Dear United: It’s Not Me, It’s You

Chart showing that I have flown Zero Premier Qualifying Miles flown and Zero Premier Qualifying Segments flown, with Zero Premier Qualifying Dollars spent in 2014

Summer is almost over, and while in the past I was flying a ton on United, visiting family and friends, this year the situation is very different. I haven’t flown a single revenue flight on United this year.

But it’s not like I have been flying on the other guys, either. My diminished travel is due my trying to save money and because airline consolidation has made flying very expensive. Even on the competitive JFK-LAX route, it’s hard to find a flight for less than $400. Not too long ago, I remember easily finding an “L” fare in February for about $240 roundtrip.

The other thing factor is that flying on United is kind of miserable these days.

Since the merger, they’ve made a lot of cuts. Some I accepted as reducing redundancies, but others changed my whole reasoning for sticking with one airline. They’ve gutted the frequent flyer program for leisure travelers like me. Over the years, United has been following Delta’s lead in making flying less pleasant, such as requiring us qualify with dollars spent on tickets, tying our frequent flyer “mileage earnings” to dollars spent instead of miles flown, taking away our pillows and blankets, and devaluing our miles when we go to redeem them. They could at least follow their lead on the good stuff, too, right? Why not improve the clubs and provide some decent snacks and palatable booze for free? Why not finally add WiFi to the entire mainline fleet? Why not, at the very least, make a goofy safety video?

Last year, I only had a handful of revenue flights before Labor Day: a roundtrip to Louisville, Kentucky and a five-segment vacation/mileage run to Burbank. However, I flew a bunch in the fall to Paducah, to Indianapolis, to Memphis, to Nashville, and a six-segment trip to Burbank (via Washington and San Francisco on the outbound, and via San Francisco and Cleveland on the inbound). All those flights added up qualifying for Silver status, not only with miles but also on segments.

This year, though, I shop around since there’s no point in remaining loyal.

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