Closing tax loopholes has been a big issue during this election. As a capitalist and former professor of tax, I’m against simplifying the tax code. The complexities of the system ensure that savvy business people use the law to their advantage and that Uncle Sam does not get more than he deserves. (This does not mean that I believe that a certain presidential nominee is a genius.)
The same can be said about booking award travel. United, in its latest scam, decided to do away with piece-by-piece bookings. Under the old system, when I booked the flight to Tahiti from Shanghai, I searched segment by segment for the combination that shows saver availability, the right partner airline, and most convenient schedule. That is how I ended up flying Air New Zealand 787 Dreamliner (PVG-AKL-PPT) both ways instead of terrible Thai 777.
Today, such a booking would be impossible unless the computer offered that exact routing as a search result. It did not.
If the exact routing is not spit out by the computer, customers can be charged separately for each segment. In theory, United could charge 80,000 miles roundtrip for business to New Zealand and then another 60,000 miles roundtrip for business to Tahiti. That’s a total of 140,000 miles instead of the 60,000 miles that it should be!
I did not do an extensive search for flights from Shanghai to New Zealand but have read on other blogs like MileValue that the crime of charging extra miles happens on even the simplest of routes.
Beyond being charged the wrong amount simply because the system can’t contemplate the award, passengers are even more restricted in finding saver availability because of an inability to take advantage of the 24 hour layover rule. Assume you are booking a flight from Detroit to Shanghai that goes through Chicago. The first step is to search for availability from ORD-PVG. From there, tack on the DTW segment. Sometimes the only way to pull off this route is to spend 23.5 hours in Chicago. Most likely the computer won’t show this option and you will be charged separately for the DTW-ORD leg and the ORD-PVG leg which essentially makes this flight unavailable because who would pay extra for the inconsequential segment?
Devaluations are part of the game. We all get that. But taking away the ability to book flights by putting the power in the computer is beyond wrong, it is criminal.