What's interesting is that there seems to be two customer expectations that, if the airlines try to cater to them, are not economically viable in the long run:
- The first is that customers expect to be able to pay ridiculously low fares (below the airline's cost in many circumstances) and receive something more than just a cramped seat from point A to point B.
- The second is that frequent fliers - even loyal ones - expect that in addition to paying that low fare, they should be entitled to a nearly-unlimited stream of perks. The priority check-in, priority seating, lounge access on international flights, extra baggage allowance, priority baggage handling, mileage earning bonuses, etc. are not enough - that want unlimited free upgrades, too!
As a United Mileage Plus 1K, sure I'd love to have unlimited free upgrades. At the same time, I think United's policies strike a fair balance between recognizing and rewarding my loyalty, while practicing good business sense and not devaluing their premium product.
Oh, and for those people who would make a snide remark about United not offering a "premium" product, if you don't think it is a premium product then why are you so keen to have a free upgrade?
Keeping the "civil" in civil aviation...