Upgrade from Discount Economy to Business Class using Cash!

Discussion in 'United Mileage Plus' started by JohnK, Sep 21, 2006.

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  1. JohnK

    JohnK Veteran Member

    Mar 22, 2005
    39,981
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    I booked a return flight SYD-SFO, for a friend and his wife, from zuji travelling end August returning mid September ~A$3100 for 2 people. He wanted business class but best price was ~$9500 for 2 people and United was the cheapest of all carriers.

    My friend is very tall and was concerned with the pitch of economy seats even though we put in a request for exit row. No status so would have to be lucky to nab exit row. He is used to cramped spaces as most times he travels with knee caps touching his chin anyway.

    A day before the flight he rang United to ensure that all was OK with bookings and voiced his concern of having trouble coping with economy seat pitch. The agent advised him to ask again at check-in. The next day at check-in he politely asks for upgrade to business class and is offered upgrade to business class @ US$500 per person which he accepts. Business class experience is much better than economy but he still cannot stretch his legs put fully.

    Returning SFO-SYD 2 days he tries the same request at check-in. Again he is offered upgrade to business class @ US$500 per person. Has lounge access for 3 hours at SFO and also manages to sleep for 8 hours on the flight.

    The return trip in business class cost ~A$5800 for 2 people as opposed to the asking price from zuji of ~A$9500 for 2 people. Initially, before we booked flights, he was prepared to pay up to double the economy price for business class seats.

    Is the offer of paying cash for business class upgrades a common occurrence? I guess from United's point of view it is better to receive US$500 for an otherwise empty seat. I can also understand why other airlines do not do this more often as it would reduce the price of a business class ticket.
     

  2. one9

    one9 Active Member

    Sep 14, 2005
    592
    8

    To me, it seems stupid for United to do this. By doing this, they encourage people not to pay high ticket prices, and to gamble at check in.

    Doing things like this is probably why United is in such a bad financial state.
     
  3. bigjobs

    bigjobs Active Member

    Jun 4, 2005
    754
    72
    i suppose that because it's check in time for the flight the airline most likely has an idea that the seats will not sell before departure ... so this is like a last gasp attempt to at least get something for them rather than let them fly empty or on complimentary upgrades.

    i have been on US domestic flights where there have been announcements that the flight has 'first/business class' seats available for upgrades at USD50 per seat ...
     
  4. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    4
    Yup common for US-based airlines to offer this. I'm surprised they asked US$500 per person per flight - the ones I've heard (in person or via others) have been much less than this.

    I think it is fairly short-sighted as a contributing reason why some airlines struggle to sell paid business and first is it is too easy to get upgraded for little or no cost.
     
  5. simongr

    simongr Enthusiast

    Jul 10, 2006
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    This is a no-brainer for me - for commercial reasons they simply shouldnt do this. It is slightly different to giving upgrades to status passengers - and even that should be rare rather than common. How else can you justify buy a good seat when they might give it to you regularly.

    The only time I think this could be justified is where they have oversold the flight and maybe the first port of call before op-ups should be a "fire sale" of seats.
     
  6. NM

    NM
    Moderator

    Aug 27, 2004
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    And I believe this is a reflection on UA's financial position over the past 5 years. But just which is the case and which is the affect :confused: .
     
  7. Mal

    Mal Enthusiast

    Dec 25, 2004
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    Quite a few airlines do this.

    I have heard BA sometimes do it on certain routes (mainly ex U.S), and a lot of the other legacy U.S carriers also put up the "Upgrades available" sign at times.

    I agree that it devalues their J or F product.
     
  8. JohnK

    JohnK Veteran Member

    Mar 22, 2005
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    Quite right. Why take-off with a near empty business class cabin when there are people, who would not normally consider travelling business class, prepared to pay a reduced price for upgrade to business class. Increase the revenue of the flight for not much extra cost. I just wish it was more common with other airlines. Thumbs up to United.

    My friend is not worried about being charged US$500 for upgrade because in the end it was a much better experience than economy and he still paid less than double the economy price which he was prepared to pay when booking flights.
     
  9. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
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    Because the cost is the long-term loss of revenue - likely to be much more than the short-term gain for that one flight.
     
  10. ozstamps

    ozstamps Member

    Aug 30, 2003
    467
    65
    Sunny Sydney
    UA has been doing this for ages to and from SYD.

    Always $US500 a person. Always done only at check in.

    Be warned it is a total crap shoot. On a full plane (they very often are) you are toast and back in row 58F.

    Also even if you do get UG you generally get the worst biz seats like the first C cabin which has far less pitch than other seats. (Rows 6/7/8)

    Also be mindful UA offers elites lots of upgrade opportunities, which unlike Qantas you can confirm 330 days out. If they are on a PA waitlist you are also toast with a paid one.

    I get 6 x free confirmed upgrade certs a year as a 1K that allow me to upgrade all flights in advance. And you can earn more if you fly more than me.

    ONE cert covers SYD-LAX-LHR etc.
     
  11. ozstamps

    ozstamps Member

    Aug 30, 2003
    467
    65
    Sunny Sydney
    And UA has also starting selling up to 'economy plus' DOM and ITL. Elites get it free, but for $US150 or whatever to oz quite handy for casual travellers. Far more room in those seats.

    UA top elites can book and confirm exit rows seats 330 days out, which in a 747 are very good.
     
  12. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
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    It used to be that *G or even *S got it free. No longer - only UA *G and UA *S can get it.

    It also used to be that full economy fares (fare classes YBHM IIRC, which includes the *A RTW booking class) got it free. No longer.

    Now to get E+ you need either to be UA *G or *S, or UA MP member who has paid the US$150 per year fee to get E+.

    Mind you, E+ on UA is not a true premium economy - not as good as premium economy on BA, VS, NZ, etc.
     
  13. ozstamps

    ozstamps Member

    Aug 30, 2003
    467
    65
    Sunny Sydney
    Rob - yep I meant UNITED Elites get it free. ;)

    I honestly have never tried it.

    In 6 years as a 1K and over 500,000 of paid United air miles, have always got upgraded, but I hear it is far better than regular coach seats re roominess.
     
  14. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
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    Far better than UA's regular coach seats. Only marginally better than NZ's regular economy seats, and much worse than NZ's premium economy seats.
     
  15. oc7

    oc7 Junior Member

    Apr 30, 2006
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  16. JohnK

    JohnK Veteran Member

    Mar 22, 2005
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    Zuji quoted return business class airfare SYD-SFO on UA for travel in August returning mid September @ ~A$9500 for 2 people.
     
  17. oc7

    oc7 Junior Member

    Apr 30, 2006
    24
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    thats pretty cheap isnt it ??
     
  18. nelee8382

    nelee8382 Newbie

    Oct 9, 2006
    1
    0
    Hi all,

    I am very interested in this paid upgrade at checkin thing because my partner is also very tall and the economy seats will be a nightmare.

    I have a few questions that I hope someone can help me with.....

    What was the booking class of their fare? We are booked on K class.

    Did they originate from SYD or MEL? We are originating from MEL so we will be checking in for the SYD-SFO flight much earlier than people flying only from SYD-SFO and I wonder whether this is an advantage to get in early.

    I've been reading a lot about the paid upgrade so I thought I would jump in and ask someone who knows of people that have done it recently on UA.

    Cheers,

    Nellie
     
  19. JohnK

    JohnK Veteran Member

    Mar 22, 2005
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    Hi Nellie, welcome to AFF!

    I booked the tickets for my friend and his wife through Zuji but do not know the booking class and never asked. I am assuming that these would be the lowest booking class possible with UA.

    They travelled SYD-SFO return and a day or so before the flights were told on the phone to ask for upgrade to business class at checkin.. I think it would be an advantage to get in as early as possible as someone else may get in before you. When you check-in if there are any business class seats available they would gladly upgrade you at a cost of US$500 per seat irrespective of the booking class.
     
  20. Shano

    Shano Established Member

    Aug 17, 2006
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    This may be a bit of an anomaly but I joined UA MP prior to my last US trip as I had a few UA flights and figured I might as well collect some miles for the effort. The first, a 2 class service from IAD to DEN, I was seated in E+ --- this with no prior status / miles earned and no additional fee. The other two flights were single class services only . Perhaps this was a form of enticement for a new MP member?

    I agree with Kiwi Flyer though that it hardly rates as a premium product.
     
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