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[RANT] Let Me Use My Miles As They Were Intended  
User currently offlineANITIX87 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 3292 posts, RR: 13
Posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 3088 times:
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I'm starting to get annoyed, here. I won't name airlines because my goal isn't intended to bash one over another, just a general comment on the industry as I see it.

I want to use mileage to either book a free economy ticket NYC-GVA this summer, or upgrade to business. Here's the breakdown (this is PER PERSON):

OPTION 1: Economy Class Saver Fare: $1400 (on an unrelated note, holy crap is NYC-Europe expensive this year!)

OPTION 2: Economy Class Award Ticket: 110,000 miles (and $5.00) round trip (60K miles "saver" award, but they're tough to find)

OPTION 3: Business Class Upgrade Award: $1400 (price of Economy ticket) + 40,000 miles + $1100 "co-pay"

I looked at these options, and obviously Option 2 makes the most sense, but I was really hoping to fly my girlfriend and I business class to add a little something to the trip. I checked the website for the Business Award Upgrade, and they told me, "Upgrade Awards are not available for this flight" despite the website boasting that Upgrade Awards can be used on ANY flight operated by the airline. I called them and the guy told me that I can, after booking the Economy ticket, call them back and request an Award Upgrade, which will put me ON A WAITING LIST. I'm sorry, WHAT? Your award upgrades are available "maybe"??????

Does all of this seem absolutely ludicrous to anybody else? I checked the bookings for the flights I want, and business class (and first class) are completely open save for one booked seat. I am a loyal customer to this airline and while I admit I don't fly enough to earn one of their higher "status" levels (I am simply a "member"), I should be able to use my miles as they were intended: a free reward for loyalty and mileage accumulation. Making me pay an additional 45% of my ticket price to use a "Reward Upgrade" is just plain misleading and unethical, IMHO.

Mostly venting, and looking for people to contribute why airlines do this and how it can be justified. I'm glad the airline in question has no black-out dates, but who cares if I can fly any day I want if it still costs me a ton of my miles and a ton of money!??!?!?

/rant

TIS


www.stellaryear.com: Canon EOS 50D, Canon EOS 5DMkII, Sigma 50mm 1.4, Canon 24-70 2.8L II, Canon 100mm 2.8L, Canon 100-4
13 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinehOmsAR From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 1106 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 3038 times:

Quoting ANITIX87 (Thread starter):
looking for people to contribute why airlines do this and how it can be justified.

Quite simple. It's a free market.

The price of any plane ticket is subject to lots of different factors and forces and whatnot.

If the demand is there for them to sell those tickets, why should they give them away for cheap/free? Capacity controls on award tickets have been around forever. More recently, they have combined miles and money for awards and upgrades. The alternative would be for them to significantly increase the number of miles required to obtain certain awards.

I'm sure they've done the research that shows this is the best way to do it.

[Edited 2013-01-25 07:29:48]


I was raised by a cup of coffee.
User currently offlineFlyingSicilian From Italy, joined Mar 2009, 1170 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 3019 times:

So you mean United...

Don't expect any changes or "enhancements" anytime soon. If anything it might get harder to book.



Ciao Windjet mi manchi
User currently offlineANITIX87 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 3292 posts, RR: 13
Reply 3, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 2928 times:
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Quoting hOmsAR (Reply 1):

I'm sure they've done the research that shows this is the best way to do it.

The best way for them[i], absolutely. I understand airlines need to make money but it is, at the cruz of it, a service industry (or at least, it's supposed to be). If I'm already paying $1400 on my economy class fare, why charge me ANOTHER $1100 to fly business class under the guise of a "reward upgrade"? The airline may make [i]less money than if the business class seat I take we purchased outright, but they do, at least, get someone else buying my Economy seat that I gave up in upgrading. It just grinds my gears.

Quoting FlyingSicilian (Reply 2):
So you mean United...

I didn't not say I do not mean to not talk about United..........I just didn't want to name them up-front because this wasn't intended to only be anti-them. I fly them exclusively and this one rant won't prevent that loyalty from remaining. It was, as I stated, more of a comment on the state of the industry.

TIS



www.stellaryear.com: Canon EOS 50D, Canon EOS 5DMkII, Sigma 50mm 1.4, Canon 24-70 2.8L II, Canon 100mm 2.8L, Canon 100-4
User currently offlinemax550 From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 1138 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 2846 times:

Are you looking for very specific dates? I found Business Saver tickets for 100,000 miles roundtrip for a Tues-Tues in July. If you can maybe try adjusting your dates a bit and see what you can come up with.
In my experience you're unlikely to get upgraded without booking a biz ticket unless you have some status. Your best bet is probably a business saver award if you want to be in business class.


User currently offlineCalebWilliams From United States of America, joined Dec 2008, 274 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 2812 times:

Quoting hOmsAR (Reply 1):
I'm sure they've done the research that shows this is the best way to do it.

For the airline, mind.



Caleb Williams MSP AUS STL AMS CPH LGW YYZ
User currently offlineClassicLover From Ireland, joined Mar 2004, 4601 posts, RR: 24
Reply 6, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 2775 times:

I find that using miles for tickets requires the passenger to be flexible with their dates. I've moved dates in trips - and moved whole trips - to use miles instead of cash.

It just is how it is!



I do quite enjoy a spot of flying - more so when it's not in Economy!
User currently offlineANITIX87 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 3292 posts, RR: 13
Reply 7, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 2719 times:
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Quoting max550 (Reply 4):
Are you looking for very specific dates?

I am looking to go for three weeks, but am restricted by two weddings I have to photograph (July 20, August 17). Otherwise, I'm flexible somewhat. I am also incredibly picky about flying non-stop and that's another major hurdle for me (I also managed to find some Business Clas saver tickets for connecting flights, but I think I'd rather fly Economy non-stop, than Business with a connection).

Quoting ClassicLover (Reply 6):
I find that using miles for tickets requires the passenger to be flexible with their dates. I've moved dates in trips - and moved whole trips - to use miles instead of cash.

That eliminates any benefit of boasting about "no blackout dates." Not offering a "Saver Award" on some dates is, effectively, the same thing. There's no justifiable reason I should be able to find an Economy Award for 60K miles to depart on one day, but the same ticket for 110,000 with a departure on the following day (either way, I'm not paying, the airline shouldn't punish me for a schedule I have to stick to).

TIS



www.stellaryear.com: Canon EOS 50D, Canon EOS 5DMkII, Sigma 50mm 1.4, Canon 24-70 2.8L II, Canon 100mm 2.8L, Canon 100-4
User currently offlineLHCVG From United States of America, joined May 2009, 1449 posts, RR: 1
Reply 8, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 2630 times:

Quoting FlyingSicilian (Reply 2):
So you mean United...

Don't expect any changes or "enhancements" anytime soon. If anything it might get harder to book.
Quoting ANITIX87 (Reply 3):
I didn't not say I do not mean to not talk about United..........I just didn't want to name them up-front because this wasn't intended to only be anti-them. I fly them exclusively and this one rant won't prevent that loyalty from remaining. It was, as I stated, more of a comment on the state of the industry.

Credit to the OP for not just bashing UA per se, but yes the upgrade co-pay has been very much a clearly-stated UA policy for the last couple years (maybe less than two years, but still a while). It's an incentive to book higher fare classes if you're someone looking to upgrade. That way they don't get someone on a cheapie special ticket upgrading to J without getting any more money out of you. I'm not saying that's totally fair, but they are trying to coax a little more revenue from the super cheap fare buckets.

IMHO they make the upgrade tables this way because they know the only people who really upgrade with miles are those with tons to burn anyway. Take domestic UA upgrade awards - 20,000 miles + $75 co-pay EACH WAY. That's potentially two saver r/t award tix plus E+ seats both trips wasted just to get a domestic F seat. Again, these are targeted at a specific group of traveller.

Part of the reason is because....

Quoting ClassicLover (Reply 6):
I find that using miles for tickets requires the passenger to be flexible with their dates. I've moved dates in trips - and moved whole trips - to use miles instead of cash.

It just is how it is!

Mileage (award) and revenue tickets get accounted for differently, though cheap ones are always capacity-controlled, whether revenue or an award ticket. For instance, one flight I take several times a year is always about $400, but I can essentially always find "super saver" MP awards for 20,000 miles r/t, whereas going to Florida I could either use 20,000 miles just the same or shell out $200 and get a revenue ticket earning miles. The former is a much better deal, and since I am always booking in advance, those saver seats are never an issue. That's just because UA accounts for seats differently. One of the articles of faith on these airline forums is that international F award tix are often the best value out there on a dollar value per mile used basis. They still cost an obscene amount of miles, but when you work out the numbers it's a great deal compared to what that seat retails for in cash.


User currently offlinespacecadet From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 3522 posts, RR: 12
Reply 9, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 2585 times:

Quoting hOmsAR (Reply 1):
I'm sure they've done the research that shows this is the best way to do it.

Don't assume that. Or rather, you can assume they've done research, but don't assume it's valid. Every company does research designed for no other purpose than to validate a conclusion they've already come to. I've been party to that many times. I've been involved in research where the actual data, if looked at objectively, would come to the exact *opposite* conclusion as what was put in the final report. One example was when I worked for a TV company looking to revamp its web site. Something like 75% of people coming to the site were going to the schedule page and leaving. Random people (users and non-users) were asked what they most would want to come to our web site for, and of course approximately 75% of them answered scheduling information. But rather than taking this data and using it to justify a revamp to the schedule page, the company's final report used it as proof that we needed to build awareness for our original video offerings.

The reason was that we had already decided we wanted to push people to our original video, because we could directly sell ads on it that we could charge more for than the banner ads on the schedule page.

At every company, you can find examples of bean counters seeing short term dollar signs while ignoring the long term. The whole point of FF programs is to generate customer loyalty. But they can't do that if nobody can use the program as intended. The problem is these days, airlines have decided it's better to sell every seat on a plane - even if they have to do it below cost - than to allow people in their FF program to book those seats. But that's missing the forest for the trees, and it's another example of the race to the bottom. They're not building any loyalty by selling cheap seats, they're still losing money by selling them below cost, and eventually what they end up with is planes full of people they're losing money on anyway who next week will just turn around and fly somebody else. And meanwhile, their FF members end up disillusioned and maybe they fly someone else next time too.

Some airlines do have better FF programs than others - if they were all based on valid research, they'd all be the same.



I'm tired of being a wanna-be league bowler. I wanna be a league bowler!
User currently offlineRoseflyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 9378 posts, RR: 52
Reply 10, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 2525 times:

I don’t understand your rant. If you are looking at very specific days, then yes the tickets might have sold out. There is limited inventory, although a good amount appears 3 days before departure.

If you are flexible with your dates, business class saver awards are available almost every day of the week for 100,000 miles. Economy is a bit harder, but you can find plenty of availability most days of the week for 60,000 miles. Taxes are relatively low too. Compared to some airlines fuel surcharges, you are looking at only $100 on taxes. I think that is a great deal.

If you expect to be able to fly any flight you want on any day for a saver award, then I think your expectations are a bit too high. Airlines don’t make a seat available on any flight and any day at the saver price. Some, like United, offer any flight at any time (for the most part) for a higher number of miles. When using miles, you don’t get the flexibility that you do when paying. Airlines have to manage capacity. On their most popular flights they don’t want to be giving away too many award tickets. Some airlines are notoriously stingy. However, if you are willing to make some sacrifices and connect via Montreal, Toronto, Brussels, etc you can find a ticket very easily almost any day of the week.

Airlines try to use award tickets to fill seats that are harder to sell. GVA is very high yielding which justifies the routes, but it is also low capacity. Same with BRU. For that reason the airline can operate the route with relatively low load factors and still make money. That means you often get a huge supply of award inventory to those airports. Another example is UA’s departures to FRA & LHR. IAD usually has a 5pm, 7pm and 10pm departure to FRA & LHR (they actual times vary a bit). It is fairly easy to get inventory on the 5pm and 10pm departures since these are less popular. The 7pm departure is the most popular and likewise is hardest to get an award ticket on.

New York – Geneva is one of the easiest routes to get an award ticket on within most alliances as long as you are willing to make a connection. Try getting to SYD on star alliance and not routing via Asia and then you’ll see how difficult it is. Or try flying from a major spoke city like SEA or DFW where you have to connect. Some airlines are very stingy, for example SQ won’t let partner airlines have access to their premium class inventory. My personal opinion is that should get them kicked out of star alliance, but they have always been a bad partner when it comes to cooperating with the alliance.



If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
User currently offlinemax550 From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 1138 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 2462 times:

Quoting ANITIX87 (Reply 7):

I am looking to go for three weeks, but am restricted by two weddings I have to photograph (July 20, August 17). Otherwise, I'm flexible somewhat. I am also incredibly picky about flying non-stop and that's another major hurdle for me (I also managed to find some Business Clas saver tickets for connecting flights, but I think I'd rather fly Economy non-stop, than Business with a connection).

I found non-stop biz saver tickets for July 16th-August 18th. Connecting isn't ad within Europe, it takes a few hours longer but you can find a lounge to hang out in for an hour or two. I'd much prefer that over a non-stop in economy for 10k more miles but that's up to you.
I've found United is generally easier to book with using miles than a lot of other airlines. Of course, they still won't make every seat available for award tickets but as long as you're a little flexible you shouldn't have any trouble.


User currently offlinePI4EVER From United States of America, joined May 2009, 599 posts, RR: 2
Reply 12, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 2440 times:

Just be thankful you're not attempting to redeem SkyMiles on DL. Now THAT can result in a rant.......and at the end of said rant you"ll redeem the award offered, buy a ticket OR NOT GO. I am still loyal, but I've learned to make the system work in my best interests.....flying multiple segments if need be......because they give away nothing and don't have to.
$1400+ roundtrip fares to Europe were common in 2012 so no big surprise that price point remains this year due to reduced capacity, fuel expenses and no airline is giving their seats away for others to "match."
As suggested, be flexible with your dates and compromise a bit on your nonstop v/s connection options.....a business class trip with connection is still a very nice way to travel and more of the "perks" to enjoy along the way so that your journey is part of the whole travel package to enjoy.



watch what you want. you may get it.
User currently offlineLAXintl From United States of America, joined May 2000, 24325 posts, RR: 47
Reply 13, posted (1 year 2 months 3 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 2390 times:

Quoting ANITIX87 (Thread starter):
"Upgrade Awards are not available for this flight" despite the website boasting that Upgrade Awards can be used on ANY flight operated by the airline. I called them and the guy told me that I can, after booking the Economy ticket, call them back and request an Award Upgrade, which will put me ON A WAITING LIST. I'm sorry, WHAT? Your award upgrades are available "maybe"??????

Upgrades awards book into a specific class category. So yes in theory all flights have such category, but like normal paid fares there is yield management process that manages how many seats are released to upgades and when.

Its quite common for premium seats open up late in the process, sometimes within 1-week of departure when chances of sale become less likely.
As an example due my job I can hardly ever plan something more then a week or two out, and find plenty of premium seat availabilty at the last minute. Once woke up one working and felt like heading to Europe and got a LH F class seat the same night, no problem.

Quoting ANITIX87 (Thread starter):
Does all of this seem absolutely ludicrous to anybody else?

No, its just part the process.

Quoting ANITIX87 (Thread starter):
I checked the bookings for the flights I want, and business class (and first class) are completely open save for one booked seat.

Don't use seat maps to judge bookings. I have seen plenty of flights in my day that looked light in the seat map to go out virtually full.

Also as mentioned prior airlines use yield management to predict loads. Just because bookings might be low today, might not mean that will be the case 6-months from now when the flight departs.



Anyhow, if you really want a certain flight, date or class of service the airline make the process quite easy - just use a standard award and be done with it.



From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
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