Unintended United Perk: Elite Status Transfers to Awards Booked for Others

Mar 10, 2012

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Last weekend, United officially integrated Continental and United’s frequent flyer programs into one program – the new Mileage Plus. However, even though it’s called Mileage Plus, a lot of the features, such as the base website technology itself, came from the Continental side of the house. In fact, the prevailing CEO of the new United is Jeff Smisek, who was CEO of Continental and many people actually consider the whole “merger” to be more of Continental taking over United, but keeping the United name.

In any case, per this Flyertalk   and some experiences of United elites that I know, it now appears that if you are a United elite, your status will transfer to the reservation of anyone for whom you book an award. So if you are Platinum and book an award for your no-status Granny on a flight, she will be able to be assigned to Economy Plus seats at the time of booking and will even be eligible for a complimentary domestic upgrade. She’ll also get priority boarding, free checked bags and all of the other goodies of being Platinum.

On one hand, this is a nice perk and a way to impress people you know and love. On the other hand, it dilutes elite status by making even more people eligible for a limited number of premium seats and upgrades. Is it really fair that someone who has never flown United once gets an upgrade over a mid-tier United elite who spends a lot of time and money achieving their status? I go both ways on this, but would say that this potential loophole should be fixed to maintain the integrity of the elite program. But what say you, wise TPG readers?

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