Did Randy get it wrong in "Executive Travel" Magazine?

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by RichardInSF, Oct 1, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. RichardInSF
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    RichardInSF Silver Member

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    In the September issue (written before the MP changes were announced), Randy Petersen says in part,

    Given that UACO recently

    (a) Gutted the premier level by eliminating E+ at time of booking and reducing free baggage allowance.

    (b) Significantly reduced mileage bonuses at the premier exec level.

    (b) Pretty much eliminated UDU for 1k's by lowering elite upgrade status significantly.

    I have to ask: Does this support Randy's thesis or instead argue that UACO is truly exerting monopoly power over their customer base? I'm inclined towards the latter, but I welcome other views.
     
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  2. Canadi>n
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    Canadi>n Gold Member

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    It appears Randy was commenting on the dropping of the Revenue proposal for elite tiers that was rumoured but the most complained about possible change. Since this did not materialize, the campaign worked. The changes to Premier status offerings and upgrade priority were not rumoured, so we'll just have to wait to see if UA adjusts these changes before the new program starts up.
     
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  3. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Really?

    http://boardingarea.com/blogs/onemi...etails-of-united’s-2012-mileage-plus-program/
     
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  4. RichardInSF
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    RichardInSF Silver Member

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    I agree with HaveMiles, Lucky clearly posted that as well.
     
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  5. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I find the suggestion that the "outrage" expressed online changed the program in any way rather laughable. Had the company actually made an announcement then changed their mind perhaps then the "power of social media" could be lauded. But that isn't what happened. A laundry list of things was tossed out there and some where implemented and others weren't without any particular pattern relative to the "outrage" suggesting that the original list was not the actual list that was planned and that the ultimate program was not shaped by folks protesting something that wasn't part of the plan anyways.

    That's not to say that Randy got it wrong; rather it is to say that brands know what the actual business numbers are beyond the rants on Twitter or FaceBook. Believing that a lot of noise in social media necessarily translates into bad numbers for a brand is as foolish as believing a rock keeps tigers away or that the brick really loves you back.
     
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  6. mowogo
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    mowogo Gold Member

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    Social media and online commentary tend to amplify most on the extremes. The challenge for any company is to figure out how many actually belong to the extremes when gauging any response to changes.
     
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  7. RichardInSF
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    RichardInSF Silver Member

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    I suspect that Randy knew the numbers too at the time he wrote the article because in another section of that article he states that the combined Mileage Plus membership is approximately 91 million people, and also adds that nearly two million of them are elites.

    But if your statement is correct -- and it may well be -- then you are in fact saying that Randy got it wrong in his article when he argued to the contrary.
     
  8. Colonel G
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    Colonel G Silver Member

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    I don't believe it is fair to take a single data point (the recent MP program changes) and say Randy's statement is false. Remember when they tried to eliminate CR-1's until you reached 75k this year? Only the clammor from the community caused them to reconsider and give us another year of collecting them every quarter. I don't think he was saying that we control the program, but we can influence it. People should take that lesson and apply it to the recent changes. If UACO thought they were really ticking off a significant segment, they would liekly change the rules. Make your voices known and encourage others to do likewise. Unfortunately, the majority of people are cattle and would rather grumble and complain than raise a ruckus. IMHO.
     
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  9. RichardInSF
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    RichardInSF Silver Member

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    I hope you're right, because Premiers are the most numerous and they were the most screwed by the recent changes. But I don't see it happening yet.
     
  10. DenverBrian
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    DenverBrian Silver Member

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    The social media phenomenon and its ability to move a company's policies in general seems to have peaked already. Not surprising; the half-life of new technologies and leverage points has decreased as the pace of change has accelerated. As a colleague of mine said, we've moved past an ADHD society to an ADOS society: Attention Defic--ooh, shiny!
     
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  11. Tom
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    Tom Silver Member

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    My guess is this is unlikely to happen. My bet is on the majority of premiers being very unlike the online FFer demographic, and probably don't know / keep track of the detailed benefits that they get.

    Haha, I need to write that one down!

    I'm also on the skeptical side of some online outrage causing United to change their plans on this one. The changes seemed very much like a laundry list of everything that could possibly be changed, and it would be hard to believe that the approach United would have taken to narrowing the list down would be to leak it out and see where people complain the most.
     
  12. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    FWIW, the numbers you mention Randy citing above weren't a particularly well kept secret if they were supposed to be one' I've heard them a few times before.

    It is also worth taking a look at some recent successful social media campaigns if you want to get a feel for how it can work. Two recent DL examples - one with the SV/SkyTeam thing and the other with the soldier bag check fees - certainly show that it is possible for such campaigns can change policy or force a company to back peddle, even if the campaign is misguided and full of lies. The difference seems to be volume, not necesarily the message. When tens of thousands of folks claim that Delta is anti-semitic because they will enforce passport/visa requirements of a destination country it doesn't matter that they're acting out as ignorant idiots; the level of noise was sufficient to get the airline to announce a change to their policies. When it is a few dozen complaining on a narrow-market IBB the message is sufficiently contained that it doesn't matter so much to the airlines.
     
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  13. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    And it's very easy to get the attention of the mainstream media and the broader public with campaigns such as the ones you mentioned. I cannot imagine CNN covering a social media campaign to preserve the E+ at booking benefit for silver elites.
     
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  14. RichardInSF
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    RichardInSF Silver Member

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    Actually, I think CNN is more likely to cover it than other media, they seem to be more travel oriented. But so far, I'm not seeing a level of protest sufficient to get coverage. What the travel bulletin boards will accomplish is publicize to those who care that there is no longer a reason to go for Premier. The effect of that will, I think, be felt, but not for at least a year and hence not lead to any changes now.

    So far the consensus here is that Randy did get it wrong. The article title was "The silver lining to mergers," and the feeling in this thread is that there is no such silver lining.
     
  15. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I'd bet the vast majority of Premiers will become aware of the changes only when they for the first time (after the changes become effective) try to select an E+ seat while booking a flight.
     
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  16. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I wouldn't go that far.

    As I said above, the issue isn't that folks aren't complaining via social media; the issue is that there aren't enough of them for the company to care in this particular instance. Companies do risk doing significant damage to their brands via social media if they make bad decisions that actually have a sufficiently broad impact. But expecting that a couple hundred FT/MP members are going to change things rather than thousands upon thousands of other folks is an unrealistic level of expectation.

    I'm not sure that this thread needs to devolve into a discussion of whether anything good came out of the merger or not. Certainly it isn't all bad for everyone nor is it all great for everyone. Going 15 rounds over what is good and what is bad again isn't going to be a particularly constructive effort.
     
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  17. RichardInSF
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    RichardInSF Silver Member

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    Which, assuming they are late in implementing the changes (wanna bet on that anyone?) probably means not before May-June of 2012.
     
  18. Explore
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    Explore Silver Member

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    Unfortunately, the sad truth is that the number of miles in circulation will be going down as a result of lower elite bonuses, no mileage credit for an increasing number of partner booking codes, high airfares, increased routing restrictions, and greater difficulty in securing new credit cards. The game will be increasingly played by travelers using other people's money, and by small business owners able to charge huge sums on private credit cards.

    Yet for quite some time into the future, U.S. residents and members of U.S. frequent flyer programs will be better off than foreign residents and program participants. In U.S. programs, full base miles are still earned on all domestic paid booking codes and many partner booking codes, credit card- and promotion-based miles are more plentiful, fuel surcharges are not assessed on award tickets, and award charts may be more generous. Did I miss anything?
     
  19. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    (a) Is not a hugely significant change IMO. UA's E+ offerring (once CO planes have it installed) is still better than most other domestic carriers. This was a necessary compromise to ensure higher elites still get a decent seat if they book close in.
    (b) Is a bigger deal, but not surprising. In a way it is more fair. As UA moves to a more graduated four-tier system, it makes sense that mileage bonuses also increase in a graduated fashion. But obviously it's annoying to anyone who's used to a bigger bonus.
    (c) Is not true. Back when I was 2P, I still got upgraded on many flights. I was 1P this year and got upgrades on more than half, including on CO, which has a hierarchy more similar to the new UA one. My 2P girlfriend still gets upgrades when she flies alone. I'll be 1K next year, and I'm not worried about it. Will UDU success go down? Yes. Will it disappear? No. Again, this is a reasonable change to reward those who pay for a B fare vs. my cheapo G fares.

    Randy's point was that companies will listen and temper their ideas accordingly. I really think what Lucky leaked was at best a brainstorm that the company wanted to feel out, not anything near finished. It's what any smart company would do to figure out what matters most to their customers and what's less important.
     
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  20. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Incidentally it is a complete 180 degree reversal of a fairly recent change that allowed 2Ps to select exit row at booking, which at least on PMUA had been exclusive 1P/1K territory. Did they make this reversal because of the uproar on sites like MP and FT? We will never know, I guess....

    If I was a 2P, this change would upset me a lot as E+ access was historically the thing that got me interested in getting elite status with UA. As I am probably just two years of 1K-ness away from MM status with the new program, it may never affect me. But I understand the frustration of 2Ps. I also understand the frustration of 1Ks who book a few days prior to departure and find all good E+ seats taken.

    agreed.

    agreed again.

    I don't know - the reactions seem to be pretty predictable for someone familiar with the FT/MP crowd.
     
  21. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    I think the change in exit row policy earlier year was due to a temporary alignment of UA and CO seating policies regarding differences in E+ and ELR. UA allowed all 2Ps to book E+ but not exit rows. CO allowed Silvers to book any ELR seat, including exit rows, which my guess is because ELR included only the bulkhead and the exit rows. This would lead to CO Silvers wondering why they can't get an exit row seat when they booked a United-operated flight, and UA 2Ps stuck with E- when they booked a CO-operated flight (since a measly 6 seats in the bulkhead fills up quickly). Just my speculation. Allowing all elites to book any seat with extra legroom on either carrier was a short-term fix before announcing the new program benefits.

    Yes, the change in E+ policy going forward for 2Ps is annoying, and it was the reason I joined in the first place. But 2Ps can still hope for a free E+ seat when they check-in, it is just more likely to be a middle seat. Or maybe they'll get a nice exit row seat when a higher elite gets upgraded and vacates his spot. It's a difficult compromise. I suspect things could change again in the next year or two after CO adds E+ to its fleet.
     
  22. RichardInSF
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    RichardInSF Silver Member

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    The change to E+ for Premiers is in fact the biggest negative of all the changes. HaveMiles, you said it wasn't much of a negative because it guaranteed higher elites E+ -- how is that good is that for a Premier? Every elite at all levels, at least all the ones I know, who booked somewhat in advance was ALWAYS able to get E+, so there are clearly plenty of E+ seats to go around.

    The reason for the change, pure and simple, was so that UACO could sell more E+ seats to non-elites. It has gutted the value of being Premier.
     
  23. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Uh, (where) did I say that?

    I certainly don't think it's good for Premiers, and I believe I said that I understand their frustration.

    I have certainly booked flights a week or so before departure where the selection of E+ seats was meager to non-existing. Clearly it's very route-dependent (the one most recently that comes to mind was SFO-BOS). Now, for me this is a rare situation because I don't generally book that close to departure (since I am usually not a business traveler flying somewhere on short notice), but I believe others see this more often.

    That might be. Whether they'll be able to sell more (without dropping the prices) I doubt. They've certainly marketed the hell out of it in the last six to twelve months.

    But we're getting off topic :)
     

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