United Removes Flight Bucket and Upgrade Inventory Availability from United.com & Gone From Experflyer As Well

United made an announcement late on Friday about discontinuance of award, upgrade space, and fare bucket availability from United.com. Later in the day this information was no longer available using ExpertFlyer either. This information was useful when one was searching for flights based on GPU (Global Premier Upgrade) or RPU availability (Regional Premier Upgrade).

United Announcement About Removal of Availability Display
United Announcement About Removal of Availability Display

Later United clarified their position:

United Announcement Clarification
United Announcement Clarification

This information used to be available using ExpertFlyer as well but as of today the information is no longer available:

united-expertflyer-award-availability-gone

You still have access to the regular fare bucket availability using ExpertFlyer:

united-expertflyer-flight-availability

American Airlines still continues to publish this information via GDS that ExpertFlyer can access:

american-airlines-availability-expertflyer

Conclusion

Unlike American Airlines, United requires you to buy a W fare or higher in order to use their upgrade GPU instrument on long haul international flights. W fare costs hundreds of dollars more than discounted coach and it is wise only to book flights that one can confirm to business or first class at the time of ticketing, if one wishes to use upgrade instrument. Now, this information has been withdrawn from United.com.

The United spokesperson was referring for confusion that displaying this information has lead. I really would like to believe their spokesperson, but she just doesn’t make any sense. How booking a flight that has upgrade space available and then using one of the upgrade instruments can lead to confusion?

2000 United Airlines Mileage Plus Miles + 2000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points + GoGo Pass for $59 Is Back

On August 8th, I wrote about an offer from MilePoint, a Flyertalk clone but without the traffic. You can get 2000 United Mileage Plus miles and 2000 Hyatt Gold Passport points + number of other worthwhile offers for signing up MilePoint Platinum membership at $59 per year. Even if you have no interest about MilePoint, but are member of Hyatt & United, it makes sense to sign up.

milepoint-offer

Here’s a list of benefits. I have marked in RED the ones that I find useful. You can access this offer here once you have signed up for the MilePoint.

milepoint-offer-list

Conclusion

As was the case last month, I found this offer to be useful just for the Hyatt points and United miles alone.

United’s Computer Problems on August 28th

United has had quite a few problems with its computer systems since integration to the ones Continental used on March this year.

I was checking my account earlier today at a time when there was a message that the online system is down but that the phone would be able to help. I happened to be at the Guarulhos airport in Sao Paulo and few meters from the United’s ticketing desk.

united-flightstats

Apparently the airport systems were down as well but getting up at the time. At least for the domestic flights, United can just simply use “pen and paper” to check customers in. This doesn’t, however, work for international flights where United is required to transit the passenger manifest to US authorities certain number of minutes before the flight is scheduled to depart for clearance. This must have led to significant delays.

Now the fun part!

fake-united

There was the above conversation on Twitter between a fake Jeff Smisek and AA’s Twitter team that gave me a good laugh.

United Airlines Mileage Plus Buy or Gift Miles at 40% Discount

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United just emailed me an offer of 40% discount on the price of buying or gifting Mileage Plus miles. This offer is valid through 11:59PM CDT on August 22nd, 2012. The price of a mile bought under this offer including the exercise tax is 2.26 cents. You need to access this offer through a special link.

united-mileage-plus-buy-miles-august-2012-offer

You can buy or gift up to 100000 miles per calendar year per account. If you have more than one family member, they can all participate to this offer.

Does it make sense to buy United Mileage Plus miles at 2.26 cents each?

It really depends. If you are using your miles for international business and first class travel on Star Alliance partner airlines and don’t otherwise have easy access to earning miles, the answer is most likely yes. I personally value my United miles highly due to rather lax routing, double open jaw and a stopover rules.

Here’s the small print of this offer:

       To take advantage of this offer, you must use the order links on this page.

For a limited time, buy Personal Miles or Give Miles for less – only $21.00 per 1,000 miles (normally $35 per 1,000 miles) plus a 7.5% excise tax

15,000 mile minimum purchase required for this discounted rate and after that miles are available in increments of 1,000

Offer ends 11:59PM (Central Time) August 22, 2012

Purchase up to 100,000 MileagePlus Personal miles or Give Miles per account per calendar year

Credit card will be billed immediately for purchase

Mileage rates and other applicable fees are subject to change

Discounted pricing will automatically display when using the links on this page

Allow 48 hours for miles to post to MileagePlus account

Personal Miles and Give Miles are non-refundable

Purchased miles do not count toward Premier® qualification

If you have questions or concerns about this offer, please email custserv@ualmiles.com for assistance

All MileagePlus Program Rules and terms and conditions apply

(TB4483/TB4484)

What’s Happening with United Airlines?

The U.S. Department of Transportation just released their August Air Travel Consumer Report for the month of June, 2012. I have been following these reports to see if United has had any improvement when it comes to delays & complaints. The United’s numbers on the latest report are downright ugly compared to other legacies in the United States.

You can access the August Air Travel Consumer Report here.

Flights Arriving on Time

DOT Report Flights Arriving on Time
DOT Report Flights Arriving on Time

Compared to the first quarter of 2012 when United’s flights arrived on time 80.9% the June figure of 70.1% is bad. It is also the dead last compared to major legacies and regional carriers.

Flight Cancellations

DOT Report Cancellations
DOT Report Cancellations

United was third as of percentage of operations cancelled at 1.6%. In June United canceled total number of 727 flights. This number doesn’t include cancellations by United Express carriers.

Mishandled Bags

DOT Report Mishandled Baggage
DOT Report Mishandled Baggage

United has, again, the highest number of mishandled bags at 4.9 per 1000 enplanements. Compared to June 2011 the number is 15.6% higher.

Denied Boardings

Airlines maximize their revenue by overbooking their flights. There is no incentive neither for full fare/flexible ticket holders nor restricted ones to actually cancel their travel arrangements even if they are not making their flight(s).

In a case of overbooking, airlines tend to try finding volunteers first by offering them future travel credits and confirmed space on later flights. If there are no volunteers, the airlines then start involuntarily deny passengers.

DOT Report Denied Boardings
DOT Report Denied Boardings

Compared to April to June 2011 to 2012 period United’s number of involuntarily denied boarding compared to number of passengers enplaned, has more than doubled from 0.93 to 2.11 per 10000 passengers.

United is dead last on legacy carriers on this measurement as well. Your likelihood of getting involuntarily bumped on Delta is about one sixth compared to United.

Consumer Complaints

Filing a complaint with the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division is normally the last resort if the carrier has not resolved the issue using other communication channels.

DOT Report Complaints June 2012
DOT Report Complaints June 2012

The number of complaints that United has received is more than double per 100000 enplanements to compared to second last which is US Airways. For comparison, Southwest had more enplanements than United but only received 19 complaints compared to United’s 585.

Compared to June 2011 the number of consumer complaints that DOT received in June 2012 is 169% higher when adjusted for number of enplanements.

Of all the 1353 complaints that the DOT received against the airlines operating in the United States (excluding foreign) ones, United’s share of 585 complaints represents 43%.

Conclusion

Obviously the operational merger with United Airlines and Continental Airlines has not gone as expected. The DOT operational and complaint figures doesn’t paint a very rosy picture of the current state of the airline.

I have flown more than a million mile with United and Continental combined and went through the difficult bankruptcy time as a United frequent flier member in the early 2000’s. It is sad to see that merger hasn’t worked anywhere near as expected from the consumer’s point of view. These DOT statistics are just horrific.

2000 United Airlines Mileage Plus Miles + 2000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points + GoGo Pass for $59

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Milepoint is apparently having a premium membership drive and offering a nice package just for $59.

milepoint-offer

Here is a list of benefits & discounts that you will receive for $59.

milepoint-offer-list

Let’s say that if you value your Hyatt and United points at 1.5 cents each then the value of these two is greater than the price of $59 that Milepoint charges for their Premium membership. I have circled in red the benefits & discounts that I have found to be useful.

Conclusion

This is a very good offer that I will take advantage of as well. Buying 2000 Hyatt Gold Passport points and United Mileage Plus miles for just $59 is a very good deal.

Milepoint is a Flyertalk clone that was (surprisingly) founded by the founder of FlyerTalk (after selling the latter to Internet Brands).  For frequent traveler related information I have found the FlyerTalk to be far more useful than the Milepoint.

United’s “Map Your Dreams” Promotion Fiasco

This past spring United had a targeted promotion for bonus miles that were dependent how many round trips you were buying and flying on United Airlines between certain dates.

united-map-your-dreams

Yesterday, United made a following announcement on FlyerTalk regarding the promotion:

united-ft-map-your-dreams-announcement

Apparently United had been more relaxed with the ticketing dates and round trip requirement than what they had on their terms and conditions. Many FlyerTalk members reported that they had received bonus miles for flights that weren’t exactly per the terms and conditions of this promotion, and then made further plans to get the last one or two trips before the deadline to qualify for the full bonus.

Quite often companies like United have restrictive terms and conditions, and what actually posts as bonus miles or points can be quite different. United has multiple times in the past foregone the ticketing date requirement from the promos and the requirement of an exact round trip to make open jaw round trips eligible as well.

But this time United just withdraw all the awarded miles from Mileage Plus members. According to the release on FlyerTalk and the email received by participants of this promotion, the United will recalculate the miles earned from this promotion and will post them to qualified accounts sometime in July.

map-your-dreams-email

Conclusion

It is very interesting that United has so much time on their hands to recalculate some bonus miles, when people are continuously having problems with getting correct mileage posted to their accounts for the United and partner airlines flown. It is very bad form for United to withdraw miles that were already awarded.

If I had participated to this promotion and trusted United to calculate the bonus miles correctly, I would be fuming at this point.

Here are terms & conditions that United apparently didn’t follow when posting the bonus miles:

1. Offer valid only for original recipients of email or direct mail invitation.

2. To qualify, register for the offer before travel, then purchase and complete paid qualifying roundtrips to any destination worldwide on United or United Express® operated flights.

3. Ticketing period: 04/15/12 through 07/15/12.

4. Travel period: 04/15/12 through 07/15/12, excluding 07/03/12-07/05/12.

5. On specific number of paid qualifying roundtrip flights (as outlined in the offer) members can earn 5,000 bonus award miles, 10,000 bonus award miles or up to a maximum of 25,000 bonus award miles.

6. Bonus award miles do not count toward Premier® status and do not apply to class-of-service, Premier bonus miles or promotional Premier qualifying miles (PQM).

7. Offer is not valid on United-marketed codeshare flights operated by other carriers.

8. Offer is not valid on government fares.

9. A roundtrip is defined as travel from an origin city to a destination city with return travel beginning in the destination city back to the origin city.

10. Offer is not combinable and can be earned a maximum of one time. Bonus is credited 6-8 weeks after promotion end date of 07/15/12.

11. E-Ticket® purchase required. Tickets purchased in the US through United Reservations are subject to a $25 ticketing fee, and tickets purchased at airport ticket counters are subject to a $30 ticketing fee. Fees subject to change.

12. Flight activity must be posted to the member’s MileagePlus account in order to qualify for this offer.

13. Offer is subject to change without notice. Other restrictions may apply.

14. Miles accrued, awards issued and bonus offers are subject to the rules of the United MileagePlus program. For complete details about the MileagePlus program, go to united.com.

United Airlines Mileage Plus – 30% Discount When Buying Miles

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UPDATE: Seems that United has had problems with their www.ualmiles.com website. It has been down for the day.

I received an email offer from United over the weekend for 30% discount on bought miles that is going to end up later today.

united-airlines-mileage-plus-30-discount

United doesn’t run these as often as US Airways does that is currently offering a 100% bonus on bought miles. You can use miles from both programs for redemption tickets on Star Alliance carriers. United allows one-ways and US does not. There are other small differences as well.

LoyaltyLobby: Get 100% bonus when buying US Airways Dividend Miles

If you need some miles to top off your account for an international first or business class ticket on partner airline, now is probably right time to buy them.

Here are the terms of this offer:

  • Offer expires June 18 at 11:59pm CDT
  • Buy Personal Miles or Give Miles for $24.50 per 1,000 miles plus a 7.5% excise tax
  • Purchase up to 100,000 MileagePlus Personal miles or Give Miles per account per calendar year
  • Credit card will be billed immediately for purchase
  • Mileage rates and other applicable fees are subject to change
  • Miles are available in increments of 1,000
  • Minimum purchase 2,000 miles
  • Allow 48 hours for miles to post to MileagePlus account
  • Personal Miles and GiveMiles are non-refundable
  • Purchased miles do not count toward elite qualification (TB8874/TB8875)

United Airlines Million Miler Welcome Pack

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Once my United Airlines Mileage Plus and Continental Onepass accounts were merged back at the beginning of this year, I became a one million miler on United. There are certain benefits associated with this status, although they were somewhat watered down during the merger process, like the lifetime Premier Gold. Regardless of my future United activity, my Mileage Plus status won’t be lower than this. The main benefit for me is the lifetime Star Alliance Gold status.

So, I was eager to find out what was the United’s Million Miler package like. I had previously received 1 and 2 Million Miler packages from American Airlines that didn’t blew me away. United’s was better, but could have been somewhat more substantial.

The One Million Miler box came by UPS Express

united-airlines-million-miler-box

There was a personalized One million miles-leaflet inside.

united-airlines-million-miler-insert

Another set of drink coupons and the Premier 1K call instructions

united-airlines-million-miler-voucher

Leaflet explaining the Premier 1K benefits

united-airlines-million-miler-box-inner

Personalized 1 Million Miler Premier 1K-card and luggage tags

united-airlines-million-miler-cards

Overall, it is nice that United keeps recognizing their fliers that have reached this significant milestone. The first one million has been a somewhat bumpy ride with first the bankruptcy and then the merger with Continental.

What got me hooked on United was the Let’s Kill The Independence Air-promotion back in the 2004. I loved that promotion and got Star Alliance around the world in business class ticket out of it.

American Airlines Offering “Fast Track” on Executive Platinum Requalification for Matched United 1K’s and Global Services Members

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Back in April I wrote about the American Airlines’ offer for disgruntled United Airlines Mileage Plus members. AA was going to match the UA status for the same level i.e. United Global Services to AA Concierge Key. Airlines don’t normally match to their highest level so this offer was unheard of.

I also took up on the offer as I had been “downgraded” from Executive Platinum status to my lifetime Platinum one. It took American Airlines about three weeks to process the match.

Considering that most of the United frequent fliers were matched when close to five months of the year was already gone, it was smart move from AA’s part to make the offer below to those that were matched.

aa-exp-offer

Essentially AA is prorating the requirement for Executive Platinum status to take into account the number of months that are left. Instead of requiring 100K elite qualifying miles or points, the requirement for those that were matched is now 55K by the end of the year.

Here’s the small print of this offer:

(1) Elite-qualifying activity includes eligible travel on American Airlines, American Eagle, the AmericanConnection® carrier, alloneworld® member airlines and their affiliates, Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air and/or American Airlines marketed codeshare flights.

Elite-Status Offer Terms and Conditions
This is an exclusive offer only for members who receive this email directly from American Airlines. You have been pre-enrolled for this offer. No registration is required.

AAdvantage Executive Platinum® membership received through this offer is valid through February 28, 2014. To qualify, you must earn 55,000 elite-qualifying miles or points between April 24, 2012, and December 31, 2012. Bonus elite qualifying miles earned through special promotions are excluded. Upon reaching the required mileage threshold, your AAdvantage elite-status membership benefits will take effect immediately. Your new membership credentials will be mailed to you within four to six weeks after qualification. You must re-qualify for AAdvantage elite-status membership annually. For details regarding the standard qualification levels, click here.

Systemwide Upgrade Offer Terms and Conditions
In order to receive eight (8) one-way Systemwide Upgrades, you must earn 30,000 elite-qualifying miles or points between April 24, 2012, and August 31, 2012. If you qualify, eight (8) one-way Systemwide Upgrades will be deposited into your account within two weeks following the end of the qualification period and will be valid for travel through February 28, 2014. Elite-qualifying miles and points are earned for eligible travel on American Airlines, American Eagle, the AmericanConnection carrier, all oneworld member airlines and their affiliates, Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air and/or American Airlines marketed codeshare flights. For complete Systemwide Upgrade terms and conditions, visit AA.com/systemwideupgrades.

This is a post-only email. Please do not reply to this message unless you are unsubscribing from American Airlines transactional emails. To unsubscribe from this type of email, click here. For all inquiries about American Airlines or the AAdvantage program, visitwww.aa.com/contactaa, or send an email to webmaster@aa.com, or contact us in writing at:
American Airlines AAdvantage® program, PO Box 619688, D/FW Airport Texas USA 75261-9688

AAdvantage® Program Terms and Conditions
American Airlines reserves the right to change the AAdvantage® program and its terms and conditions at any time without notice, and to end the AAdvantage® program with six months notice. Any such changes may affect your ability to use the awards or mileage credits that you have accumulated. Unless specified, AAdvantage miles earned through this promotion/offer do not count toward elite-status qualification or Million Miler(SM) status. American Airlines is not responsible for products or services offered by other participating companies. For complete details about the AAdvantage program, visit
AAdvantage® program terms and conditions

AmericanAirlines, AAdvantage, AAdvantage Gold, AAdvantage Platinum, AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Million Miler, AAdvantage with Scissor Eagle design, AA with Scissor Eagle design, Scissor Eagle design, and AA.com are marks of
American Airlines, Inc.

oneworld is a registered trademark of oneworld Alliance, LLC.

United Airlines Terminates Codeshare & Frequent Flyer Partnership with Qatar Airways

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First United terminated the partnership they had with Emirates, then Virgin Atlantic was gone earlier this year, and now the ability to earn and redeem on Qatar Airways will end on 14th of September, 2012.

qatar-airways-plane

I have flown with the Qatar Airways quite a lot recently, and their service in business class is excellent. I am not a huge fan of the Doha airport, but the ground experience should get a lot better early next year, when the new airport opens.

qatar-airways-route-map

It is sad to see more United partners to go. Qatar Airways has offered very good connections to number of destinations in Middle East/Indian Subcontinent that are borderline impossible to get to using other partners.

There are no notes on the United.com regarding this change, but it should get updated sometime in the next week.

Effective June 15, 2012, United will terminate its codeshare agreement with Qatar Airways. Reservations booked through United for Qatar Airways-operated flights scheduled to depart on or before September 14, 2012, will be honored as ticketed. Customers booked through United on Qatar Airways-operated flights scheduled to depart on or after September 15, 2012, will be accommodated on their scheduled flights with new flight numbers. Customers will be able to accrue mileage on Qatar Airways codeshare and interline flights until September 14, 2012. Award travel ticketed on or before September 14, 2012, will be honored as ticketed and valid for one year.

Star Alliance Carriers Still Have Trouble with New United Airlines Frequent Flyer Numbers

United Airlines and Continental merged back in 2010. On January 1st this year the Continental Onepass and United Mileage Plus accounts were merged under the United brand, but using the frequent flyer numbers from Continental. If you didn’t previously have a Continental number, you were given a new United Mileage Plus number using the numbering syntax that Continental used.

united-cards

I had linked my United and Continental frequent flyer accounts back in 2011, so the account information and the miles were just merged. United requested that from now on the new number (old Continental one) should be used, but that the United number would continue to work for some time.

But I have found out that the Star Alliance carriers are not recognizing the old Continental number that is now my main United number correctly. I have had several flights on Lufthansa where I am only shown as UAP (United Premier) when it should have shown my status as UA*G (United Airlines Star Alliance Gold status). I have had this same problem with Blue1 once as well. It seems that if they take away the new United number and input the old one, the status is then shown correctly.

united-lufthansaticket

I had exactly this same thing happen last night when I was taking Lufthansa flight from Jakarta to Singapore in economy class. I had checked in online and entered my United (old Continental) FF number. The status was shown incorrectly on the electronic boarding pass. At the airport, I requested the lady to enter my old United number and then the status was shown correctly. I had my SAS EuroBonus card on hand just in case as well, if both of my United numbers would have failed. I needed this to get the lounge invitation.

So, if a partner airline doesn’t recognize your status correctly, just ask them to plug in your old number. Problem solved.

united-lufthansa-seat

On a side note, you may wonder, how I survived the Lufthansa flight in economy? The short flight wasn’t bad at all. They had failed to load the special meal that I had ordered (KSML), but I was able to get a nice and roomy seat, and the seat next to me was empty. I was also able to catch up with the flight attendant who was sitting on the jump seat in front of me during the take-off and landing.

Getting My United Premier 1K Status Matched to American Airlines Executive Platinum

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On April 27th I wrote a piece about how American Airlines had started to poach United’s frequent fliers and match them to equivalent level on AA’s program up to Concierge Key.

aa-cards

Soon after, the program was apparently limited only to United 1K’s and Global Services members and others were given a paid challenge.

When there is a program like this that won’t go forever one should not procrastinate, like I did, but just do it immediately. I finally got my act together and decided to email my United account statement to American Airlines on May 2nd, 2012.

Had I done it on the date I wrote about this, I would have not only received the Executive Platinum status, but also 8 evips.

I have had the Executive Platinum status with AA for couple of years, but had it lapse last year, when I moved out of the States. I have a lifetime Platinum status with American due to being a 2.7 million miler with the program, although most of the miles have come from transfers from hotel programs and credit card spend.

The reason why I decided to do the match after all was that it was not once in a lifetime, and it will give me better lounge access, if I fly in economy or business, and there happens to be a first class lounge like in London, Hong Kong, and Sydney.

It took American about two weeks to verify the information I had emailed them, and received the following email earlier today:

Thanks for contacting AAdvantage® Customer Service. We’re sorry you’ve
been kept waiting.

We appreciate your desire to make American Airlines your first choice
for all your travel needs. We are eager to earn your business and your
loyalty, and are confident we can provide you with the high-quality
service you expect.

Please accept our invitation to experience some of the special benefits
we provide to members at our highest elite-status level. In a few weeks
you will receive your AAdvantage Executive Platinum® membership card,
which is valid through February 28, 2013. This unique membership affords
you all of the privileges and most of the benefits of this level,
including:

**Unlimited complimentary upgrades confirmed as early as 100 hours prior
to departure
**100% mileage bonus on the base miles flown on select carriers
**Complimentary access to Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seating
**Priority Baggage Delivery
**Waived charges for two checked bags
**PriorityAccessSM privileges at airport check-in, security and boarding
gates

Plus, you will receive 8 complimentary one-way Systemwide Upgrades if
you earn 30,000 elite-qualifying miles or points between April 24, 2012
and August 31, 2012.  Systemwide Upgrades are valid for worldwide travel
on American Airlines and allow you to confirm an available seat in the
next class of service at the time of booking (subject to availability).
Visit www.aa.com/systemwideupgrades for details about using these
upgrades.

We hope that your introduction to life at the top on American Airlines
will convince you to requalify for full AAdvantage Executive Platinum
status through February 28, 2014. You can do that by earning 100,000
elite-qualifying miles or points, or flying 100 elite-qualifying
segments, during the 2012 calendar year. For details on earning
qualifying miles or points, visit www.aa.com/elitestatus.

We look forward to welcoming you aboard the next time you travel. Enjoy
your upgrade to AAdvantage Executive Platinum status!

Fare War Over the Atlantic: Most US/Canadian Cities to London in Business Class for Less than $2K RT

There seems to be a flash fare war brewing over the Atlantic. AA and BA were advertising Queen’s Jubilee two day sale and soon other carriers were matching as well. The last day to book these is today 17th of May.

fare-war-atlantic

You can now find airfares to London on Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, United Airlines, Delta, Air France, American Airlines, Iberia, and British Airways and probably on few others as well for less than $2K return in business class.

Most of these fares have relatively tight outbound window from North America to Europe, but the return can happen within the ticket validity/fare rules.

These $2K fares out from the eastern seaboard are not that common during holiday periods. They are, however, rare from the west coast.

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