Victim of new UA SWU policy

…also known as “something we will all like”.

When UA and CO commensurated their merger back in March, there was an important change made to how SWUs were to be accepted.  Long story short, SWUs are no longer the top priority for upgrades since the new UA will now push the sale of upgrades at time of checkin.  That means you can be a general member and with a purchased upgrade, you can bump a 1K using a SWU.  Probably because the SWU doesn’t generate revenue (other than the W class ticket) while a purchased upgrade makes money.

I experienced this first hand during my recent trip to SIN on UA via NRT.  For the past month before the flight on dot bomb, it confirmed my upgrade to C plus my assigned seat on the upper deck.  Flying the upper deck on a transpac is really the only way to fly that airline.  Not only is it an exclusive minicabin of 14 seats, it also has its own set of Flight Attendants and most importantly, TWO lavatories for 14 people! That means they stay reasonably clean compared to the lavs on the main deck.  When I checked in on the day of my flight, my boarding pass had “XXX” where “14A” was supposed to be.  The gate agents said that it was a full flight and the seat assignments would be done at the gate.  How could that be if I already had a seat assignment for the past month?  Unless they were attempting…A BUMP!

Remember, the New UA policy that paid upgrades trump SWUs and status.  So, in this case, someone of lower status purchased an upgrade at check in and myself, as a 1K using a SWU would thereby be bumped back to Y.  Now, those of us who fly transpacific know the shortcomings of UA in Economy.  Actually, the only thing it has going for it is Economy Plus.  The only reason to fly UA and pay the W fare premium is to apply SWUs to our flights.  Really, there’s no other reason to fly UA in Y.  It’s not even cheap anymore.  When I was booking my upcoming trip to SG, I found that NH and SQ had cheaper tickets in Economy.  I wound up purchasing a round trip on NH, connecting through NRT to SIN and a stopover via HND on the way back home. Price?  Cheaper than a W class ticket on UA round trip with no stopover.

Anyway, the moment the gate agents showed up and told me to “wait” while they assigned C seats to everyone else in line (thereby affirming my suspicions), I loudly got on the horn with the 1K Desk.  Although the “new” United has cut and reduced 1K status, sometimes the appearance of being on the line can “motivate” ground staff.  Which it did.  They “found” me a seat on the main deck 2 minutes into my phone call (on hold).  I was able to horse trade my seat for one on the upper deck where I proceeded to out snore the airplane for 7 hours.  Apparently, all this made me tuckered out.

Rule of story: know what’s happening out there!

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