I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Carmel, California with my family. As always, we stayed at the Highlands Inn, a Hyatt property. During brunch on Sunday, two couples seated at the table next to us began speaking about airline travel.
While I do not make a habit of eavesdropping on others, I could not help but overhear a conversation at the table next to mine…about upgrades on United Airlines.
Last week I wrote about my conversation with a 1K member while waiting to board a Hong Kong Airlines flight to Los Angeles. He claimed that he was abandoning United primarily because he never received an upgrade.
So it was with some amusement that the conversation quickly turned to upgrades.
“I’m Global Services thanks to my company. That means United treats me like a king.”
That’s true, to an extent. Global Services is United’s top-tier elite status usually reserved for high-dollar travelers or given to employees as part of a high-value company contract.
“I’m flying to New York on Tuesday and United always upgrades me for free. Every time.”
Except they don’t. Even Global Services members do not receive free upgrades on premium transcontinental routes. Global Services members, however, do have a better chance of clearing upgrades because their inventory comes from PN rather than PZ class. Nice that his company buys him a business class ticket, though…
> Read More: United Changes Fare Class Codes For Premium Cabins And Upgrades
“The flights to New York are great because you have your own suite.”
Alas, no. United operates a mix of 757-200s and 777-200s on its premium transcontinental routes to New York (from SFO or LAX). The 757-200s are configured 2-2 in business class while the 777-200s are configured 2-4-2 in business class.
“You should come with me sometime. United will upgrade all of my companions for free.”
Nope. Global Services members start the year off with four regional premier upgrades and six global premier upgrades. While complimentary companion upgrades (for a single companion on the same itinerary) are possible on non-premium transcontinental domestic flights, these are subject to space availability and difficult to clear, even for GS members.
I’ve Come to Realize Something…
In my 1K post on Saturday, reader Dave G left the following comment:
All the high end companies that spend a lot of money on United tickets nominate their employees who are going to travel the most on United to get the GS status…
And that’s a fair point – the man at the table next to me admitted exactly that. It also explains the colossal ignorance shown by many Global Services members. They receive amazing perks and really fail to understand how the system works.
My point in sharing this conversation is that people who hold top tier status are often not as frequent travelers as those in lower tiers. It’s the way the status game works and it further underscores the nebulous connection between status and individual loyalty.
I was so tempted to join the conversation. But thankfully my better judgement prevailed and I did not butt into a conversation that did not concern me. It took some willpower, though…
Would you have joined in the conversation and offered some corrections?
AA has the same thing. If your company commits to spend $100K+ they provide 2 concierge keys.
Yeah except those companies don’t give it to the employees that fly the most they give them to the exec’s. His secretary or travel department is probably applying company upgrades for his trips to NYC and he’s oblivious.
Status and loyalty?…how about those paying the most MONEY being the only criteria.
Either his secretary/assistant is doing a lot of legwork to get him upgrades via GPU or RPU without telling him or they outright buy him a business class ticket. Also, was it clear where he was flying from to NYC? Perhaps he was doing a longer flight from an international destination that gets the “real” Polaris which at least mildly resembles a suite. Or else he will be seriously disappointed with the 2x4x2 seating!
Either way this all makes me a little sad how hard I work to keep 1k status despite a lack of good seats, the higher and higher mark it takes to achieve 1k, and the better service and seats I can get on partner airlines like Turkish but that don’t garner me the miles and money I need to keep 1k. Sigh.
They really are boiling the frog for 1K’s. Is a high volume difficult to acquire customer flying low occupancy routes to outstations all over the country less valuable 4-6X a year customer buying C fares NYC -> LAX that you will sell out anyway? I’m not sure they have maintained the value of 1K enough sufficiently.
Thank you for saying aloud exactly what I’m experiencing. I’ve earned UA Platinum status by segments (100+ and counting) by flying every week, and will likely miss 1k by about 8-10 segments. It irks me every time I’m seated next to a 1k passenger and I have to listen to the flight attendant thank them for their business and offer them a snack box and a drink of their choice. And I’m also a Million Miler. Feels like 3rd Class sometimes after you factor in people who are handed their award status. Imagine how hopeless Gold feels, much less Silver!
Wouldn’t join, wouldn’t offer. It is lesson that what people say is not necessarily accurate. Getting a little weary of people, despite my understanding that we are all social animals and benefit from interaction with others. Was in line at Starbucks (Monterey, CA, less than 10 miles from Carmel) and saw a customer angry that employee was toasting a sandwich before giving her the slice of banana bread that was ordered. (“yoo hoo, yoo hoo” is not how I usually address another person).
For those who want to know how to make the most of benefits and life, my advice is: 1) read and study the fine print, including start and end dates 2) have a hard/paper copy of that fine print in your hands.
Were these couples by chance older men joined by attractive younger women? Might be more braggadoccio than ignorance …
I would have asked why he is staying at Hyatt when GS gives him Marriott Platinum status 🙂
Sounds like this clown was trying to impress his girlfriend.
Perhaps you shouldn’t eavesdrop on conversations. You never know if he was just trying to impress someone. You on the other hand needed material for an article so it worked out for you.
Not surprised you could overhear him. Americans tend to talk very loud in restaurants.
Indeed, I wasn’t trying to overhear him…
United really screws over their Million Milers also. I am through with United after 1.7 million miles.
The have not “earned” the battle scars that comes from working up through the ranks. They have no idea of the in/outs of the program.
I have only bought FC or UB (Polaris) tickets this past year, I find boarding in group 6*, to be extremely concerning. *There are 5 different categories in their current pre-boarding process. I’d love to see group 1 being only FC/UB. Then follow-up with the 5 categories of pre-boards. On one leg of my Polaris trip IAH-ORD (737), there must have been 45pax in group 1. We stood of the loading bridge for 10 minutes, because the FA said they were waiting for an aisle chair to come back thru the aisle. She ask if anyone sitting in FC to come up as the aisle chair wasn’t blocking the FC seats. I was at the door of the terminal… I wasn’t going to shimmy through the mass of GS, 1K, and Group 1 that wasn’t seated in FC – so I waited the extra 10 minutes.
With 2M miles and all sorts of upgrades over the yrs…1. Thankful for a FREEBIE 2. Recall my Dad’s 1M Bag Tag…that was all he ever got.
Remember upgrades are like hemmoroids…eventually everyone gets ’em.
You can always charter folks…
See ya on board a UA flt, coach on my airline beat$ coach on others where zero status..
Lol I find this story casually amusing.
I do agree numerous people who hold top-tier status with airlines have no clue about the actual benefits and just assume airlines will upgrade them every time.
15 years of GS. 3.5 MM on UA. My travel has scaled way back and now I’m “just” lifetime 1K and lifetime UA Club. A person who thinks that getting domestic upgrades on five hour flights is being “treated like a king” is a person who doesn’t travel very much. GS is about getting service that nobody else gets because your company’s money is being funneled to UA. They’ve walked me to the front of security. They’ve plucked me out of a check in line to tell me that I’ve been re-booked because my flight was going to have a mechanical. They’ve called me an told me to come to the office to get my vouchers because my flight was about to be cancelled. They’ve pulled a guy off a plane for me. They’ve held the last flight out so I could make my connection. And, on the other side, they’v’e told me flatly that the next three flights were full but then produced an aisle seat in an empty row on the next flight once they learned that I was GS (which is why I always tell them that I don’t recommend UA to anyone who has no status). Domestic upgrades are an afterthought.
This is the only comment that makes any sense. I have been GS for years and the writter of this article is being rude to get us to read nonsense. I fell for it.
It cuts both ways. I have colleagues who are United 1Ks, don’t know what it is, never check their MP accounts, never spend earned points and think that whenever they are upgraded our travel office has somehow done them a favor.
This is the 8th year in a row that I’m 1K and every year i spent more, this year I have flown 180K miles, I am a million miler (almost 2M) and the CEO of a growing company that will decide which airlines we will fly. To be honest, i am on the verge of leaving mileage plus, it’s not worth it. I have contacts with AA and they say they will match my status and put me on the whatever equivalent of GS. I have contacted Air Canada, Singapore and Lufthansa, they all offered something. Now, just the idea I have to contact United and basically beg them to put me on GS makes me want to leave starting today, 1st of January 2019. Sorry, but that’s not the way to treat customers. period.
Likely not true. Most airlines do not status match unpublished status levels. Perhaps you offered to spend a certain amount, which would get an offer, but straight status match? Nope.
One more thought. As a GS + MM, you can gift a GS status to someone. Often these receivers are clueless. UA publishes something about $50k prepaid that comes with GS status. I think that’s what a lot of companies buy into.