Top 10 List Of Things I Would Change In The Travel World, Part 2

In the midst of all my travel, there are things that pop up repeatedly that I wish I could change.  Part 1 of my wish list included things like fuel surcharges on British Airways award flights, United’s nasty new partner redemption amounts and the lack of redemption opportunities for Starwood’s new suite night awards.  There were some great comments from readers voicing their own “wishes”, and now I’ve got my final 5 changes I wish I could make.

6.  I wish United would remove the fare restrictions on their systemwide upgrades (GPUs).  One of the benefits of 1K status on United Airlines are a yearly allotment of GPUs which can be used to upgrade a paid (not award) one-way trip to the next class of service.  They can be redeemed for multiple segments anywhere United flies.  Delta and American both have similar instruments.  American is the clear leader here, with Delta making a change recently to catch them up, in that you can book any fare you want and apply an upgrade to it.  United requires that you buy at least a W class fare to redeem a GPU, which often can mean several hundred dollars more per ticket.  The rub here is that upgrades are based on availability, often subject to a wait list.  So, you have to pay extra for the ticket just to get the privilege to be put on the wait list for an upgrade, which may ultimately not clear.  Think Powerball tickets, with better odds.

7.  I wish that airline employees/unions and management could find a better way to get along.  This isn’t to say that I know how to fix the problems that exist today between management and employees.  These are long-standing battles that have lines drawn decades ago.  But, these battles weigh heavily on the faces and hearts of the front line employees that provide service to thousands of customers every day.  Those service levels have deteriorated significantly over the years and that adds to the level of dissatisfaction for customers.  There’s a lot more stress in flying due to seats being closer together and planes being fuller.  Disgruntled employees only make the situation worse.

8.  I wish domestic US airlines treated kids like Lufthansa does.  I remember being a kid and being treated like a mini-celebrity on planes.  There were small sets of pilot wings to clip on my shirt.  Mini passports for kids were also a staple.  You can occasionally find stuff like that when flying a domestic airline.  Cockpit visits were readily available.  For obvious reasons that’s less likely today.  But, recent flights on Lufthansa showed me how well kids can still be treated.  My daughter enjoyed some sort of airplane-themed toy/activity on each of 4 flights we boarded recently.  I was also pleased to learn from a Lufthansa purser that you can order children’s meals ahead of time, which included foods my daughter enjoyed much more than standard fare as well as some fun things like airplane gummies.

Change In The Travel World

Change In The Travel World


9.  I wish United would allow me to convert PQDs to PQMs.  To be clear, this is a narrow case that probably doesn’t apply to most folks.  PQDs are Premier Qualifying Dollars.  This is a new tracking mechanism United introduced to help determine your eligibility for elite status along with PQMs (Premier Qualifying Miles).  United wanted to make sure their top elite members were spending enough money with them along with flying a certain number of miles.  This poses a problem for a bunch of folks since there are people who qualify for 1K status without spending $10,000 a year.

For me, I have the opposite issue.  I generally fly UA hub-to-hub and don’t generally book my flights far enough out to achieve cheap fares for those hub-to-hub flights.  I’ll likely far exceed the ratio of $1,000 per 10,000 miles needed to achieve 1K.  So, it would be great to be recognized for exceeding the $10,000 spend required to get 1K and get some credit to my PQM balance.  What do you say, United?  🙂

10.  I wish United would fix the computer process that manages domestic upgrades.  Even though it’s been a while since United and Continental finished their integration, the process to manage domestic upgrades is still broken in multiple ways.  For example, a non-elite member is frequently offered the opportunity to purchase an upgrade from a kiosk upon check-in that’s cheaper than an elite member would be offered.  The lists themselves get jumbled and not always organized in the correct priority, especially when buying higher fare classes that should qualify for automatic upgrades.  I can live with the fact that government employees/contractors get preference based  on the fare class they buy, but I’d really like it if the process could be transparent and I would receive upgrades when United tells me I’m supposed to get them.

Wrapping It Up

I had fun thinking about the types of things I would change if it were up to me, but I know that most of these things aren’t likely to happen.  United is the overall star of the show, appearing a total of 4 times in my top 10 list of changes.  I enjoyed reading the comments from yesterday’s post and hope there are some more fun ones today.

What do you think of my list?

What’s on your wish list?


  1. Actually, at the top of my list would be requiring hotels and car rental companies to disclose the total cost of a reservation, rather than the silly numbers that they record now. I have often spent $210 for a $150/night room, due to taxes, more taxes, fees, and just-because charges. I’d really appreciate some truth-in-advertising when booking.

    The next thing on my wish list would be a revision to United’s upgrade process that you hinted at. I paid extra $$$ for my wife and I to *have a chance* at an upgrade for a roundtrip to Sydney (ORD-SFO-SYD) to celebrate her birthday. I paid quite a premium to be upgrade eligible (like your example), as well as burning up 4 of my ‘Global’ upgrade certificates, just to get upgraded only on our SFO-ORD return flight. At the very least, they could commit at the time of booking if they will be able to upgrade you or not.

    Finally, my last wish would be to change how passengers treat FAs. They work in cramped conditions, with grumpy customers, screaming children, for low pay, being away from their families, and have to continually put up with business travellers that either won’t hang up their phone as we are taxiing, won’t take off their headphones while being served beverages in flight, and unbuckled and start collecting their bags while the plane is still taxiing to the gate. Those folks deserve a lot more respect and courtesy than what they are getting now.


    1. Gizmosdad, sorry for the delay in replying. I agree with your frustration on car rental pricing. I’ll take it a step further and say I’m especially displeased when I show up at a car rental franchise in a foreign country and they tell me if I’m electing my own insurance they require a multi-thousand dollar deposit on my credit card.

      On the UA upgrades, this is another feature I like about AA’s policy with SWUs. You can elect to apply the SWU only to the longest leg and only process the shorter leg when the over-the-water or longest leg clears.

      I agree that FAs should get respect from passengers, but I also feel like FAs pre-suppose that because of the stress they receive from management and customers it pre-excuses their bad behavior. I can’t remember the last time I was rude to a FA, but I’m sure it’s happened.

  2. 200% agree with your kids comment! Lufthansa is even great with babies! Bassinettes and changing tables on planes in addition to kid friendly food and respect!

    1. Kathy, my daughter screams “Lufthansa” every time she sees one of their planes. She even has the timing worked out for the evening flight to FRA from IAD that goes over our house in the summer time while we’re sitting outside.

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