1 November 2013 – a day to remember

It appears that 1 November 2013 will be a day that many frequent flyers will remember for a long time. In order of importance:

(1) The Shooting at LAX

Many people complain about the TSA or make ugly comments about their procedures or personnel. I don’t like them myself and have been know to complain about them quite a lot. Perhaps a little too much in the light of the death of one of their number, now named as TSA Officer Hernandez on the LAX web site. According to a report in the New York Times, at least one passenger was asked by the gunman whether he worked for the TSA. When he silently shook his head, the gunman moved on. It appears he was hunting the TSA.

Those of us that live outside the USA marvel and bemoan the freedom that this great nation offers its citizens. Gun reform appears to be off the agenda for a good while in the USA. I worry now that there will be calls to arm the TSA agents, an understandable reaction to this type of attack. I hope it doesn’t go that way, I for one, will be happier will less guns in airports.

My own ‘gun in an airport’ story is from 1986 when I was travelling home from my first big trip, this one to Cairo. Whilst picking up my bag from the luggage belt I noticed a man standing on top of the centre part, waving a gun around. It was in the days before the numerous attacks we all know too well so whilst startled, I wasn’t actually scared. It turned out that in those days you could travel with a gun as long as you lodged it with pilot and it appears the passenger who owned this particular pistol, had forgotten it when they got off. The gun waving person was a baggage handler, looking to return it.

(The New York Times has some interesting images in its report).

(2) United’s award chart changes

A lot has been written and blogged about these changes. I tweeted United yesterday and got a reply (!):


Interesting take – it’s Ok to increase some awards by dozens of percent as we haven’t done that to our passengers for a while!

There is a lot of analysis of the changes on the internet – but you might care to visit The Wandering Aramean – who has done some good research work.

The change to the cost of Premium Cabins on Star Alliance is largely mitigated by the lack of availability on most carriers in First – Lufthansa, Swiss and Singapore to name a few. Of course you can still fly Thai from London – I found award space in First at the end of September 2014 from London to Sydney. Of course, the seating on TG is a lottery.

I think perhaps the recent ‘Friendly Skies’ campaign can be understood in a little context. These changes were not decided overnight.

(3) Other Changes United slipped in on this day

United appear to have slipped a few other changes in to MileagePlus on the same day as most of us were understandably focussed on the award chart gutting changes.

With Immediate Effect

The following restrictions apply to upgrades on flights to/from Northern South America and within Asia departing on or after February 1, 2014: (1) Complimentary Premier Upgrades and instant upgrades are not applicable; (2) Regional Premier Upgrades (for any fare class) and Global Premier Upgrades (for flights booked in fare class Z, P, S, T, L, K, G or N) can no longer be requested on or after November 1, 2013; (3) There is no co-pay exemption for MileagePlus Upgrade Awards requested on or after November 1, 2013.
So a big loss to passengers flying within Asia or to North South America where United typically use a domestic aircraft offering two cabins. If you want upgrades here it’s MileagePlus miles (H fares above only please + co-pay) or a Global Premier Upgrade (W fare above only please).

I suspect this will be an area for United’s additional income to kick in, with passengers being offered the chance to buy upgrades whilst Premiers languish in Economy.


But, let’s get a balance in terms of long lasting impact, I expect position (1) to have a greater impact for much longer than either (2) or (3), despite the campaigns I am sure are being launched to try to encourage United to re-think.



  1. What do you mean Thai Airways seating is a lottery? When I’ve flown Thai on a United/Star Alliance ticket, I booked it on United.com, and then called Thai Airways’ customer service center in NYC and they were able to assign me as seat of my choosing over the phone (since you can’t do it on United.com and can’t do it on ThaiAirways.com). Really easy, just call and pick your seat and they’ll lock it in for ya.

  2. Thanks for acknowledging that an innocent individual lost his life. The TSA may deserve a lot of the criticism it receives but no one deserves to be a victim of violence. Condolences to his family.

  3. Sad happenings…here are some solutions…don’t give United any revenue and burn your miles with them on UA metal….if you work for the TSA get off your butt and do your job. We each pay 9/11 fees for the last 12 years to support this bloated program … who make the people at the DMV look productive… they stand around doing nothing more than making passengers hate them…they have little training and when a real emergency happens they have no plan…yesterday was a pathetic demonstration of how they are keeping us safe. It took a very long time before the gunman faced any armed response, because the TSA ran for the hills. Fire them all, replace them with military reserve, coast guard and professionals instead of the lazy bunch of bums currently pretending to keep us safe.

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