UAL Frequent Flier miles: What tix did I buy and might I get bumped?
July 26, 2013 7:31 AM   Subscribe

So awhile back I bought a round-trip ticket on UAL with my frequent flier miles. I have seat assignments for all legs. But what bothers me is that I only paid 12,500 FF miles for the outbound flights instead of the usual 25,000. What did I give up?

The outbound (I think?) flights had seats at 12,500 and 25,000. So naturally, I took the cheaper one. My itinerary has seat assignments for all 4 legs; 2 outbound and 2 inbound. The fare class codes are XN, X, YN and YN in order.

Nothing I've been able to find online suggests any meaningful difference between the fare class codes.

My chief concern: Am I at any risk of getting "bumped" because I took the 12,500 miles option instead of the 25,000 miles option? Remember, I have seat assignments. I really need to be on this flight as I have time commitments at the destination.

If there's no difference, why was I able to get this direction for 12,500 miles instead of 25,000?
posted by ZenMasterThis to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: United has "saver" award flights which are restricted to certain seats on off-peak flights, I believe. There's no difference to the tickets otherwise, as far as I know - they're just cheaper because the particular flights aren't usually in high demand.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:43 AM on July 26, 2013

Best answer: 12,500 miles one way is the so called "saver" economy award ticket price in North America. It's usually very bad deal to pay 25,000 miles one way for economy award ticket. 25,000 miles one way is the "saver" first class award ticket in North America. Note these so called saver levels used to be the standard levels, but airlines want to obscure the pricing and get people to use their miles more loosely as they are selling heaps of miles through credit cards and other affiliate programs.

The risk of them bumping your flight is not any higher on saver vs. standard award. That is determined by your status vs. other passengers' status, ticket fare classes, etc. If you don't have status, I would advice you to check-in online as soon as it opens (24 hours before departure).

It's good to think miles as type of currency and establish your own value is dollar terms for them. That way you can compare the cost of flights whether paying with cash or miles or combination thereof. Flyer Talk ( is very good place to learn about frequent flyer miles.

Have nice flight.
posted by zeikka at 7:44 AM on July 26, 2013

I thought I could dope it out on the website, but that's bizarre!

Okay I know on American that they have a couple of different levels. One is Any-Time and a one-way ticket is 12,500, but they have discounted tickets for unpopular flights and destinations.

So you probably just picked one leg that's not as popular or is non-peak.

FWIW, you should NOT be bumped from a flight because of your award travel. Quite the contrary.

Just be sure to show up in plenty of time and check in.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:45 AM on July 26, 2013

Best answer: You booked a "Saver" award. This class of award has restricted travel dates, but if you've made a booking, that's not an issue. You will likely be at the bottom of the barrel in terms of priority if there is a major issue, like multiple flight cancellations. United pretty explicitly prioritizes customers in that situation based on revenue and revenue-derived status.
posted by donovan at 7:47 AM on July 26, 2013

I am not an air travel professional, although I have done a lot of flying for work: there *is* a difference in fare class, i.e., the "X" and the "Y" in your fare class codes. This should be verified but I believe that Y is looser in terms of the ability to make changes, etc. I don't know how this plays together with you being on a miles ticket, but just anecdotally, I did get an unpleasant surprise once when I tried to change a ticket with a "lower class" code and was told I couldn't do so, even with paying the change fee. I really didn't even know that was possible.

Again, just an anecdote. But you might want to call customer service and ask them directly what the consequences would be in the case of a flight being oversold, weather delays (so more people getting crammed on the flight), etc.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 7:50 AM on July 26, 2013

High-five yourself for getting a Saver ticket because there are usually only a few per flight, and they go quick. Enjoy the flight.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:59 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Pretty sure you can relax. Before United IDB's anyone (IDB = involuntarily denied boarding), they will ask for voluntary bumps (VDB, or voluntarily denied boarding). In almost every case, there are enough people scrambling, begging for the VDB compensation that they offer. Searching for "IDB" on the Flyertalk forums might help you understand the process -- but note that most of the "bump" talk there involves people trying to get on the VDB list, or being "bumped" from First Class or Economy Plus down to coach.

My guess is that you would be most risk of getting into an IDB situation when there's a lot of irregular operations (involving other flight cancellations), during which the airline would prioritize their displaced high-revenue (i.e., Global Services, Platinum) customers and where there might be a shortage of "volunteers". But in a situation like that, there's also not much you can do.

Also note, that if you have ANY kind of status -- presumably, even "general member" -- it sounds like you would have greater (better) priority than a non-member. I had trouble deciphering the IDB rules post-consolidation with Continental, but it really looks like this doesn't come up very often.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 10:04 AM on July 26, 2013

Best answer: Involuntary bumps are very rare and have legally mandated compensation ($800 in cash). Airlines hate to resort to them and offer bribes to get people to voluntary accept bumps. Many people love to get bumped, in fact there are people who intentionally seek flights where they can get bumped for the vouchers. Your risk is very, very low that you will be bumped and there is little if any difference between the two types of mileage award tickets. The only potential gotcha is if you have booked seats on a smaller regional jet. They are allowed to deny boarding to people for weight limits and this is actually relatively more common and you might run some risk if you have booked any of those flights. Being bumped for this reason is also not subject to the same compensation rules (technically, this is not an involuntary denied boarding situation under the rules)

Airlines also have very sophisticated yield management software and by and large they do not release lower priced award seats unless they expect the flight will go out with empty seats. If they think there is a chance they could sell the seat, they really don't like to give anyone the low cost awards. There could always be a cancellation or weather problems, but in the ordinary course of events the availability of "saver" awards is a strong indication that the flight will not be full.

Make sure that you have seat assignments for all your flight segments. In theory, the United policy is to bump passengers without seat assignments in reverse order by boarding priority, with ties broken by check-in time. In practice, agents can pretty much bump anyone they want, although it will always be the case that they will start with people who don't have an assigned seat yet. So make sure you have an assigned seat and check-in online as early as possible if you remain worried.
posted by Lame_username at 11:31 AM on July 26, 2013

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