Considering my options and switching to UA

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by Juanefny, May 27, 2016.  |  Print Topic

  1. Juanefny

    Juanefny Silver Member

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    So I'll try to keep this short. I used to be Diamond on DL and switched to AA because of the Systemwide Upgrade Certificates. Since then, DL has made it so you can use the certificates on more fares and AA has cut the number of theses certificates in half. So with all that said, I'm concerned with the direction that Doug Parker is taking AA.
    With all that said, I'm doing my due diligence and I'm considering UA as an alternative and was wondering if you guys think that UA should be an airline that I consider.
    1) I fly out of ABQ into DCA, NYC and SJU primarily - from what I have seen UA is well priced in these markets, but I'm unsure how upgrades are.
    2) I upgrade anywhere from 80 - 95% of the time on AA as EXP
    3) How is UA's reliability and service, I had heard they had some rough spots in the past few years since the merger.
    4) Are upgrades better from Houston or Denver to Dulles or to DCA?
    Those are some of the things I'm thinking about. But any contrasts between the two airlines and general advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2016
  2. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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    I am GS with United and based in Dulles so here are my thoughts:

    - unless you're spending $50,000 a year or more in base fares, you're never going to have anything approaching 80-95% upgrade clearance. There are a metric ton of 1K's to compete against, and competition is based on fare class. Secondly, United has really pushed "TOD" upgrades - paid $69-$200 upgrades to first at time of check in. Lots of people buy these so upgrade potential is lessened as a result.

    - For anything going to Dulles from either IAH or DEN, upgrades are tough to come by unless you fly extreme times (first or last flight out, Saturday, etc).

    - I have 302 flights in the last 3 years almost all on United and can count significant delays and cancellations on one hand. Small delays are normal. I fly direct almost everywhere, so I'm not as in tune with the consequences of delays as others would be -- I'm never misconnecting.

    Bottom line: United is a perfectly good airline no better or worse than AA or Delta for most of us. Each has pros and each has cons. As a business traveler I think you should choose the airline that offers you the best lines and times to minimize the time you spend in the air. If you move all your business to United, however, you should expect to fly coach on most segments.
     
  3. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I spend barely over $12 and I regularly hit 80-90% success in clearing upgrades as 1K.

    If I spent $50K/yr, I would not need upgrades. I'd be flying upfront by paying for it outright.
     
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  4. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    True, though I'd also suggest looking at what the cost would be to just buy into F on some of the routes. It might not be so bad.

    From an operations perspective UA still trails DL. Not as badly as it once did, but it still trails. Everything on UA in and out of ABQ is a regional aircraft to IAH or DEN. That is also going to skew the reliability of operations down.

    If you're only flying to SJU/DCA/NYC are the SWUs for leisure travel? Also keep in mind that they require higher fares on UA than what AA requires.
     
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  5. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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    When I wrote that, I was thinking CPUs. Because I travel so much (segment 51 on UA metal in 2016 was yesterday), I don't think in terms of instrument upgrades.

    If you don't travel a lot (or you are able to book flights nicely in advance) and are able to plan out RPUs and GPUs and some mileage upgrades, yes, you can definitely get most of your upgrades by chasing R inventory. Agreed.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2016
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  6. Juanefny

    Juanefny Silver Member

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    I do think they have *some* mainline flights from ABQ to DEN.
    Yes, I like to fly internationally for leisure travel. But I'm a lobbyist so I'm in DC at least once a month.
     
  7. Juanefny

    Juanefny Silver Member

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    What are domestic upgrades typically like for 1ks?
     
  8. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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    Depends on:

    - route
    - your fare class
    - time of year (impossible this weekend, easy in February)
    - equipment

    If you're a 1K and you buy E fares, and if you're not doing a heavy route, you have a good shot.

    For DEN/IAH-IAD, if I had to take a guess at overall annual upgrade %, I'd guess around 50-60% on an E fare. More upgrades in the winter, less in the summer. And again, better chance on less populated flight times - which you can figure out easily by watching the route for a few weeks.

    I don't fly in or out of DCA so I have no experience for ya.

    If you're buying cheapest available nonrefundable fares, you're going to be too far down the list to get many upgrades.
     
  9. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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    And it's worth mentioning, if you have fare flexibility, you can chase M fares to get instant upgrades (if it's a cheap M fare, the corresponding P bucket will be open). And as a 1k you get 6 RPUs and can plan to use those to secure domestic upgrades. And miles. And TODs can sometimes be very attractive.

    There are ways for an expert UA flyer to maximize the number of segments spent in F over Y. They require flexible spending, flexible timing, and some luck.
     
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  10. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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    Forgot an important detail: if you're flying in and out of DCA, there's a huge difference between when Congress is in session and when it isn't. DC clears out when Congress is in recess and flying in and out is way less crowded. But you're a lobbyist, so ...
     
  11. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Fair point. Yes, I was thinking in terms of upgrades that one requests with a GPU or RPU, which mine almost invariably are and I still have a pretty high batting average.
     
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  12. Pizzaman
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    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    This. And, it overflows to IAD. As a 1K out of IAD for 4 years I never averaged above 75% on CPUs. Usually in the low 60s. If free domestic upgrades are important to you and you're flying to the DC area on a regular basis, you will be disappointed on UA.
     
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  13. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Agreed wholeheartedly. With the additional caveat that DL is on record as saying it also wants to cut the free upgrade rate significantly. And AA is almost certainly headed down a similar path, too, once it can get its pricing systems set up for such.

    But UA is likely the lowest rates right now of the 3 for top elites in general.
     
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  14. Misplaced Texan
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    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

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    I've done much better than that as a 1K connecting across either EWR or occasionally CLE into DCA. But a lot of that is a function of having MCO as a home airport.

    Other than the flights which are obvious connections to international flights, CPUs out of MCO are still fairly easy especially on the H-W codes I often find myself flying.
     
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  15. radonc1951

    radonc1951 Gold Member

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    What I find is many times the price difference between UA first and it's cheapest coach is only several hundred dollars which makes just buying F a compelling option. The problem I run into is that for some odd reason, I find UA's coach price to be several hundred dollars higher than the competition

    My use of instruments has been remarkably unsuccessful this year.
     
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  16. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    I am an AA exp and a UA 1k. If you are paying for first, I would recommend UA over AA. If you are looking for free upgrades, stick with AA, although they have tried to suck in as many new elites as possible lately with status matches etc, so the future may not be as great. I have personally averaged almost 100% on AA free upgrades. I generally do not even take a chance on UA as I fly out of LA and there are way too many GS and 1K's here.
     
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  17. Pizzaman
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    My comment was more directed at the fact that since IAD is a hub, I generally find upgrades out of both airports via UA tougher than AA.

    It makes sense out of IAD since AA generally doesn't have as many convenient times for business travelers.

    At DCA, the only thing I can figure is that I'm taking the later morning flights given the traffic and those just aren't as popular for AA.

    But, K fares clog things up pretty good in this market.
     
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  18. Pizzaman
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    IAD-LAX and vice versa are my toughest domestic upgrades on both airlines.
     
  19. Juanefny

    Juanefny Silver Member

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    Dfw-dca upgrades can be quite tough on dates when congress is going in or out of session on aa too
     
  20. misman
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    misman Gold Member

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    I have observed more mainline metal flying over my house on take-off/landing at ABQ. Typically, the A319/737 variety. Could just be when I'm looking up :)
     
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  21. Juanefny

    Juanefny Silver Member

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    Are any of you 1ks and either Platinum or Diamond on DL? I wonder how 1k upgrades compare to DL elite upgrades. Thanks!
     
  22. ssullivan
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    ssullivan Gold Member

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    When I was a 1K, my upgrade percentage in and out of DCA was actually quite good – often better than 70%. I'm Gold now, due to Million Miler, but my partner and I have still had decent upgrade success at DCA as Golds; better than 50% this year so far on the few flights we've had, all of which were on weekdays. DCA does have a lot of paid first class travel, but the fact that it's not a hub does improve upgrade odds some, I think. And, for someone who is coming or going from the city, connecting to get to DCA is still often faster and less hassle than a nonstop to IAD, especially if it helps with upgrade chances.
     
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  23. IMRU

    IMRU Silver Member

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    I'm a 1k and fly the opposite of your proposed routing (DCA-ABQ) regularly, and also fly DCA-IAH very regularly. I'm required to fly the lowest available fare. Here's what I can tell you: upgrades from DCA to IAH are rare on low fares. Flights are generally packed to the gills. When I do SDCs I'm often the only person on the standby list who gets on. Whether Congress is in session makes *very* little difference. Also keep in mind that UA is downgauging aircraft DCA - IAH vs last year. All this is to say: I'm happy when I get a surprise upgrade.

    I'll echo what has been said about the UAEX flights ex-ABQ on time status: they're just not as reliable as mainline flights, and upgrades are even more difficult. Also keep in mind that the staff in ABQ is a contract staff. While they've gotten much better, they're still not great.

    Finally keep in mind that there's not as much service between IAH and Dulles, so your IRROPS experience may be a tad worse.
     

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