United Giveth.. And Quickly Taketh Away: No More Free Checked Bags for Star Alliance Silvers

United used to give Star Alliance elite members really outstanding treatment — including economy plus seating for Gold members and a generous checked baggage allowance for Golds and Silvers.

Long after economy plus extra legroom seating went away,

Then at the beginning of last month the United.com website was updated to show Star Alliance silver members again receiving a free checked bag.

But commenter M S points out that this benefit has again been removed from the United baggage fee detail page.

That’s one less reason for partner elites to choose to fly United when traveling domestically within the United States.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. United’s continued war on its best customers. Recovering former 1K. Now a happy American Executive Platinum

    United recently sent me a 3 times points promotion. Previously, I might have signed up and used it to justify some miles runs. Not necessarily the lowest cost miles runs (say JFK-SFO $350-$400 range), since I have to do on weekend. Now I shrug and throw the offer into the trash. I cannot make the 1K revenue requirement and I am now captive to the American Airlines frequent flyer program.

    Now I know my measly flying means nothing next to a whale, but I might not be the only one.

  2. I was a United 1K for a long time. In the last few years I probably sent $20K+ a year their way. But the upgrades dried up & I don’t like their polices towards their best customers. So I’m no longer giving them my business. When they change for the better I may consider them again.

  3. What is interesting is that Star silvers used to get a free checked bag to Canada (and all international flights), while domestic flights were charged $25.

    Now only international flights that O/D outside US/Canada are *Silvers exempt from the first bag.

  4. I wonder at what point the other members of the Star Alliance will push back at United’s progressive devaluation of reciprocal treatment.

    Does United believe that it is indispensable to Star Alliance and that the other participants in Star Alliance have no real choice except to tolerate all United decisions? If so, is that belief correct?

    Finally, would United care if its top elites were denied reciprocal benefits on other Star Alliance carriers? If that happened the partnership would continue as to booking and fares and connection convenience, but not for elite benefits. That would be a much less valuable alliance from the point of view of high-revenue customers.

  5. Also a 1k on United. I’m going with American this year for the first time. No upgrades, horrible customer service, very high prices, crappy policies, mileage devaulations, and the list goes on. The icing on the cake is that they only give a snack service for most first class flights now (under 3 hours). What is the point of an upgrade then? I’d almost rather be in economy. United hasn’t got the message that cutting corners cuts their profits.

  6. Just another part of captive audience strategy. If you are a Star Alliance elite, there is now only 1 choice in the US.

    Also, *G and *S are not UA’s own best customers – they are flying on other airlines and/or earned via certain lifetime *G scheme.

  7. As usual, I am entertained by the notion that United is somehow doing something different or more poorly than any of its peers–even though it isn’t. Most Star Alliance partners do not give baggage allowances to Star Silvers, either–and most OneWorld partners do the same! So switching between United and American doesn’t necessarily get you any more perk.

    I’ve flown both United and American for eons now, and I have Lifetime United Gold status and usually have AA Plat status. I don’t see much difference. For me, United gives ME plenty of baggage freedom as a United Gold flyer, and I get free access to Economy Plus–which I often prefer to domestic First since there is more legroom! American’s Main Cabin Extra is largely the same as United’s Economy. Service on both carriers has been fine in my experience–some hits for both, but plenty of home runs for both, as well.

    I laugh at all the people whining about customer service for one airline, not realizing that this is an endemic issue with ALL major US airlines–American, United, and Delta. Only SW, JetBlue, and Virgin offer wholly better customer service, but their networks don’t even come close to meeting my domestic req’ts let alone my international needs.

    American doesn’t upgrade me any more than United does, and I have higher status on American. Upgrades are a function of supply and demand, so if you fly a high demand route also flown by other elites, you aren’t getting upgraded as often–regardless of carrier! If you fly out of a smaller airport with fewer elites, you might get upgraded more often. It’s just like TSA PreCheck lines–if you fly from a major city hub airport, then you deal with longer lines, but I fly mostly out of SNA and rarely wait more than 1-2 minutes to pass through PreCheck, even on Monday mornings.

    People whine about the AIRLINE when they should be considering the bigger picture just as often. If you don’t like your airline, fine–please change to another. I am perfectly content with people switching from United to American, as it just improves my chances to upgrade and get more perks…until they discover that American is equivalent to United in most ways, anyway.

    Note that I don’t bother to mention Delta for the most part–because Delta treats its elites far worse than either UA or AA, especially when it comes to award redemptions and the terrible value of its SkyPesos in general. For those who want premium class award redemptions, United is still by FAR the best option to get what you want for where you want to go. Delta is HORRIBLE in comparison, and American isn’t as great as United in my experience. I get better awards from my Chase UR points using BA Avios for AA premium tickets than I do with my AA miles, anyway!

  8. You’re wrong about United. As a Star Alliance Gold member, I just flew cross-country across the US in Economy with 2 checked bags totaling 70lbs. – and no extra fees.

  9. The present managment of UA do not seem to know how to grow business in the airline industry and so have focused on cutting costs. This is leading to the predictsble erosion of customer base. Let’s see some improvements we’ll like Jeff. You might reverse the decline of the company during your tenure.

  10. @Roland Dobbins –
    Do you mean to say the combined weight of the 2 bags was 70 lbs, or that each bag weighed 70 lbs (140 lbs total)? Were you by yourself? And was it a US domestic US connection off an international (non-US) flight?

  11. UA also used to allow UA silvers as well as *A status members to book Econ+ in advance many lifetimes ago.

  12. @Bill American Platinum is the SAME as UA Gold.

    AA has Gold (UA Silver), Platinum (UA Gold/Platinum), Exec Plat (UA 1K)

  13. @nsx at Flyertalk – “Does United believe that it is indispensable to Star Alliance and that the other participants in Star Alliance have no real choice except to tolerate all United decisions? If so, is that belief correct?”

    UA is a founding member of Star Alliance, and the only US-based Star carrier. So I’d say, yes, it is correct.

    “Finally, would United care if its top elites were denied reciprocal benefits on other Star Alliance carriers?”

    Why would they? They’d probably rather you fly them, rather than their partners.

    @Bill – Agree 100%.

  14. As someone who has been consistently *Tinfoli…er, *Silver I commiserate with with the lowest of the low. I’m currently *Silver but haven’t stepped foot on UA metal this year – it’s all been with DL. 15 flights in four months and every one without a hitch. Immediate access to the exit rows WITH BOOKING and half price E-Comfort, a free bag (three if an upgrade clears which has happened three times since DL matched my status) and all the usual refinements – preboarding, fast lanes at TSA (although I’m Pre), etc. And, this is what I like the best, EVERY gate agent has personally addressed me as Mr. Gbtrotter when boarding. EVERY ONE. WIll it last? I doubt it but I’m enjoying the ride right now. As for Skypesos, they just aren’t that important to me. It’s all the little things that matter now. Everything else I can get with TSA Pre, Priority Pass, and the DL AMEX. All the other carriers will be moving to base spending and base miles eventually. For now, I’m happy with DL.

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