One of the more interesting benefits that United flyers gained after the Continental
merger takeover was a very favorable policy of “inherited status” on award tickets. For the past three years, any award tickets issued inherited the status of the account holder.
That means that if a MileagePlus Premier member booked an award ticket for a friend and family member, that person would be treated with pretty much all of the benefits as if the Premier was flying himself. These benefits included free checked bags, economy plus seating, premier check-in, and upgrades if the Premier also had the MileagePlus credit card — even the boarding pass would show the status of the account holder!
As Ben covered back in November, United has announced that the benefit of “inherited status” will terminate for tickets booked after April 15. The Ides of April are upon us….
So if you are a Premier and have award tickets to book for friends and family for travel within the next 330 days, you should do it now to lock in these benefits. Award tickets booked after April 15 will supposedly revert to the benefits associated with the passenger. (I say supposedly because we’re never quite sure how things will play out when it comes to United and IT.)
I have mixed feelings about this loss of benefits. As someone who came from the old United side of the house, it was a perk that we never had before, so many of us weren’t quite sure what to make of it. Heck, it wasn’t even a published benefit, but rather something that just happened, so you could never really count on it since nobody knew if it would just disappear. In fact, the first official acknowledgement from United that this benefit even existed occurred when they announced that it would be ending!
The announcement basically went like this: “You know that benefit that you never really knew you had? Well, it’s gonna end soon.” So I do commend them for actually providing plenty of notice, rather than just recoding the computer on Friday evening. It’s hard to complain about the loss of a benefit which you never knew you had.
I originally thought this benefit was kind of silly. Why should United confer benefits on a random Joe who just so happens to be the brother (or brother’s aunt’s first grade teacher) of a United Premier? I mean, is that person even going to realize they just inherited their friend’s benefits? Are they likely to tell their friend to keep flying United just so they can inherit benefits next time? Will they somehow decide to fly United enough to earn status?
But then I booked a few award tickets for family members and realized that it was pretty cool. Free bags and Economy Plus seats for family members even when I wasn’t flying had real value. I got used to it and came to appreciate it. In some ways, it was like Hyatt’s newly announced “taste of Diamond” whereby award nights that are gifted to friends and family officially come with the benefits that the Diamond would have received.
On The Other Hand
The benefit was just too generous. While offering free bags to non-status passengers doesn’t really degrade anyone’s Premier experience, when those folks start getting upgrades, they do displace Premiers. And getting complimentary upgrades on United is
damn near impossible hard enough as it is, without competing with every Tom, Dick, and Harry who just so happens to be associated with a 1K.
All that is to say that I see both sides to this.
My friends and family occasionally benefited, but I’m sure that I also lost some upgrades to these folks. Perhaps a better solution would have been to offer just Economy Plus seating, or one free checked bag, rather than the whole enchilada. But presumably that would be hard to implement.
And besides, there is zero evidence that United ever intended to offer any of these benefits anyway, but rather they just never got around to fixing the glitch.
The take away here is that if you have elite status with United and are considering booking award tickets for friends and family, you should do it now. As long as the ticket isn’t reissued after April 15 (i.e. no changes are made to it), it should still inherit the status of the elite traveler.
Are you sad to see this go? Or do you think you’ll have better access to Economy Plus seats and upgrades after this benefit is gone?