The Washington Times - October 26, 2008, 07:02PM


Mr. Glenn Tilton, Chairman, President, CEO, United Airlines


Mr. Graham Atkinson, President, Mileage Plus

Copy to:

Mr. Jaan Albrecht, CEO, Star Alliance


Dear Mr. Tilton and Mr. Atkinson,

As loyal members of United’s Mileage Plus program, we would like to thank you for recently making Star Alliance awards more accessible to United passengers. The Star Alliance is a driving force behind frequent flyers’ loyalty to United, enabling passengers to redeem miles on premier airlines to virtually every corner of the world.

United seems to be the only Star Alliance member to have blocked common partner award inventory. In Nicholas Kralev’s weekly Washington Times column on September 29, 2008, he quoted United spokesman Jeff Kovick as saying, “We manage award availability on our Star Alliance partners just as we do with United’s own saver awards.”

We have noticed that as of October 16, United has significantly reduced (if not almost eliminated) Star Alliance award blocking, greatly enhancing both the value of the Mileage Plus program as well as the integrity of the Star Alliance as a whole. As a result, we would like to encourage United to continue to make partner award seats more accessible.

In the aforementioned article, Mr. Kovick is also quoted as saying, “It is an ongoing balance of ensuring we meet our customers’ interest in award travel on partner carriers with United’s need to generate revenue on our own flights.”

We would understand this argument if United only blocked routes that it served. However, taking into account that United blocks a considerable amount of inventory on routes that it does not serve, such as intra-Europe and certain intra-Asia flights, we have difficulty following Mr. Kovick’s argument. Blocking award space on Star Alliance carriers would encourage passengers to travel on other carriers or on available award inventory on less direct routings (as discussed below), not change passengers’ ultimate destination to complement United’s routes.

By blocking Star Alliance award availability on direct routings to desired destinations, passengers end up on multi-segment trips that presumably cost United more. Mr. Kovick’s quote above suggests the lack of award space encourages more travelers to book revenue tickets, but frequently passengers simply end up on less direct routings.

While we are the voice of the passenger, Star Alliance partners should also encourage United to not block award inventory. Blocking inventory has an adverse effect on the revenue stream from United to other Star Alliance carriers, and dilutes the brand of the world’s first and largest alliance.

In conclusion, we commend you for recently making partner awards more accessible, and encourage you to continue to offer more complete inventory. Ultimately, the Star Alliance, United Airlines and the United customer would emerge as a more loyal, prestigious and united force.



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