United Sells Economy Plus at Time of Booking

I noticed on One Mile at a Time yesterday that United has quietly started allowing people to upgrade to Economy Plus at the time of booking. Great idea. In fact, I almost thought about giving them a gold star, but not quite. While it’s a good idea, I have some issues with the way they’re doing this.

Don’t get me wrong, this is the right thing to do. If someone wants to pay more up front to sit in Economy Plus, why would United want to turn down that revenue opportunity? They shouldn’t, and they’ve now fixed that problem. BUT, looking at United’s page on the subject, I see that the pricing for the upgrade is the same regardless of whether you do it at the time of booking or at the airport. The value, however, isn’t the same, and United needs to make an adjustment to account for that, otherwise they’re leaving money on the table and possibly angering their elite customers.

Economy Plus is primarily meant as a bonus for elite members, supposedly the airline’s best customers. When they sold the upgrade at the time of check-in, most elites would have already been seated in Economy Plus so it wouldn’t be a big deal. But now, if someone upgrades at the time of booking, it could be taking a seat away from a valuable elite member. I don’t know how often the Economy Plus cabin fills up completely, but this would certainly make that more likely to occur.

So, if United wants to sell an upgrade at the time of booking, they should charge more for it than for an upgrade at the airport because the potential loss of value for the elite customer who gets stuck in Economy Minus is increased. Also, having an Economy Plus seat secured at the time of booking is of greater value to the purchasing customer, so the price should be higher.

Also, it’s a little disappointing to see that all classes of service pay the same amount for the upgrade. When United stopped giving people booking full fare tickets access to Economy Plus, I thought it was completely ridiculous. Now, I would have thought they might have reconsidered. If you paid that much money for a ticket, I think that access to Economy Plus is only fair. It should at least be discounted for the handful of non-elites who actually buy those fares, but it isn’t.

So . . . good idea, United, but you’re leaving money on the table and possibly angering your elite customers. Maybe some tweaking on the execution side would be a good idea.

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23 Comments on "United Sells Economy Plus at Time of Booking"

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United Sells Economy Plus at Time of Booking…

[Source: The Cranky Flier] quoted: But now, if someone upgrades at the time of booking, it could be taking a seat away from a valuable elite member. I don’t know how often the Economy Plus cabin fills up completely, but this would certainly make …

Ntetlow
Member
The United upgrade article was pretty dam perfect and you hit it on head. I’m a resonably solid United flyer and fluctuate between 1k and Prem Exec and I have noticed what seems to be the general errosion over the years, between those who fly 100k/yr and those who fly 30k/yr, so this is just another chip off the ‘ol perks block’. This block is actually what makes you a loyal flyer, but its getting smaller by the day and one day the block ‘aint gonna be worth putting oneself out for. Nick Ps The Cranky Flyer is just what… Read more »
jonathan reed
Guest
I suspect that with United’s recent huge quarterly loss and the cost of fuel, United is re-appraising whether it shouldn’t kill economy plus and jam a few more seats into their planes. Making E+ available at the time of booking will show how much people are willing to pay for extra space. If the results are disappointing, United may conclude as American did many years ago that the public simply won’t pay for extra leg room. Yes, this move does devalue elite status with United. In my experience, E- is more packed than E+ so that E+ often offers more… Read more »
ML Harris
Guest
First: F United. They are the worst. Of my five worst airline experiences, United stars in 3 (Al Italia – 1, Continental – 1). I had TWO flights canceled this weekend. If I had half of my hourly wage for every hour of mine they’ve wasted with bumps and cancels, I’d be able to fly first class to Europe on some other airline. Second: Checking in online, day before flight: all economy seats taken despite LT advance booking (thx Orbitz). Am asked if I’d like E+ seating before I get to see the seating map with no available seats. Not… Read more »
Ntetlow
Member

Mr Harris,

You can reiterate all you want, and I’m glad that I have been of help in allowing you to vent your thoughts – better for the soul.

Nick

D. Clarus
Guest

In other United news, I just received an email from them saying that they’re changing their base accrual policy. Now, flights that are shorter than 500 miles will only accrue the real number of miles flown, instead of accruing 500.
http://www.united.com/page/article/0,6722,52718,00.html?jumpLink=%2Fprogramchanges

Not a major change, I suppose, but an annoying one all the same. I’m also looking at the ever-reducing block of perks for having elite status and thinking that it’s coming close to not being worth it anymore.

Feldspar
Guest

This has been going on for quite some time. I purchased an EP upgrade at check in a year ago.

Nick Barnard
Member

United fumble execution? I thought that was the only thing they did reliably.

j.mothena
Member
Economy Plus is the ONLY reason I stay loyal to United and continue to fly enough miles to maintain my MP Premier status each year. If that loses its value for me, then I have no reason to continue to fly United. They are often more expensive than other airlines for the same route, and I often need to make connections rather than being able to fly non-stop to some of the places I go regularly. Their people are often not very nice (for which I can’t really blame them based on what I’ve read about the way United treats… Read more »
Bobber
Guest

Very sad news, indeed. Not sure what sort of donkeys advise United on policies like this, but their advice sucks. E+ is a great distinguishing factor between United and all other transatlantic carriers. It partially compensates for the rapidly aging fleet that they have at their disposal – without it, United will struggle even more, as customer loyalty will soon be decimated. V. poor.

PF
Guest

My hunch is this is the first of many big changes if there is a merger with US and Mr. Parker gets to sit in the big chair.

QRC
Guest
Cranky, and many of the posters above, I think there’s a principal that’s overlooked. And I DO think it’s a great idea for UA to do this! In summary: US airlines give WAY too many people “elite” status, at the detriment to true elite fliers and profit. What do I mean? Even those who fly 100k on United, many are not very profitable pax from the airline point of view. For US airlines (AA included) you generally can get away with spending under USD$20k a year and still be a 1k. Not Global Services, but definitely 1k. If you were… Read more »
ML Harris
Guest

Thanks for the forum. I see UA and I see red. Happily, I’m moving to Chicago, so I won’t ever have to fly UA again (sarcasm off).

Ntetlow
Member

Jean my sentiments exactly

Nick

Ntetlow
Member
I hope that (UAL) United might be looking at some of the comments spawned here as I feel that the sentiments most probably run through countless thousands of loyal customers they have, but this loyalty will no doubt wane if they continue n this fashion. One respondent mentioned that invariably the flight costs are higher on United than on other, possibly as good airlines they are 100% right and United do not want this section of the paying public to jump ship, as this other ship might be a delightful surprise!. Thank you all for your contributions to this as… Read more »
Liz
Guest

You definitely hit the nail on the head. What perks are now available for their LOYAL customers? This week with the E+ being “given away” to anybody (many of us have to book at the last minute and the actual mileage component is driving me to book more on AS and their partners now. UA just doesn’t seem to “get it.”

Bob
Guest

I view this as a big takeaway from Elite members and people who purchase annual Economy Plus access. Economy Plus is a significant reason of why I fly exclusively with United if they service the route.

I guess it’s time to be more loyal to my wallet and comfort on a per flight basis, than worrying about making elite status on a single airline and making use of their benefits.

Jeff K
Guest

Bob brought up a great point – those of us who purchase annual Economy Plus access are getting a screwed along with the Elites. I E+ access because I would probably never reach 1k/whatever (and because you couldn’t purchase at the time of booking).

For me, E+ is *the* differentiator giving UA an edge over all other U.S. carriers.

I hope they don’t really mess it up.

woti
Guest

Hey – I am happy with the E+ at the time of booking. I normally fly American BDL to ORD and their cheapest fare was almost $700. My E+ ticket with a confirmed seat? $330.

Jim
Guest

I just did my online checkin and did the upgrade to E+ for 39.00 so I’m a happy camper. I fly from Seattle to Chicago on a redeye so for that price, I think it’s a great deal.

Ntetlow
Member

@ Nick:

I’m with you a 100% on this one Nick as I’m the same 1k-Prem Ex

Nick

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