August 16, 2005

United Airlines Deceptive Decline

Category: Aviation

united.gifChicago: I suppose this is more of a rant than a useful comment, but there are a few things in it worth thinking about. Bear with me. First of all, United Airlines insists on claiming that it has "direct" flights from, for example, Chicago to London. Some of the advertised flights are actually non-stop to Heathrow, and some actually go via Washington. The Washington flight is not direct by any stretch of the imagination, requiring both a plane change and a re-check in at the international desk at Dulles. There is also a "direct" flight from Newark to Hongkong via San Francisco and Tokyo which requires similar plane changes.

The only reason that United can claim these are "direct" flights is that the flight number does not change. This is beyond deceptive and frankly beyond stupidity.

My second bone to pick has to do with United's "Saver vs. Standard" frequent flyer awards. The airline claims to have no blackout dates for award tickets, but only at the "standard" level - a level which requires far higher numbers of miles to book, and is highly undesireable. The saver level is in line with other airlines, but is almost impossible to book - to the point where I don't really try.

I realize that United is strapped for cash, but why tease me with the saver-award myth? Why not just admit that it's essentially impossible to book and stop braggin about half-truths.

Posted by Nick at August 16, 2005 4:43 PM

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 Comments:

It's been a long time since reward programs had any achievable benefit to everyday consumers, perhaps since around the time credit card companies started offering frequent flyer miles and their partner airlines realized just what that meant to them, quickly reorganizing the programs to require more miles than even credit card debt-trapped Americans could manage to accrue in a reasonable period.

Posted by: Greg at August 18, 2005 10:25 PM

Ugh. I was a Premier flyer on United for a number of years, but eventually decided that my perks (including frequent flyer miles) were useless. I had the same problem with my upgrades (the big perk of Premier status) as you have here: There are never any available. I barely fly them at all any more, and mostly fly JetBlue now. Oh, and I wrote them two separate letters explaining why I was letting my Premier status lapse, and got no response. And they wonder why they're dying.

Posted by: Joe Ganley at August 23, 2005 5:49 PM

In defense of United, the "direct" business isn't just them. It is standard industry practice to refer to a flight as "direct" if it has the same flight number the whole way. It's deeply stupid and misleading, but it is consistent with what other airlines do.

Posted by: Michael Jennings at October 25, 2005 6:46 PM

I had been trying to and have no luck booking an united airline saver award ticket on the business class. So for the hell of it, i try to look for ticket 9 month out for a whole month, i still can't find any ticket neither. Has anybody been able to book any saver award on the business class.

Posted by: WYL at February 12, 2006 7:39 PM

BEFORE BOOKING MY VERY EXPENSIVE TICKETS TO AGADIR IN MOROCCO FOR AUG (800 EUROS EACH) I HAD HEARD THAT RYANAIR MAY BE STARTING A ROUTE FROM MARSEILLE TO AGADIR...... CAN ANYONE CONFIRM ANY TRUTH IN THIS? THANK YOU

Posted by: louise SUZANNE at March 15, 2007 5:23 AM

You have mistaken a direct flight from a nonstop flight! These are totally different flight! A nonstop goes directly from the origin to the destination without any STOP and uses ONE flight number. A DIRECT FLIGHT is a flight that USES ONE FLIGHT NUMBER BUT STOPS along the way to pick-up passengers!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Deimon at September 22, 2007 1:10 AM

Deimon - you're missing the point. THe point is that definition of "Direct" is not honest. The Airlines have actually managed to cheat people by creating a did-honest definition of "direct". Common sense trumps their definition.

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