United announced this at 5PM on a Friday afternoon, so I think it goes without saying that it’s bad news. Here’s the official announcement:
Later this evening we’ll be making a change on united.com that will remove the ability to see the specific allocation of seat inventory made to each Fare Class (this is the Fare Class hyperlink found in the right-most column when searching for flights or viewing itinerary details). I know that this is a popular feature for many of you here – in fact, we liked it too. But, it wasn’t without issues. Specifically, for many customers who are not as familiar with the ins and outs of fare structures, there was often room for this information to be misinterpreted. It also left the door open for undesired exposure that allowed automated scripts to scrape and re-display information in ways for which it was not intended.
That said, we have great appreciation for the transparency this information offered. For example, having a better understanding of how full a flight is, along with knowing how many other customers want to upgrade on a flight, can be critical in deciding whether to pay to guarantee a seat immediately, use mileage to upgrade, hold out to see if a space-available upgrade will clear or select another flight all together. We are committed to improving transparency around this. But, instead of simply exposing fare class inventory (which is quite confusing to most customers), we are working on better ways to share this more meaningful information. You’ll see one new feature added with this release and even more changes that work toward this effort in future releases.
Director, Customer Insights
United has been ahead of the curve in terms of transparency when it comes to displaying fare classes (including upgrade and award space) on their website.
It’s great to be able to see how much confirmable upgrade and award space there is on a given flight, and also to see all the fare classes without using a paid service. However, it seems they’ll be eliminating this functionality overnight.
Interestingly ExpertFlyer displays the space as well, and if I had to guess I’d say the space will also be removed from there (which for some has huge value, especially since ExpertFlyer allows you to set up availability alerts for when upgrade/award space opens up).
It goes without saying this is awful news and a step backwards. From United’s perspective I suspect this functionality put too much information in the hands of the consumer with no benefit to them, and they didn’t like that. The system that processes upgrades at United has been known to be glitchy since the merger, and often times despite upgrade space being available upgrades haven’t been processed at the upgrade window, causing elite members to call in and manually have the upgrades processed.
Anyway, the decision sucks, though I’m hardly surprised. I wonder if they’ll stop displaying upgrade lists online while they’re at it.