I don’t spend as much time on Flyertalk as I used to before I started this blog and I end up missing out on different perspectives. Most United Airlines flyers either love or hate the Unlimited Domestic Upgrade (UDU) program, soon to be renamed Complimentary Premier Upgrade (CPU).
For me, I have a love-hate relationship with it. I never flew enough to upgrade all of my domestic flights with e500s previously and given my UDU percentage is in the upper 90s, I’m quite happy with it. Then there are the times I want to do a confirmed same-day change to a different flight only to see F0 or C0 (especially the three-cabin birds where I’d normally be able to get into Business). Then, I hate it.
One thread on Flyertalk caught my attention this week. The original poster titled it, “The more you spend, the worse you are treated.” I clicked in to find s/he’s the type of business traveler who buys last minute tickets, full-fare coach B-fares, and has to sit in a middle seat in both directions. It’s important to note this person is a top-tier Premier Executive 1K.
The UDU scheme had already upgraded everyone with status into First and all the aisle and window seats were already assigned in Economy Plus. I feel for this person and think United is making the right move next year in restricting the availability of Economy Plus to Premiers until check-in, but should also change the UDU/CPU algorithm.
Presently, all available upgrade space is cleared at the appropriate elite status window with virtually all flights being “sold out” in the front cabin the day of departure. Even if inventory management forecasts show there’s no demand for last minute First Class seats, United should at the minimum hold back at least two seats for gate upgrades.
One of the main complaints about UDU on the Flyertalk thread is the fact that it’s automatic now, not requiring any pre-selection by elites for the upgrade as it was during the e500 days. Under the former system, many “casual” elites weren’t knowledgeable enough to know they could upgrade, so First Class was still fairly available day of departure.
I’d like United to discipline their upgrade inventory a bit more day of departure and hold back a number of seats for gate upgrades. Heck, they could even adopt the Continental approach and sell them to check-ins for pennies on the dollar and probably come out further ahead than just upgrading elites on the flight. No, I don’t want to see that, but think the UDU/CPU system should change.
Here’s my ideal IM plan… hold back 25% of the seats for gate upgrades and the airline would likely please those last minute buyers:
I think United will eventually adopt such a model and have a feeling the removal of Economy Plus at booking was due to feedback on the invitation-only United forum for frequent flyers. I received an invite a couple of years back, but openly admitted I visited Flyertalk frequently, so was denied. Such a shame… I’d love to know what’s being said on those forums.