Loyalty and Mileage Awards Have a Higher Cost than Expected

First I have to admit, and most people who know me I am a mileage whore. Everyone who has traveled with me is always amazed at the ways I can find to accumulate miles. At my peak I was flying 300k plus miles a year and 150 nights in hotels so I was typically United Global Service, British Airways Gold and top level in Starwood, Hilton and sometimes Hyatt.

As a mileage whore, I check my account. I did this week and found that United has not been counting a number of my flights. Still looking for a good app but my expenses reports and “bonus” file help a lot. Given the current state of affairs with upgrades and award flights you need all the miles you can get and I find most of these that give them are giving less and less and taking more and more from us “loyal travelers.” nearly every program I belong to have been harassing me to vote fot them in the annual Freddie Awards for loyalty, perks etc. A few that I have been loyal to over the years did not get my vote this year.

Flight Credits

I looked n my account to make sure a partner flight was credited as noted below. Then I noticed that some of my recent domestic flights were not being posted especially between months and quarterly statements. For example, I flew to St. Thomas for a dive trip and got credit for the flight from Newark to St Thomas and back to Hartford but not to Newark from St. Thomas. Granted that was only 500 miles but why not? That is the day they changed months for statement purposes but it was not on the previous statement. United told me it was a “system error” and they credited the 500 miles. I have found similar problems – to be fair, once I catch them and submit the request they do credit me but how many people are not looking at their statements.

International Partner Credit

A few other of these missed credits were international partners like Austrian, SAS and Air China. These Ironically, they counted one of the legs but not all of them which made it even more stupid.

Austrian Airlines Mileage Credit

I was flying roundtrip Stockholm to Minsk. Yes, I could have taken a direct flight on Belevaia Airlines which is the national airline of Belarus. Since it was direct the cost was a bit more than the round about flight. But, being the mileage whore (an a family that loves Austrian chocolate) I took a flight on Austrian Airlines, a Star Alliance United Airlines partner. What I did not notice was that one of the legs was classified a “K” class and this is a level where they would not give mileage credit. So apparently since 1 leg was K (although another was Discounted Business Class) they declined credit for all legs based on an email that I just got from United Mileage Plus Customer Service.

OS318 – Stockholm to Vienna – Class = M (Economy with 100% base mile and 100% Premier qualifying miles)

OS687 Vienna to Minsk – Class=M (Economy with 100% base mile and 100% Premier qualifying miles)

OS690 – Minsk to Vienna – Class =K (no mileage credit given)

OS311 – Vienna to Stockholm – Class =Z (Discount Business with 150% base miles and 15% Premier qualifying miles)

While I am still fighting the credit (on 5th email) the moral of the story is to check the United Mileage Partner’s Site to make sure that you can get credit for the different classes of tickets. I had no idea there was a class of service in the itinerary that would not get me credit. I guess it is my fault for not checking but in 20 years and well over 2 million miles of flying United I never found it necessary. In the end I should have flown the direct flight and saved time – again – cracks in the loyalty foundation.

Price of Flights

We are planning on taking a trip over to New Zealand after SMX Sydney this year to see the new Hobbit Town.

Being loyal to United I thought I would try to combine the trips and for a 3 hour flight from Sydney to Auckland United wanted over $3,000. No, it is not their typical fly me back tot eh US then to Auckland – it is in fact the Air New Zealand code share for 3 hours that is only $300 on Air New Zealand. Obviously I booked them separately. I am finding this happens a lot especially with United’s system.

Upgrade Points and Pay

For a flight to London where the client will only pay economy I had planned to book a upgradeable economy and use my miles. The upgradeable flight was $868 for ROUND TRIP and the screen showed it would only be 40,000 miles each way but that I would have to pay $550 per leg for the upgrade. This made the price to round trip upgrade more than the flight itself. Granted a business class flight is nearly $4,000 it was a good prices. Problem is I can fly from Boston to London on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for $3,000 or in their Premier Economy which is the same as United Business on the 757’s they have been flying for $1,475.00. I have shifted to Virgin Atlantic and Iceland Air for most of my Europe and Scandinavia flights since they are cheaper and far more comfortable than United.