United’s April 2015 Elite Devaluation Made Even Worse By Overcharging Their Elites For Award Redeposits; Emblematic Of Larger Problems That United Has Suffered Since The Continental Merger?

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Last November I covered the news of several downgrades that AA, Delta, JetBlue, and United were going to implement in 2015.

United matched Delta in slashing the miles earned for flying. That came after United gutted their award chard earlier last year. United has been great at copying Delta’s devaluations. Not so great at copying Delta’s improvements.

But the United elite benefit downgrade was particularly painful for me. United inherited Continental’s shares system that assigned elite benefits to passengers that an elite member booked an award for.

As a United 1K I was able to book awards for people and they would be able to get free economy plus seating and 3 free 70 pound checked bags even if I wasn’t traveling with them.
As I also have a United credit card they were even eligible for upgrades starting 4 days before the flight.

It wasn’t uncommon for myself, my wife, and my 2 kids to all get free upgrades from coach awards.

This change even affected non-elites. If you had a United credit card previously the passenger would inherit your free bag. Now the passenger needs to have their own card to get a free checked bag.

As of April 15th United stopped applying those benefits to non-elite passengers. If the elite member isn’t traveling with them, passengers booked from an elite member’s account now have to pay for economy plus seating and for baggage. And upgrades are gone as well of course.

However elites are still supposed to get discounted or free redeposits even when they use their miles for others.

That hasn’t happened. Since the change Platinum and 1K members trying to redeposit an award on United.com for a non-elite passenger booked from the Platinum/1K account have been charged $200 even though there shouldn’t be any fee:

 

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I noticed this right away and was able to redeposit an award over the phone for free. The agent said he had been getting calls all day from others in the same situation and he filed several reports to get the problem fixed.

Dozens of people on Flyertalk have reported the same issue over the past month.

Finally last week United’s Flyertalk liaison responded,

“A relatively small number of our Premier members have been incorrectly charged redeposit fees for award tickets they’ve elected to cancel.”

That response was disingenuous at best. There isn’t a single report of an elite member not getting charged the non-elite rate when redepositing an award for a non-elite passenger when the elite member isn’t flying together with them.

The only reasons that it would be a “relatively small number” is that most elites probably called United to do the redeposit rather than risk the website charging them incorrectly.  Or they’re waiting for the United.com to be fixed.

The irony here is that if this mistake was United.com not charging non-elites a redeposit fee you can bet that bug would be fixed the same day.  A airfare price glitch would be fixed within minutes.

And yet, here we are nearly a month into this bug and nothing had changed. The cynic in me isn’t surprised that glitches in the airline’s favor rarely get fixed in a timely fashion. You would think that a glitch that affected top-tier elites would be a priority.  At the very least they ought to roll back last month’s elite devaluation until they can implement the changes properly and stop overcharging their elite members.

While on the topic of errors on the passenger vs. the airline side of things, one of the worrying aspects of the DoT price mistake rule change is that a passenger only has 24 hours to let an airline know about their mistake (0 hours if you book on AA.com). Yet the DoT doesn’t hold the airlines to that same standard.  At the very least the airline should have to let a passenger know about a mistake within the same 24 hour window.  Otherwise we’ll have folks finding out that they don’t have a ticket when they get to the airport…

The new United.com launches this summer. I have zero faith in United being able to fix the problems with it that I identified in this post.  Be prepared for it to be a lot more difficult to search for nonstop award flights.

It’s time to bring Gordon Bethune out of retirement.  It’s as if Jeff Smisek read his former boss’ excellent “From Worst to First” book on his turnaround at Continental and then did everything he possibly could to bring the merged Continental-United back to worst. The comments from United employees left on Gordo’s facebook page are telling.

 

The data doesn’t lie. Smisek does.

 

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19 Comments On "United’s April 2015 Elite Devaluation Made Even Worse By Overcharging Their Elites For Award Redeposits; Emblematic Of Larger Problems That United Has Suffered Since The Continental Merger?"

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Uri

In the meantime, American is updating their fleet, maintaining its distance-based mile system and adding more premium fare bonuses. It’s such a shame to see how United (and Delta) just discouraging people from showing any loyalty, elites included. I switched to American and I am very satisfied. I just hope that one day they’ll have a direct route to NYC.

Moe

If Chase would take United’s hand out of its pocket it would probably die.

Sam Finkelstein

Great post. The only reason I fly United is because I have the Club Card (with the fee waived). I took the “Premium Service” from JFK to LAX about a month ago, and it was simply awful. Old, outdated and cramped planes, and $30 for wifi. Wish American’s prices would be more competitive.

moshe

Hey guys I’m looking for a credit card to build credit any advice? thanks

samuel

If I have a United CC but no status, am I likely to get a free upgrade? If yes then how?

Dan

@Uri:
Real question is can AA maintain that advantage.

Hopefully DL and UA bleed customers to them until they’re forced to switch back. But that’s unlikely to happen.

@Moe:
Until United converts MileagePlus to revenue based awards, that’s not going to happen.

@Jeff Smisek:
Heh.

@Sam Finkelstein:
It is a great card, have to admit that much.

@moshe:
http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/53213

@samuel:
0%.

Yanky

I just lost 180,000 miles of United I called the company they said it’s because I didn’t make any activity in the past 18 months which is a lie because I combined in January,this year 2 accounts into one which gives me another 20000 miles in my account & when I asked the supervisor she said this isn’t called activities!

Is there anyone out there with any idea what I should do next how to get it back or is it a lost case ?

Mendel

A little off topic but I couldn’t find the answer elsewhere. Does any of Delta’s partners still give 100% miles on discounted Delta fares (V class)?

Yo

Dan,

1.If your this upset at UA , why do you credit most of your travels to UA? 100,000 miles a year isn’t little.

I still fly mostly united but starting this year im not loyal to them. I just make sure to take them on the longer routes to maintain my status. If I find something much cheaper, or better timing, I take it. I feel free!

Off Topic Watch

It took 9 comments to get someone to ask an off-topic question 🙂

moshe

How do you maintain your 1k status, isn’t it only from flying and not cc transfers?

Sam Finkelstein

@yanky:

Find someone who has a Hertz receipt from before the date the miles expired, and also less than a year old. Call Hertz customer service and ask them to credit the rental to United account X. No need to mention that the names don’t match. See more at http://www.dansdeals.com/archives/50750.

Sam Finkelstein

@Dan:
Do you think I’ll have any luck getting the fee waived again? My actual membership expires late next May.

Dov

On the plus side if one books from a General Memebr’s account and the travller is a PP or 1K I would assume that United.com would redeposit the miles free of charge back to the GM account

Sammmmy

@Off Topic Watch:
I guess you missed #5

tivoboy

There certainly is a reason that UAL is scraping along the bottom of the US domestic carriers for service, etc.. profits are up great, being a shareholder I’m okay with the earnings, but as a 2MM Lifetime member, I only fly them now if it is CONVENIENT for me, if I can get the seats I want and if there is no other option – since pretty much any option would be better at this point in time.

Not even the employees are happy

mia flyer

thats a shame, i just got the united card yesterday

Long time follower

Dan any idea if 3 bags @ 70# will be honored for tickets purchased before April 15
I have a united flight TLV EWR in June booked in Feb. from a 1K account

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