Sunday, January 11, 2009

Frequent Flyer Programs

Since our travel department switched preferred airlines from American to United, we were given a one-time membership upgrade by United Airlines. I guess people with elite status complained that they would lose their travel perks if they had to travel with United. I filled out a form last year and I just received my Mileage Plus Premier Executive card in the mail. It's good until Jan 2010 and is equivalent to my AAdvantage Platinum status. Both need 50k miles of travel each year and gives access to business class lounges when traveling internationally.

I really don't travel that much so it's kind of funny that I have elite status with both American/oneworld and United/Star Alliance. In the past, I've been able to transfer miles from Cathay Pacific/Dragonair trips to Chengdu to my AAdvantage account but that's pretty much over; all the cheap tickets only allow miles to accrue with AsiaMiles. Since United is part of Star Alliance, I may be able to fly Air China to Chengdu and transfer my miles to my Mileage Plus account. The only problem is that Air China charges more for it's LAX-PEK-CTU flight than Cathay's LAX-HKG-CTU. I just check prices for a flight in mid-March and Air China is ~$100 more. I wonder how the Star Alliance lounge in Beijing compares to Cathay's HKG lounges.

From my experience on several recent flights, the real perk is priority boarding. Most airlines are charging for checked baggage so everyone is bringing more stuff onboard. If you're the last one to get on the plane, most likely there is no space for your carry-on. On AA flights, I'm usually one of the first to board in coach so I can get a least one bag (or my PS3) in the overhead bins before they fill up.


From the Star Alliance website, they have statistics for each of their member airlines. United has 460 aircrafts and 53,139 employees. That works out to about 115 employees per plane. That sounds like a lot of people considering there are many indirect heads (customer service, baggage handlers, mechanics, corporate) vs. direct (pilots and flight attendants). Singapore has 99 aircrafts and 14,066 employees which is even more at 142 employees per plane. Not sure if Singapore has a higher % of jumbo jets that require more employees per flight. Another interesting statistic is annual passengers/employee: United = 1,304 vs. Singapore = 1,348. I guess there's not much difference.

1 comment:

Darryl said...

Have you read this article by David Rowell of the Travel Insider about why fewer people are flying?

While I used to think the priority memberships weren't really worth it - they certainly may be now. Especially given that to redeem a "free" ticket from mileage incurs all kinds of fees.