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He said he knows the difficulty clearing upgrades is a “particular sore subject” with United’s most valuable fliers, and he wants to work on addressing that, noting the balance of selling more First Class seats versus upgrades is a “very important one that we have to strike.”
In fact, he even interrupted his head of revenue, Jim Compton, to weigh in on the subject.
Compton was explaining the internal debate going on about the lifetime value of United’s Premier members, who value complimentary upgrades, versus selling more first class seats for cash.
This was in response to a question from a Wall Street analyst who asked if United would start disclosing the percentage of First Class seats it actually sells, something Delta has been touting recently.
United could be thinking of offering discounted First Class upgrade prices to Premier members, or it could be thinking of making more space available for complimentary upgrades overall.
This is the first clear indication we’ve seen that United doesn’t necessarily plan to follow Delta’s path, which is toward a world where it will be nearly impossible for many of its most frequent fliers to score complimentary upgrades.
Delta is hoping to sell 70% of its First Class seats by 2018, reducing the number of seats left for upgrades by 24%.
It also comes as United this week has started giving its top level Premier 1K and Global Services fliers free food in Economy Class on flights within North America.
United also disclosed something else that should make frequent fliers happy.
It admitted that an unreliable operation has cost it real revenue over the years, and is working to fix that, and up its game.
Because all the upgrades in the world don’t help when your flight is 4 hours late and there’s nothing left to rebook you until the next day.
There’s fresh air over at United, and as its Houston hub struggles with the slump in the energy industry, it’s time for it to be more generous and win back from the competition.
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