Is this still worth it?

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by strangevine, May 4, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. strangevine

    strangevine Silver Member

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    So I just logged on to the site for the first time in a while, and I'm sure there are many "United Sucks" threads out there, and I hate to add one more negative thread to the mix, but I just can't help myself.

    For the record, I loved Continental and have even found a way to appreciate the new United. Despite United's less the stellar reputation, I still think the crew members and employees work hard to ensure client satisfaction. My experience with "the new" United may have dropped a little bit from continental, but overall, I still find it better than any other airline that I have flown in recent memory (Delta, US Air, American). So although I may sound a bit pretentious and nit-picky in this rant, I still love the airline; I just don't see the benefits of the frequent flyer anymore.

    I flew 70,000 miles last year, so I just missed the United's 3rd Tier (i'm not sure what it's called now), so I sit at United Gold Status. I live in Houston now, and will soon be moving to Chicago next month. So I will continue to fly out of hubs.

    Here is what I have experienced thus far as a frequent traveler in the "new united" and a few things that bug me:

    1) ridiculously long frequent flyer lines at security in both Houston, Chicago, and many other airports. I tend to find the "secret" security lanes that are hidden in the airport, yet open to all flyers. I could go on a separate rant about TSA security, but I'll save that for another forum.

    2) At gold status, I have regularly boarded in group 4 or 5. I still have no idea how united orders their groups. Maybe it's a glitch. Finally, on a flight from PHL yesterday, I was given group 2. Of Course, I boarded behind around 30-40 people that were somehow given boarding group 1. I know there were a decent amount of 1kers on the flight, but I would be shocked if everyone in boarding group 1 were people that were supposed to be there (disabled passengers, passengers with small children, 1kers, active military, etc...)

    3) I have a united/continental credit card. I rarely use it to book business travel since my company has an in-house travel agent, but I'm thinking I should start because I imagine I am lower in upgrade priority behind people that use their united cards. I don't like it that continental removed the discount on food and drinks that you get with the card as well, along with a bunch of other perks.

    4) I very rarely get upgraded even when I fly to non-commuter destinations. As I have some discretion over my travel times, I always try to choose dates and times that are less crowded, and I still don't get upgraded.

    5) if i check a bag, which i rarely do, my "priority" luggage is labelled right, but my bags never seem to make it in the batch of priority bags that comes out in baggage claim first.

    There's more, but I think I've vented enough. I do like that most of the united fleet has been upgraded to economy plus, and often don't have difficulty securing an economy plus seat. I'm not sure if

    Worse yet, my travel has decreased for work this year. So I will either have to scramble for gold status again or choose to be in silver status, which I definitely think isn't worth it anymore, since I can get that status by maintaining a united card, and United has essentially stripped all the benefits away from silver travelers.

    If I could see more domestic upgrades, I guess I would be happier. I'm holding out hope that the problems I have experienced are glitches, and not consequences of the combined airline.
     
  2. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    You should be in boarding group 2:

    [​IMG]

    There were earlier issues in getting the right group on the boarding pass.

    Technically, handicapped, military, and global services are before group 1, but group 1 also includes premium cabins.
     
  3. strangevine

    strangevine Silver Member

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    one small victory! I'll take it!
     
  4. Golfingboy
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    Golfingboy Gold Member

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    This is not only an issue at ORD/IAH, but at many airports... Frustrating I know, but it is really out of the airline's control as the TSA is what is causing the bottleneck. It is pretty bad at PIT on Wednesday/Thursday evenings and it is so bad that the TSA assigns 1-2 agents to beg people to use the alternate check-point that people will cluelessly find out that it is even worse with no AC to boot if the line is that long. I feel your pain and I am sure many do.

    The card has its perks, but improving upgrade chances is not one of them. The only upgrade related perk with the card is the eligibility for CPU on award tickets, but those people still will clear after all revenue elites in their respective tier. E.G. A gold on an award ticket with the UA card will clear after all GS/1K/Plats/Revenue Golds, but before Silvers.

    Golds are indeed the new "Silver" :( That is not just the case on UA, but on all legacy airlines except maybe US. What are your typical destinations and from where?

    UA blows with priority luggage. I would say 20% of the time my bags comes out in the first batch. I suspect they are a little better at that for international long-haul flights, but not so much for domestic.

    The biggest benefit here I would assume is E+, which is a game changer for me and nobody can match that. DL is installing Economy Comfort on their domestic fleet, but the EC section is much smaller than UA's E+, so I am not too sure about the effectiveness of DL's EC program for their elites.
     
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  5. strangevine

    strangevine Silver Member

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    Right. This is no way was a knock against UA. I will again save my TSA rant for later, but I understand that there are tons of issues out of the airline's control. However, I guess my point is that if TSA is going to continue to create bottlenecks, the utility of a priority boarding lane is greatly diminished.

    Thanks for the information.



    Sadly, I take alot of puddle jumpers and ERJ-145's around the south, south east, and midwest. My only real routine destination is philadelphia. I think that if I flew more west coasts routes, I'd have a better chance. I fly out of IAH now, soon to be ORD. So I'm sure it'll get a lot worse.

    I guess I'm not necessarily bitter. I understand there are flyers that fly more than I do that should be prioritized ahead of me. I just didn't realize all the changes would have such an impact, and I would sink so far down the totem pole. I got way more of a benefit a couple of years ago as a silver elite.


    Funny you should mention it, if I check a bag on an international flight, I always assume it will be lost/left behind because that's happened to me on 20-30% of my international trips.


    I agree, and this may be one thing that makes Gold worth it. E+ is awesome, especially on the newer Continental planes. It's still good on the former United's fleet, but it only makes what would have been a miserable flight, passable. I just got back from PHL yesterday on an A319, and I seriously thought the plane was going to fall apart on the way home. But at least I had plenty of legroom.[/quote]

    I'm not mad at the airline. Just frustrated that I spend so much time in the air, and only have E+ to show for it. I guess I should have gone for 1k last year using the tips on this board, but just didn't have the time.
     
  6. Photonerd71

    Photonerd71 Silver Member

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    If you are moving to Chicago Change to AA.
     
  7. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    Bolding mine, it's not handicapped it's Customers with Disabilities... ;).
     
  8. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    True, but they still didn't summon us gimps. :)

    ETA: so far, three flights in a row where pre-boarding wasn't called.
     
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  9. unavaca
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    unavaca Gold Member

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    I feel you. As a 1K, I'm also having a really rough time with upgrades -- it's got to be horrific as a Gold right now :(
     
  10. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    I'm getting far fewer upgrades now as Platinum than I did PM as Silver or Gold. I'll most likely make 1K this year, and it looks like there is nothing to look forward to as a result. While I do think that it is going to improve, I'm just buying Business and First Class tickets for the time being. It's expensive, but I just think back to my last few E+ long hauls and how I felt when they ended. I travel to get things done, both business and personal. Arriving exhausted doesn't serve me well.

    UA should, and probably will, realize soon that loyalty programs must have some allure to them to be effective. MP currently has very little. The only advantages I see right now are an occasional upgrade, earning miles to use for award tickets between SJO and BOG, and 3 free bags up to 70 pounds. As much as I dislike the changes, that's enough to keep me around for the time being. Living in Costa Rica, it's hard to bring USA-purchased items home within the 210 lb.s limit. I give things away at check in almost every time I come home.

    First tier loyalty benefits on any airline are, IMHO, absolutely worthless these days.
     
  11. genemk2

    genemk2 Gold Member

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    There is no free lunch.
     
  12. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    A good friend of mine says that every now and then there is a free lunch. Somebody will buy your lunch once in a while when you least expect it. So there IS an occasional free lunch, but there is no free....

    Never mind. ;)
     
  13. IMRU

    IMRU Silver Member

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    Though it is likely stating the obvious, I think the upgrade issues are UMMV. Honestly, as a 1K I've been upgraded at about the same level as I was as a Platinum pre-merger. Weirdly, I've been upgraded a lot out of DCA-IAH, which never used to happen even as a Plat.

    I think the baggage issue is simply marketing. In the 20 years I've been flying at all levels and different airlines, that benefit has never been consistently delivered. I'd suppose there are too many variables involved for it to work. I just look at it as one of those perks that they give so that when you roll into the office people say "oohh Priority!"
     
  14. ssullivan
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    ssullivan Gold Member

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    Funny you mention DCA-IAH. As a Platinum I got upgraded on that route all the time. These days since the programs merged, I miss upgrades as a 1K on that route all the time.
     
  15. tommy777
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    tommy777 Co-founder

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    Lol.. So it's a TSA issue that United clunks together absolutely everyone from Silver and credit card holders to 1K in the same "Premier" Line? Please.....

    As I've said many times before, the Platinum (the same tier as the thread starter has on United) and up experience for American at ORD is phenomenal compared to the mess United is doing. Check it out.

    The worst airport in the United system when it comes to security line IMO, is Newark and it was that way long before Continental became United. O'Hare has gotten a lot worse, but in all fairness, it started to worsen before the merger.

    Maybe because United now upgrades cheap government fares ahead of Gold, Plat and 1K?

    The new United is a whole different animal than every elite was used to. There are positives and negatives. People who went out their way to stay loyal and fly their on airlines metal, are now seeing non stop routes that weren't available before changing the dynamics of how people travel. To be honest, I'm still at 100% upgrades on reservations made after 3/3 as a 1K. I have 4 United flights this week, tomorrow I'm in A one way to MSP, M upgraded to First instantly on my way back to Chicago. That M would probably have cleared anyways, but it's nice that they now do at booking. On my LGA daytrip on Friday, the outbound cleared at the window (V class), I'm quite sure the return in V will as well.

    And LGA is a tough destination out of ORD, especially on 319s and 320s. But the upgrades seem to clear anyways. IAD and DCA are now going to be really tough because of UAs retarded upgrades of cheap government fares, but I've heard they are evaluating that policy.
    The security line issue bothers me. The United lines are too long and as a TSA Pre member, it's a huge advantage when flying American. Also, AA has a much speedier system than UA: They put Plat and up in one line, the rest of the elites and credit card holders in the Priority Access line. The larger stations have dedicated international first/ 5 star and Concierge Key. In general, wait times are much shorter at AA, even without TSA Pre. UA needs to realize that tiers below GS are important customers/ very frequent travelers and improve this, no doubt about it.

    On AA as an EXP, I'm also 100% on upgrades and the tough Friday night to Sunday night/Monday morning flights, always clear. This weekend we went to San Diego on the 520PM flight out of ORD on a Friday, return on Monday morning at 620AM. This mornings flight cleared at the window, the outbound cleared Friday morning. Those upgrades would never have cleared on UA, unless it was a 757. And it isn't because UA has more elites, its because the 319/320 have way to few seats in F compared to what Continental (who started the Frank Lorenzos Unlimited Upgrades) has on most of their aircraft of that size. The 735 is being retired this year and being replaced with 739s with 20 F seats, so I don't see that aircraft as being a problem anymore). AA has a minimum of 16 seats in F and you need an instrument to get upgraded at all tiers except EP, which makes EP pretty darn valuable.

    So yes, in reality, mid tiers on UA will get less upgrades than before the merger, regardless of where who they belonged to.

    My biggest problem with AA is mechanical delays. This year I've had 30 segments on AA and 9(!!) of them has had a mechanical delay, 4 of the flights have been canceled with huge delays and inconvenience as a result. (geez, even the Mega DO charter AND the Mega DO TATL was delayed/canceled) This morning is a good example: While United left SAN on time this morning, our AA flight had a mechanical costing us a 40 minute delay. Sure, we'll "only" land 15 minutes late, but if we'd been on United, we'd landed 25 minutes early.
    Onboard service is not that important to most, but it's kind of nice to get a Brownie Ala mode instead of a cookie in a paper bag on a flight around 3-4 hours. It's also nice to get some sparkling wine for your mimosa as well, so domestic US, American beats the crap out of UA on what gets served on board.

    At the end of the day, there's pro's and cons with both of the majors domestic US. To me, it's all about finding the least crappy one and if you live in Houston, it's still worth it to fly United IMHO, I would not switch with 75Kish miles a year.

    If the original poster makes it to the 75K Platinum level this year, I'm quite sure the upgrades will improve significantly, but DC will always be hard till United fixes their government fare upgrade policy.
     
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  16. Golfingboy
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    Golfingboy Gold Member

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    If the TSA wants to help expedite the priority security lanes, they can assign more agents and screening lanes for elite customers, but they simply won't. It is not the customer or the airline that is causing the bottleneck, it is the TSA not doing a proper capacity analysis and planning as such. Heck, the express security lane [1 bag less] at PIT moves faster than the priority lanes. For credit card holders gaining access to the security lanes, only those with the Club Card can use the priority lanes and I will bet dollars to doughnuts that a large majority of those cardholders using the elite lanes are already elites, otherwise, it will be a dumb credit card choice by that person IMO.

    AA gives Priority AAccess to everyone as well, including the millions of people who got lifetime gold due to racking up 1 million miles. If the elite lanes are much shorter almost everywhere with AA, then that might say something about how many business travelers flies on AA and the % of the F cabin being filled with premium revenue customers. FWIW, on sCO, when my upgrade fails, it is not due to many YBM-UPs [usually only 1-2 of those customers], but it is because 70%+ of the F cabin is filled with paid F customers.

    EWR is pretty bad, but that is probably due to the large number of premium paid F/C customers on top of elites. I am pretty confident based on my observations that EWR has a good margin of more paid F traffic than any of the other hubs.

    For the government fares, that has always been a legacy UA policy. The new United chose to carry over the sUA policy, which I am not happy about. It is a good thing I moved out of the DC Metro area, but will connect via IAD quite often though. I am not sure if sCO gave instant-ups for government employees... With the current loads and premium customers, I hope that UA will re-evaluate this policy and create a subset Y fare for government travelers that does not earn bonus EQMs and does not give them instant upgrades.
     
  17. ssullivan
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    ssullivan Gold Member

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    I've had no issues with DCA-ORD. I think I've missed one upgrade on that route post-3/3, and it was a 319. I was also number one on the upgrade list when we departed.

    My issues have been to/from IAH. I've had a few that would have cleared had I been originally booked on the flight I flew, but I did a SDC to the flight I ended up on after F was already full. Still, it has been more difficult, and there are fewer upgrades showing on the list these days on that route. I haven't had a Y/B/M-up fare in a while. Do those show up on the confirmed upgrade list these days (with CO they did, then they stopped showing, then they came back)? That makes it a bit difficult to determine if the issue is with government Y-ups or they've got more paid F happening on the DCA-IAH route.
     
  18. Golfingboy
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    Golfingboy Gold Member

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    AFAIK, they still do... I have had a few flights with someone who had YBM-up. Most recent was ORD-PIT yesterday with one YBM customer.

    Also, out of DCA, most of the government contracts are with AA, DL, and US... Most of UA's contracts are out of IAD with some out of BWI.

    UA has all of the WAS airports contracts to ORD and IAH.
     
  19. tommy777
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    tommy777 Co-founder

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    The airlines decides how the lines are divided up. United puts everyone in the same lanes. If UA can get the GS lines to work, do think the TSA will say "sorry charlie" if UA made a line for 1Ks and Plats? Of course not. Sure, there might be staffing issues with the TSA at times, but the fact is that the UA system is not as good as it could be.

    At ORD (and other airports as well), there's a AA Priority Access security check point PLUS a Platinum, First and EP line that never has more than a 10 minute wait, usually a lot less. AA has 16 seats as a minimum on their planes and they go out full most of the times (the reason why they might have empty seats, is because they don't give away upgrades for free/sell them for pocket change, Frank Lorenzo didn't want any seat in F go out empty on CO and that policy still sticks), still the First (incl. domestic First, so everyone flying domestic first has access to this line ) /Plat/EP/First line remains very fast.

    Of course your "a lot more paying premium passengers fly CO than everyone else" theory should make it even more important to improve this for BF passengers paying 7 grand and are left in line at EWR and other airports. Now that a lot of flights are two class and we see the new plane deliveries and changes have only two class, at least BF passengers should get access to the GS and Int First lines.

    All in all, defending United here is pointless, they need to improve the wait times period. It's too long in most cases these days and they have to come up with a better solution. As a person with 1K and EP, I can immediately tell you that UA has the worst wait times of the two -- by far.

    The way the government upgrades happen these days was always CO policy, not a UA policy. Continental's policy was (and has now been adapted by UA)

    1) That they treat goverment YCA at Y for upgrades and
    2) Prioritizes "Full Fare" over status

    Usually, this wouldn't be an big issue, but by having a major hub in DC, it definitely makes a huge difference. It needs to go.
     
  20. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I got upgraded! :)
    Not really. :(
     
  21. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    I'm not sure it auto changes your seat. I've only gotten one of these notices, but it didn't change mine. I was able to change mine online to a seat in F, though.
     
  22. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    As it turns out, it auto changed my seat to 1B :) but apparently
    just wanted to wind me up.
     
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  23. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    :D

    Sounds like maybe a timing issue: it was still processing seat changes when it sent the email.
     

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