Getting around the SWU lottery

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by AZjohn, Dec 25, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. AZjohn

    AZjohn Silver Member

    Messages:
    461
    Likes Received:
    384
    Status Points:
    550
    Happy Holidays everyone,

    Having some quiet time today I was trying to book my wife a flight TUS-ZRH in July.
    As a personal commitment to myself for 2012, I refuse to purchase a W or higher fare without NC availability at booking. And of course there is no NC anytime in July for my wife.

    So, here is what I was thinking and would like any feedback if this can work this next year (if there is no NC at booking):

    Purchase a L fare (or any cheap fare)
    Set EF alarm's for NC on specific flights

    Then we have two "IF's"

    "IF" NC becomes available before the flight and "IF" W fare is available, there should be no reason at that time to call the 1K line and do a buy-up (without change fee) and apply SWU's. This way, I wouldn't be buying into the SWU lottery, and if the two "IF's" are met, I get the UG. If not, I just keep the low cost Y fare.

    Any holes in the plan (probably already discussed and I missed it)?
     
    hulagrrl210 likes this.
  2. mherdeg
    Original Member

    mherdeg Silver Member

    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    186
    Status Points:
    395
    I can think of a few complications off the top of my head.
    • You are missing out on CO flights, which use R availability rather than NC. (TUS-IAH-FRA-ZRH seems just as reasonable as your many UA options. You'll already have to connect somewhere.)
    • You may end up paying a change fee to hold a reservation you probably won't use.

      Recall that UA charges change fees for upfares and CO does not; we do not know whose policy will apply post-merger, but I bet any CO ticket you buy now will probably continue to carry the CO upfare rules.

      There are LOTS of options for NC availability to cross the ocean, everything from SFO-FRA on a 744 to EWR-ZRH on a 763 to LAX-LHR possibly on an old-configuration 777 and many more.

      If you do get NC space on the exact flight you've already booked, you'll just pay the fare difference.

      But if NC availability opens up on some other slightly different routing or date, you'd be crazy not to take it, at the cost of an upfare plus a change fee. Yet this seems strictly worse than waiting to buy W until NC opens up.

      Assuming that you are buying a round trip (generally more affordable than one-way UA fares) and that you want to confirm upgrades in both directions, you may already be paying one change fee -- if you have a confirmed outbound upgrade and notice that a different routing on the return has NC availability, you might pay change fee / fare difference to snag that return. But your strategy seems to ensure under certain circumstances that you'll pay at least two change fees, provided that upgrade availability is not available in both directions at booking time and that NC space does not open on the exact flights you book.

      Might as well just book two one-way award tickets as backup, then book the "real" flights when NC becomes available. The ability to redeposit/change awards without fees is a huge 1K perk.
    • By not using the waitlist, you lose out if NC inventory opens up and W fares are no longer available for sale. The extra cost of an advance W fare might be lower than the extra cost of a last-minute V or H fare plus change fee.
    • This is a risk you are obviously aware of and are willing to tolerate, but just to spell it out: by not using the waitlist, you will only score upgrades on flights where no one else is using the waitlist. If inventory management releases seats, someone else is guaranteed to get them. (In fairness, if your wife has no status, she might have been trumped by almost everyone else on the waitlist already.)
    (Now, if you were a GS member, you could make a booking in C, then call Detroit and ask for NC space to be opened up for your spouse who is accompanying you on your flight, then confirm your spouse's upgrade, then, later, if your plans change, reconsider the wisdom of your C booking, which is after all on a flexible fare...)
     
  3. AZjohn

    AZjohn Silver Member

    Messages:
    461
    Likes Received:
    384
    Status Points:
    550
    Thanks for your thoughts mherdeg,
    No GS member here, just a lower 1K:p
    But, if I remember correctly, the $250 change fee is waved for fare buy-ups, and this was my thinking (no way I would do this is I had to pay a change fee on top of the buy-up)

    Another thing that I have no proof of, but I bet IM odes, is they look at the waitlist and use that to determine if they should release NC before the gate. Like your example, they see that there is 10 passengers who submitted a "waitlisted SWU" thus IM has no incentive to release NC ahead of time. If they have zero on a waiting list, then they might be more inclined to release NC inventory.

    Keep in min d, this past year is the worse I ever seen hold back of NC inventory, and have been burned too many times on waitlisting. You have a good idea of getting her an award ticket as a backup, but then again UA is holding XC inventory back, but for more miles I can get XF (just hate to spend that kind of miles).

    As I said, just kind of thinking of ideas.
    Cheers,
    John
     
    hulagrrl210 likes this.
  4. Wandering Aramean
    Original Member

    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

    Messages:
    28,216
    Likes Received:
    61,746
    Status Points:
    20,020
    The CO policy is not in the fare rules so it can disappear at any time and you will have no recourse.

    Also, the CO policy officially only applies if the FARE gets you into the forward cabin. That means a Fare-Up to W is technically not fee-free.
     
    AZjohn likes this.
  5. 2wheels

    2wheels Silver Member

    Messages:
    433
    Likes Received:
    724
    Status Points:
    645
    I think one huge hole in the plan is that if IM releases seats and there are people on the waitlist, then they would get them. You would have no shot at the seats, even if you had booked before the people on the waitlist.
     
    EX-LAX and AZjohn like this.
  6. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

    Messages:
    928
    Likes Received:
    744
    Status Points:
    695
    The key is planning. I don't recommend trying to upgrade with a swu on paid revenue flights during peak periods. (use miles or something).

    I successfully used all 6 of mine, though I do have one left from CO
     
    EX-LAX and AZjohn like this.

Share This Page