Fly One, Get One Free

Fly One, Get One Free

Business travelers have historically curtailed their travel patterns during the summer season, preferring not to battle the crowds of leisure travelers. With its latest promotion, United is trying to entice some of those high-fare business travelers back into the summer fold.

The promotion is simple: Fly an international roundtrip on paid, published fares in full F or C booking classes before Sept. 14, and earn a free economy-class ticket good for travel to any of over 650 destinations around the world served by United and/or Star Alliance carriers.

Basically, that boils down to a bonus of at least 25,000 miles for any qualifying flight — sort of (more on that later).

If this promotion looks familiar, that’s because British Airways ran a similar promo in 1999 and 2000. The main difference being that British Airways offered two free economy-class tickets for a paid flight in Club World (its business-class equivalent). Members liked the BA promotion so much it scored very high in the Freddie Awards’ “Best Bonus Promotion” category each year it was offered.

Will United’s offer receive the same positive reaction from members?

Truthfully, United’s promotion has some caveats. First, the free economy award ticket is non-upgradeable — a tough sell for any business traveler (though the award ticket is fully transferable). And second, the award ticket must be used between Sept. 15, 2003 and March 31, 2004 — a fairly restrictive condition.

Still, a free economy ticket good for travel worldwide is nothing to sneeze at. Another redeeming quality is that there is no limit to the number of free tickets that can be earned. Enterprising business travelers might look at this as a good way to earn tickets that can be used by friends and family, if not by themselves personally.

United’s promotion may not knock the socks off Freddie voters, but it could prove quite lucrative to business travelers who might have business trips planned anyway. And if United can attract those high-fare paying customers, the promotion will prove quite lucrative to the airline as well.

It was the creative folks at United, after all, who started the recent “Fly Three, Fly Free” madness that has swept the industry. And this latest promotion is already attracting imitators. American AAdvantage members who fly First or Business class to or from Europe, Japan, Argentina or Brazil get a free economy-class award ticket to just about anywhere in the world. The ticket, like United’s, is valid from Sept. 15 to March 31, is transferable, and is not subject to upgrades.

And Northwest WorldPerks members who “enjoy the many comforts of World Business Class” will earn a free Worldwide Travel E-Cert valid for coach class travel anywhere Northwest or KLM flies (registration required prior to travel).

As we go to press, it would appear that Coninental has also jumped on board, offering OnePass members a free economy class ticket after BusinessFirst-class travel to Europe, the Middle East, Tokyo, Hong Kong or Brazil. The ticket, like the others, may only be used between Sept. 15 and March 31.

Everyone hop on board, it looks like the latest United-inspired bandwagon is about to depart.

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