UNITED GUTTED! Part 1: The Bloodbath

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United

By now, you’ve heard the news. United Airlines seriously gutted their Mileage Plus program. It’s all the rage on Flyertalk, Twitter, and every major blog in existence. Gary from The View From The Wing called it a bloodbath, which I find extremely accurate. This recent review below (not mine) will show you in every excruciating detail what we are going to be missing come Feb 1.

Asiana First Class ‘OZ Suite’ B777-200 (Seoul to New York)

I won’t go into every single detail of this massacre, but here is the gist.

  1. The new redemption rates will go into effect on Feb 1.
  2. Separate United and Star partners charts are introduced
  3. Forget booking first class seats on flights to Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa and Australia/New Zealand on Star partners. The rates on these routes will increase by 62-87%. United own first class seats on the above routes will cost you 15-20% more.
  4. Business class redemption increases are less drastic, hovering at about 15% for United and 35% for Star partners on the above routes.
  5. Coach rates remain unaffected, except by 6% increase for the Middle East flights.
  6. Coach rates to Alaska will increase by 10,000 miles per round trip.
  7. Coach rates to Hawaii will increase by 5,000 miles per round trip.
  8. Domestic rates within Continental US and Canada remain unaffected.
  9. Changes for South America routes are minimal, around 4% for first class and 10% for business.

In addition, the stopover rules are also about to change and include one stopover for a roundtrip. To be fair, though, that move is… well, fair. God know the system has been abused long enough by “creative” travelers. Well, what can I say—it was good while it lasted (I mean until till Feb 1st 2014).

Gary from View from the Wings and Brian, The Point Guy wrote excellent summaries on today’s devaluation.

View from the Wings

The Point Guy

WHY AM I UPSET?

Quite honestly I shouldn’t be. I’m not a loyal United customer. I’m not anyone’s loyal customer. Over 10 years ago, I made a conscious decision not to push for status with any airline or hotel by giving them the bulk of my travel. I did have a brief love affair with Delta, but it passed and re-affirmed me even further that my decision had been nothing but practical.

Furthermore, airline or hotel devaluations cannot be avoided; it’s simply a way of life. No one is bitching about general inflation, right? Well, we do bitch about it, but we are not seriously surprised because we know it’s bound to happen. Every airline devalues their award programs from time to time. So what’s different about this one? Three things:

  1. Because Mileage Plus was (and still is for the next 3 months) the best award program in the US. It sucks to see it go down the way of Delta Sky Pesos.
  2. Because the blow is so quick and huge, it feels like an ambush. It’s one thing to wake up and see the value of your miles go down 10%, and it’s another to see it plunge 80%.
  3. Because there are no positives. Zilch, nada! Remember the introduction of British Avios or new Hilton HHonors? In both cases, the changes were drastic as well, but the negatives were somewhat mitigated by the introduction of new benefits: great rates for short hops with Avios, and lower redemptions for low-category Hiltons. United, on the other hand, brought nothing positive to the table with their so called changes. It’s all bad news!

If this is how I feel, I can only imagine the feelings of real United loyalists. Not everyone can choose an air carrier. For some business travelers that decision has already been made by their travel departments. So seriously, my heart goes out to all of you.

FIRST, THEY CAME FOR THE FIRST CLASS TRAVELERS,

BUT I SAID NOTHING…

No, I’ll stop right there. This is not the right occasion to bring that famous quote, especially considering how abused this adage has become in the recent years.

I’ll even say this: those folks who don’t care about miles and points in general, as well as those who don’t care about flying in premium classes—another words, up to 95% of the population, won’t even notice the changes. What’s the big deal—will be their reaction. The worst part of today’s bloodbath, however, is that by effectively eliminating Star partners’ first class award, United bought themselves an excuse not to try harder. Seriously, if your customers can’t book premium seats on Lufthansa or Singapore, why even bother with modernizing your fleet, or improving your customer service, (or even improving something as benign as your in-flight food)? If I’m forced by United award chart into United metal anyway, then who cares? Right?

Boy, am I happy to have found the availability and made my booking in an Asiana suite come January. That one-way to Siem Reap would cost me 130,000 miles after Feb 1st.

Part 2 What to Do! Stop AA and US Merger Before It’s Too Late

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