Via Wandering Aramean United Airlines is making several changes to extract additional revenue from passengers, and to favor corporate travel customers in hopes of helping the airline’s sales team win more corporate deals through a new Corporate Preferred Program.
- More seat assignment charges. They’re going to charge to assign coach seats which aren’t extra legroom seats but that are considered more desirable, for instance seats closer to the front of the plane.
Customers already have to buy up from basic economy to be able to pre-assign seats. Starting in the fourth quarter more of those seats will require a further buy up in order to assign. This makes buying up from Basic Economy less attractive however many customers may not realize it immediately since the upsell is done a little bit at a time (first the buy up to regular economy, then the upcharge for seating).
American Airlines already does this, but American is also eliminating their most draconian restriction on basic economy fares, the inability to bring a full-sized carry on bag onto the aircraft. So United is making themselves even more uncompetitive, as long as they retain the carry on bag restriction and charge for more seats for those who pay to avoid basic economy.
Passengers whose companies qualify at the elite tier of Corporate Preferred can assign these seats for free. Update: anyone will be able to assign these seats free at check-in.
- Corporate agreement will be an upgrade tie-breaker. This won’t come into play often but after status, fare class, and whether they’re a premium credit card holder a tie-breaker will be Corporate Preferred status. Corporate customers are more important than non-corporate customers.
- Corporate customers get priority standby and reaccommodation. Corporate preferred status will also be a tie-breaker on the standby list, and corporate customers will get more flexible re-accommodation. Customers of companies doing significant business with United will see change fee waivers and flexibility to rebook to different destinations in the same state.
Here’s the new corporate status benefit matrix:
This is all good news for corporate customers, especially big customers of United. Outside of change fee and reaccommodation waivers, the benefits largely come at the expense of flyers who are not corporate customers. Luckily the extra juice corporate customers are getting here is very much at the margin, a Platinum member’s upgrade will still trump a Gold member for instance.
More seats that require a fee isn’t surprising, but it does make buying up from United’s uncompetitive basic economy that much less appealing. Non-corporate leisure customers should increasingly consider American, Delta, or Southwest.