Goodbye, Ontario!

Sometimes it pains me to blog. I love sharing as much information as possible with my loyal readers, but at the same time there are some things that can’t be posted about until they’re gone. As much as I’d like to share that type of  info with loyal readers while the deal is still alive, anyone can read the blog and it could lead to the deal being pulled in a matter of days (or faster).

Well, it was a good run while it lasted. Specifically, the $550 paid first class fare on United between Tampa and Ontario. Matthew over at Upgrd does a good job summing up the changes.

So let’s talk about the fare a bit. It was a “Y-UP” fare around $550 all-in and allowed up to four transfers in each direction. The fare wasn’t that unreasonable in the past, given that Tampa had Ted and so did Ontario. Matthew in his post above mentions he has a friend that ended up in coach for three of the four segments of his “first class” trip since the flights were operated by Ted aircraft. So that might explain why the “first class” fare was so reasonable. Either way, I wouldn’t pay $550 for domestic first class. It’s just not worth it, in my book, when I can upgrade so easily.

But at the time it was even better thanks to the fact that I was able to fly three cabin paid first class, including Premium Service first class, for $550 roundtrip. You see, it’s all a function of United’s wonderful IT system. Given that three cabin first class and two cabin first class both book into “F” and “A” buckets, the system really can’t tell the difference between a three cabin plane and a two cabin plane. If US airlines were smart they would solve this problem by calling domestic first class business class, and reserving the “first class” name for three cabin first class (which would also eliminate any confusion about first class lounge access).

 The way United distinguishes three cabin flights from two cabin flights is by the flight number. If you look closely at the fare rules, “Y-UP” fares exclude certain flight numbers, which coincidentally are the same flights that are operated by three cabin aircraft. The issue was that they hadn’t added that restriction to this fare, so any flight with first class was acceptable.

So back during the first round of double EQM’s this year, I was flying in style. Actually, it was triple EQM’s for paid first class. I would fly from Tampa to Washington Dulles to New York JFK to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Ontario, all in paid first class (including Premium Service first class). Then I would return the following morning from Ontario to San Francisco to New York JFK to Washington Dulles to Tampa, again in first class. I can’t even begin to say how much fun it was, not to mention what a deal it was. For each trip I was earning around 27,000 EQM’s (9,000 base miles tripled), and the cost was $550 before applying vouchers. I also picked up so many vouchers thanks to all my PS flights, which were frequently oversold.

But seriously, I never had that much fun flying. It was fun to see “FULL FARE” listed next to my name on the manifest in three cabin first class, I got to know tons of JFK based flight attendants (including the biggest maverick of them all, Cookie), and I even ran into some interesting people at the International First Class Lounges at JFK, LAX, and SFO, like Anne Hathaway.

But then around summer United got smart and caught on. They restricted three cabin flights, only allowing domestic first class. But it was fun while it lasted. Anyway, back to $200 “L” fares for me!

Oh, and from now on I expect to be referred to as “Lucky the high revenue, premium traveler” and not “Lucky the cheap-a$$ upgrader.” OK? 😉

Comments

  1. $2200 for 1K qualification in first class!?! And then all the vouchers from bumps (and original routing credit even if the trip gets modified as a result)? That’s it, I’m moving to Tampa!

    I thought DEQM only applied to base miles, so paid first was 2.5x EQM not 3x. 9182 * 2.5 is still 23k EQM.

  2. @ Mark — That’s the case this time around, but last time around they offered to double the class of service bonus as well, for a total of triple miles.

  3. I remember this being posted early this year in the MR forum. Congrats on being able to milk it for so long.

  4. Yeah i remember you talking about this during a Do earlier in the year, its still a bit of a hard sell for me, since you’d only earn 22500 RDMs for $550. 2.4 CPMs is a bit steep for me, but i would defiantly have jumped on the deal if i knew i was going to meet Anna Hathaway, but i guess that’s why they call you Lucky.

    So Mr. Full-Fare, did they give you GS this year?

  5. Lucky:

    When flyers are trying to accumulate miles for status, are they booking a fare from point A to point B, and then booking as many waypoints as the fare will allow? Why do the airlines allow this? Is this a technology issue? Given that a pax is paying a fare for a city pair, why don’t the airlines just award the defined mileage between those cities?

    When I’ve commented on revenue based FF programs, I received a response how on an annual basis, this may benefit the airlines (a full fare flyer travelling 2x per year), but from a cash flow perspective, a miles program creates the incentive to fly more often. This made sense.

    However, this argument loses some steam when these types of practices are allowed (good for you, bad for the airlines).

    It’s really not fair to the frequent fliers who fly a lot, but don’t have the time to take full advanteous of the system. In other businesses, these loopholes are eventually closed. Will this be as well? Or is there a good business reason for the airlines to allow it? Or am I misunderstanding the concept altogether?

    Curiously,

    Eric

  6. It’s a “bug”, clearly. Surely they don’t want this bozo clogging up oversold P.S. flights in F 🙂
    Ingenious observations to pick up on this one! To the victor go the spoils!

  7. @ Eric — Brilliant questions/post. I was trying to respond to it but my response was getting a bit lengthy, so if it’s alright I’ll make a separate post addressing your questions. I think you’ll be surprised by how much I agree with you (or might just be for a revenue based mileage program). Give me a day or two, please.

  8. Adding to Eric’s question: what’s the deal with “direct” flights involving a change of aircraft? I’m flying LAX–TLV and back on US Airways, changing planes at PHL both ways. In one direction it’s different flight numbers so I get miles for the individual segments, while in the other direction it’s the same flight number so I get miles for the origin/destination (that is, 593 miles less than actually traveled).

    Curiously enough, I got the same seat numbers (for 4 people) on both segments of the “direct” flight, despite the aircraft being quite different (A330 and A321).

    I understand the “direct” concept originates from the time when segments were shorter, and many longer routings had stops en-route without changing planes at a hub. Today I think only Southwest utilizes this model in any significant way. I can see value in a “direct” flight on a single aircraft since this virtually eliminates the chances of misconnecting, greatly reduces the chances of a baggage misconnect, and saves you the need to get your stuff off the plane and run to a new gate at the connecting airport. But a flight involving a change of aircraft does not have these benefits, so marketing it as “direct” is rather deceptive. Plus, I want my miles 🙂

    Speaking of connecting, my parents keep asking me on each new itinerary whether I booked “guaranteed” connections. I think this concept disappeared way back in the 80s.

  9. @Ron – Once, while booked on a ‘direct’ flight from Manzanillo to Seattle (stop in LAX for customs), we actually missed the second leg of the flight. I FREAKED OUT. How does it leave without the pax from the first leg,, when it’s the same flight number? OMG! LOL. Well, that didn’t help us much.

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