Today, I feature a guest rant from my friend David over at the Debt Free Guys. Have you ever tried to use airline points only to find that it’s completely impossible? I thought so…
United and Visa Team Up to Become the Unfriendly Skies
I will preface this, and you can ask John, that it takes a lot to upset me. For the most part, I am a mild mannered person and rarely rant. When I take time to write a post like this, it means something has really upset me.
Case in point, United Airline’s Mileage Plus Visa Program.
I have been a member of United’s Mileage Plus Visa Program for well over ten years. It was one of the first credit cards I let get me into trouble and one that I had to furrow when we decided to pay off our credit cards. At the same time, it was my credit card with the most credit history. So, I kept it.
I have spent well over $100,000 on this credit card over the years. I have faithfully paid my annual membership, even when I have not used the card. I was committed to this card. I didn’t have any plans for a financial break-up. That is, until now.
A Card for Saving Money
Being the Money Conscious guy I am, I must have a good reason to keep a card with an annual fee between $99 and $149 that I am not using. David Auten of The Debt Free Guys doesn’t like to throw away money. I am frugal, I cut costs and I enjoy saving money. With United’s Mileage Plus Visa Card I was doing just that.
The reason was two fold. First, I spent and racked up the miles, which paid for our travel to countries such as England, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and cities all over the US. We used these cards heavily once we learned how to travel hack and pay them off each month. Second, United and Visa send us travel vouchers each year for one complementary flight. They are a bit different from companion tickets. They are two tickets for a specified price. The price is valid all year and are based on the contiguous U.S. being divided into zones.
For example, if we travel from Denver to Philadelphia where John’s family lives, we pay one price for two tickets. If we flew from Denver to D.C., we pay the same price as we do for the Philly because D.C. and Philly are in the same zone. Likewise, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego are in the same zone.
We often save between $100 and $300 with these companion tickets. It is like United and Visa reward us for our years of patronage, especially through the good and bad years of the economy. Until now, it was a deal.
The New Money-Saving Swift Kick in the A$$
I recently opened my mail to read the “new and improved” companion ticket offer from United Visa. Sarcasm off. In a few short words, both United and Visa told their members to #$%@ themselves.
You see, United’s Milage Plus Visa Program no longer exists. They don’t offer companion tickets anymore. Those of us who used to get this offer have been with United and Visa for a long time. Offers can change at any time and they certainly did.
The new and improved offer gives card holders a certificate that says they can purchase two tickets for the price of one and requires card holders to select specific codes for the flights.
Two Points of Anger
- When searching for flights with these codes, I found that 90 percent of the time what used to be non-stop is now multi-stop. For example, the Denver to Philly flight can now be as difficult as Denver to Chicago, Chicago to Omaha, and Omaha to Philly. What was once a three and a half hour trip is now over 13 hrs!
- Using the same example, what once cost $560 in 2013 to fly us both from Denver to Philly is now a frugal $1,517. Yes, you read that right. A longer day, more stops and a whopping 270 percent increase in cost.
United, you have some ‘splaining to do. Why are you rewarding long-time customers with such a poor “new and improved” offer? Are you trying to drive us away? Do you realize I can and will go to your competitors? I have since booked two flights with your competitor, who has a better offer right now. It comes close to topping your original offer.
At a time when airline profits soar, why is United dismissing patrons who stuck with them through their very, very rough times? This horrible change has caused me to rant and will likely make United a detractor to many, many people who follow this blog and Debt Free Guys. That is not good business judgement.
Thanks Debt Free Guys for the rant today! I have one word for you regarding this issue: road-trip. Well, that is actually two words, but you get the point:
Oh wait, 26 hours together in a car? Yikes. After that, you may hate John more than you hate the airline/points program. Maybe just wait for science to come out with teleportation…
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