MilesBuzz forum on flyertalk which isn't for specific program information which is why you haven't gotten much response. You should post (or better yet search and read) in the United Mileage Plus forum. I'm not familiar with UA policies but I'm sure there's a big long thread about this somewhere in that forum.
Patty is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 02:49 PM
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When you search you'll probably have to go back a ways because UA announced the copays about year ago but delayed implementation until January.
EricH is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 05:02 PM
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Thanks for the tips on how to post on flyertalk. I'll try again.

Yes, it is true that you can use your miles and pay $2700/$2800 and get an upgrade. However, you can buy a biz class ticket and NOT use your miles (but earn them instead) for about $3100. Not much incentive to use your miles.

And, yes, no domestic travel. I re-checked: only "over the water."

Last winter I paid full fare coach ($1900) and was upgraded all the way. Now, I will have to pay $2700 and get only a partial upgrade.

It is a long flight, but I don't mind (too much) flying coach, although who doesn't prefer business? On UA, however, they often use their 747s for int'l flights and as you know, in the 747 coach there are only overhead screens. Come on. JetBlue can give you individual screens to go from Boston to Dulles!

I've got a reservation on UA using 65,000 miles for a free coach flight.

Or, I can fly coach for $1710.

Or, I can fly biz for $2700 and 50,000 miles.

Or, I can fly biz for $3100 and earn miles.

I am wondering if it is time to switch my ff allegiance to an Asian carrier and just pay down my UA miles.

Do any of you use your UA miles for hotels and/or cars?

Thanks everyone. Much appreciate your advice.
jgmc is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 05:45 PM
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If you can find $3,100 business fare between TPE and the US all the time, then just pay for that fare.
rkkwan is offline  
Mar 25th, 2010, 12:17 AM
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Of course, rkkwan, you are absolutely right. The great price on the biz fare is the best deal.

But, I'm an expat, and I'm not traveling on a special vacation. I'm going home, something I may do 2 to 4 times per year.

So, UA's price structure and diminishing value of the miles I've accumulated is tough. The increased fares become significant.

What was a $1900 upgradeable fare is now either $2700 or $3100. And, where I sat last year in biz all the way, the new fares only get me in biz for the trans-Pacific part of my flight. (I end up on the east coast.)

For $1700 I sit in coach, but the extra $1000 to $1400 is a pinch when you fly several times per year.

Are these miles going to worth anything going forward?
jgmc is offline  
Mar 25th, 2010, 07:09 AM
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This is a good example of why I use my miles as soon as I can - I see too much risk in letting large balances build up. The airlines can change the rules whenever they want meaning that a large "investment" in miles can lose value very easily.
Brian_in_Charlotte is offline  
Mar 26th, 2010, 12:29 AM
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You've got a reservation on UA using 65,000 miles for a free coach flight.

Or you could fly one way in biz class for 62,500 miles and the other way in economy for 32,500.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Mar 26th, 2010, 07:33 AM
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It is interesting to me that the benefit UA seems to be pushing is the lowered biz class fare. No savings on economy fare, and a reduction in mileage benefits.
jgmc is offline  
Mar 27th, 2010, 10:15 AM
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I don't like the increased mileage requirements for awards and don't think I like the new upgrade policies (because I have systemwide, regional and (had) 500-mile certs to use for upgrades instead of using miles).

You said "no savings on economy fare", but actually your $1710 fare today is less than the $1900 that you used to pay.

In the past you had to have an M or H fare to upgrade an international trip with miles and the mileage requirement was 30,000 miles each way.

I am surprised that you got a miles-upgradeable roundtrip in the past for $1900. Were you able to upgrade both ways for that price (plus 60,000 miles)?

I did a search and found a roundtrip fare of $1916 all in for TPE-SFO-JFK-SFO-TPE, Aug. 17 to 31. That is roughly the same $1900 that you were accustomed to paying.

The outbound leg is an H fare and inbound is W. Under the old program you might get a mileage upgrade outbound but the return was not eligible for upgrade. So, under the old program you would upgrade one-way and return in economy for $1900 plus 30,000 miles.

Under the new program your co-pay for the M fare is $250. The previously non-miles-upgradeable W fare is now upgradeable with a co-pay of $450. Would also be 25,000 miles each way.

With the new program you could upgrade outbound and ride home in coach at a cost of $250 more and 5,000 miles less.

Strange, but I searched several dates and can't come up with a TPE-xxx-JFK ticked that has any fare less than M or H (outbound). I did find B fares roundtrip for $2262 all in that are upgradeable with no co-pay and only 12,500 miles each way.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Mar 27th, 2010, 10:23 AM
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You wrote: "Or, I can fly biz for $2700 and 50,000 miles."

That would be biz for $2700 and 50,000 miles and earn miles (18,132) and would be more like $2400. That would be if your upgrades clear both ways.

That $3300 biz fare would almost certainly be a Z fare which would not get you a class-of-service mileage bonus.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Mar 27th, 2010, 01:08 PM
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The $3300 biz fare would almost certainly be a Z fare which would not get you a class-of-service mileage bonus.

The fare is $3100. The best feature of the fare is that it's on Asiana, and not United.

All airlines have reduced the quality over the recent years, but few if any have reduced their quality and service as much as United. As for UA's Frequent Flyer program, UA has made miles incredibly easy to accumulate, which in turn has made them less and less useful. (It's almost exactly like a country such as Zimbabwe printing more and more money: that's how you create runaway inflation.)

United's best customers fare alright if they travel in economy, because of the E+ seating. And they can get FF seats on United-operated flights by paying the "standard" rate. But the best customers still have to put with the ground and in-flight service that doesn't come close to international standards, or even that of most US carriers. And United's best customers still have to put up with United's customer-hating Starnet system that blocks access to many award seats on partner airlines.

For anyone than existing United elites, flying on United is a guaranteed losing proposition.

It's unfortunate that UA was not allowed to be dissolved at the height of its financial problems a few years ago. The flying public would have been better off.
DonTopaz is offline  
Mar 31st, 2010, 06:02 AM
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There are so many rules and fares that my head spins just thinking about it.

UA told me that all upgrades now require a co-pay, either $500 or $350, depending on the fare you pay. However, it turns out the fare ends up almost the same.

They claim to have lowered the miles required from 60,000 to 50,000, but 60,000 used to get me from TPE - SFO - JFK, and now 50,000 gets me just to SFO.

I think rizzuto is right: UA is a losing proposition. Time to use up those miles for some free flights, and then concentrate on an Asian carrier.
jgmc is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2010, 11:13 PM
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Hello "JGMC,"

Wish I could help with your recent dilemma. I'm in TPE now and used AA FF miles to fly here in 1st class. We made the decision to blow out our AA miles and just move on. The US carriers make it very hard to get where you want to go when you want to go using FF miles. And the fees are killer!

What I did do recently, was find travel agents that specialized in Japan and TPE when I needed to purchase tickets. One was in LA, the other here in TPE. It was worth the time because the savings on the fares were 50% less than what I found on exhaustive Internet searches.

In any case, since I am in TPE, I'd like to ask if you have a recommendation for a tailor and optometrist? I’m looking to get a few alternations done before my presentation on Thursday and I’d like to get my glasses here as they are less than at home. I’m staying in the area of Zhongshan MRT.

Thanks for your time, I love your city!
childlife is offline  

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