Thursday, February 19, 2015

Airlines' Waivers and Flexibility Not So Flexible

The 2015 winter has been brutal for the Northeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and even the south.  When flights are cancelled or delayed, the effect cascades throughout the system and airlines have to react.
While we all know this is not easy for anyone, the tight capacity and limited options can wreak havoc for days even when the weather improves.  Airlines have very limited slack and changes cannot easily be made.  So who loses? The traveler is always the number 1 loser in these events.  Airlines grant "waivers" and "flexibility", but when you are going to a specific event on a certain day and you hold a non-refundable ticket, this flexibility does not mean much.

Here's an excerpt of one airline's policy:
Due to weather in the Eastern U.S., XYZ Airlines offers the following flexibility options to ticketed customers whose travel may be impacted by this event. Customers ticketed to travel , departing from the affected airports  may change flights
On the following dates: February 16, 2015 - February 17, 2015
And your ticket was issued no later than: February 15, 2015
You may travel: February 16, 2015 - February 20, 2015
Original inventory required? No
Origin/Destination/Stopover Changes allowed? No
The ticket reissue charge will be waived for one ticket change.
To change travel dates, contact our Reservations personnel at 1-800-XXX-XXXX within the United States or Canada.

As you see from above, the flexibility offers the same dates that flights are cancelled (February 16 and 17), and only allows 3 additional days to make the trip.  Problem #1, you may no longer have the need to travel.  Problem #2, if you do travel, you have to compete with other passengers on what looks like already oversold flights in a very tight window.  Problem #3, if you choose not to travel or cannot find seats, you will have to pay a penalty for using your ticket on a future flight.

Friday, February 6, 2015

U.S. Legacy Carriers Launch Offensive Against Gulf Carriers

A multi-pronged attack was launched by United, Delta and American on Qatar, Emirates and Etihad claiming that Gulf carriers compete unfairly as they receive direct and indirect subsidies from their governments.  The offensive includes robust lobbying and an attack on the "Open Skies" treaties that the three U.S. carriers championed for the longest time.  Now that the three U.S. carriers have already received approvals for anti-trust immunity by joint venturing with their foreign carrier partners, competition, which was the unintended result, is no longer convenient.  U.S. Carriers want the U.S. to impose restrictions and modify treaties to "level the playing field".

Thursday, December 18, 2014

United modifies Asia/Pacific baggage allowance policies

United has changed its seasonal checked baggage allowances to be year-round for tickets purchased on/after December 18, 2014 and for travel on/after January 8, 2015. As a result, United and joint venture partner ANA now offer aligned, year-round free baggage allowances in most key Pacific markets.

The following free baggage allowances apply to MileagePlus Premier Silver, General and non-members traveling in the United Economy cabin. Note: the policy is applicable for travel based on the first point of origin. For example, if a customer originates in Shanghai (PVG) to Los Angeles (LAX), the customer will receive free baggage allowance for 2 pieces (based on the chart below) on both the outbound and return.  

                    Countries                                       To Pacific                              From Pacific
North, Central and South America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East TO  
the Pacific 
North, Central and South America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East FROM  
the Pacific 
Japan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam
2 pieces 
2 pieces
Rest of Asia (excluding Australia, New Zealand, Micronesia)
 1 piece  
2 pieces 
Australia, Micronesia, New Zealand
1 piece
1 piece  
Between Japan and Micronesia/Guam
   1 piece   
1 piece

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2015 Travel Probabilities

After going over some of the 2015 myths, some predictions for 2015:

* Value of frequent flyer points will be further diluted.
* The term: "frequent flyer" will have less meaning.  New term: "Higher Fare Flyer"
* Different tiers of economy fares (i.e.: be prepared to pay more) will be the new normal.
* Achieving "status" with mileage will be much harder.
* Hotel fees and pricing will resemble the airline model.  Prepare to pay more.
* The difference between the "have more" and "have less" travelers will be more visible.
* New or higher ancillary fees for travelers
* Major domestic airlines, despite billions in profits, will not pay any taxes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2015 Travel Myths

So here we are at the end of another glorious year in travel.  2014 will be remembered as a year that airline profits have really started to take off and a banner year for travel in general.

So what will 2015 bring us?  These are the myths that pundits are predicting:

* Service and travel experience will improve: Not a chance.  U.S. airports are not adapting to today's      (or tomorrow's) needs.  From TSA, outdated facilities, overcrowded terminals and lounges, there is    no relief in sight.  Don't expect domestic carriers to improve either.
*Fares will go down: Not really! With less competition and reduced capacity, airlines might claim        that fares will stabilize, but once you add an increasing number of ancillary fees on very basic things such as seat assignments, the fares will be up again in 2015.  Also, forget any savings from cost of jet fuel going down.
* There cannot be more ancillary fees-airlines have maxed them out: Wrong! Fees will increase on many "services" and a tiered fee structure will make the previous fees look tame in comparison.
* Fuel Surcharges will be eliminated: Nope! Airlines are always quick to introduce or add fuel surcharges at the hint of rising fuel prices, but when we have a dramatic sustained drop such as the 40%+ drop in the past several months, airlines either do not react or they shrug it off in anticipation of a future increase.

The next edition will be the predictions for 2015.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

United Alters MileagePlus Benefits

United News

November 19, 2014

MileagePlus announcements

MileagePlus is making several announcements today.

 2015 Premier® benefits
 Traveler benefits on award tickets

MileagePlus members will be notified via the monthly MileagePlus statement email and information posted on

1. Premier benefits
2015 MileagePlus Premier benefit changes

As of February 1, 2015, the following MileagePlus Premier benefits will change

a. Baggage: Premier Gold members traveling on domestic Economy tickets will only receive two (2) complimentary checked bags, changed from the current allowance of three (3).

b. Global Entry payment reimbursement: MileagePlus members will no longer receive a payment code for the $100 Global Entry application fee.

c. Mileage Upgrade Award on Premium Service (p.s.) routes: Premier members will no longer be exempt from the co-pay when requesting a MileagePlus Upgrade Award on the p.s. route (JFK to/from LAX or SFO).

Read more here.

2. Traveler benefits on award tickets

Effective April 15, 2015, Premier travel benefits for customers traveling on an award ticket for United- and United Express®-operated flights will be determined by the traveler's own Premier status, even if another member's miles were used to purchase the award ticket.

Read more here.