I realize this isn’t a new phenomenon, but I don’t travel United a whole lot internationally on revenue fares. I do remember a few years back, however, when “W” fares, the minimum fare class required to upgrade internationally with a systemwide upgrade, were reasonable. Three or four years back, a “W” fare from San Francisco to London was under $500. Tampa to London or Frankfurt was under $600.
Now I’m looking at “W” fares to London totally off season, and they’re around $950. And let’s not even discuss Australia, which has seen an insane increase in the cost of “W” fares. I guess from a supply and demand standpoint, I can rationalize this. United has a new business class product which has resulted in substantially fewer premium cabin seats and theoretically higher demand. Someone’s gonna get those seats, so would you rather see a lot of people not clear their upgrades, or would you rather charge people more? And I think the answer is obvious, so it’s not that I’m trying to blame United for playing games here.
Don’t get me wrong, United is still much better than Delta, where an upgradable fare using their upgrade certificates is typically $2,000+, but at the same time there’s American. There’s a good chance I’ll need to be traveling to Germany more often than I already do starting next year, and if that’s the case, I’m not going to constantly be using award tickets. American has no restrictions on using their version of the systemwide upgrade, not to mention Executive Platinum members (their top tier) get eight of them just for qualifying, as opposed to the six that United 1Ks get. Unfortunately American’s coverage to Germany sucks, but it’s still better than nothing, and with $500 fares that can be confirmed in business class, it’s more tempting than ever to go for Executive Platinum status.