The Bait and Switch

As far as I know, the “bait and switch” is against the law in all 50 states, so how United gets away with it is beyond me.

The bait and switch is when a company advertises a particular product at a particular price, then when the customer shows up to buy, they don’t have the product at that price. The price is now more expensive OR it’s a cheaper product at the same price.

I travel to Brazil about every month. It is a 10 hour, red eye that leaves Chicago at 8:30 p.m., arriving Sao Paul at 10:00 a.m. the next day. The return flight is also a red eye. It leaves Sao Paulo at 9:20, arriving in Chicago the next morning . Because I go straight to work when I arrive or return, I like to upgrade to business class using miles to ensure I get some rest. A typical upgrade costs 12,000 miles and 300-500 dollars each way.

So, where’s the problem?

United flies two types of planes. One where business class is updated with lay flat seats (they lay flat like a bed), flat screen TV’s, on demand entertainment, power outlets, and more. The other, older, non-updated planes don’t have lay flat seating. The seats recline with a footrest. Think a LazyBoy in the sky. They don’t have on demand entertainment, they don’t have large flat screen TV’s and they don’t have standard power outlets. The experience is entirely different.

Business class in the new upgraded planes is a substantial “upgrade” from economy. The lay flat seats allow me to get a fairly decent night sleep. The power outlets let me charge my phone, iPad and my computer through out the night. Combined, it’s worth the price of the upgrade.

With the old planes I don’t get a good nights rest, as I am sitting up the entire time and my phone and computer are dead when I arrive. The experience isn’t worth the price of the upgrade to me. Therefore I will pay for an upgrade on the new planes, but not on the old ones.

Here is where things get tricky. United switches planes. When I book my flight and request an upgrade on a new plane, there is no guarantee, it will be a new plane on the day of my flight. These plane changes can happen as late as the day of travel.

I buy an upgrade on a new, updated plane and then, on the day of the flight, for the same price, get the old outdated plane. A plane that is NOT worth the price of the upgrade.

I am burned by this “switch” at least 50% of time. I have now resorted to checking at the gate just before boarding to ensure its a new plane. If its not, I won’t take the upgrade. Unfortunately, the other night, on my way back, I forgot to check and I ponied up a shit load cash and miles for an experience that wasn’t worth it.

The two experiences can’t even come close to each other. Therefore charging the same price is ridiculous. By charging the same price and not doing a better job at informing customers of the type of experience they are going to get is bullshit. Especially when I booked the flight based on the premise that it will be the new plane.

I shouldn’t have to check to see if I’m going to get what I bought. I shouldn’t have to walk on a plane to find it is one of the old ones, when I bought the new plane experience. That is a bait and switch.

Give me what you sold me. If you can’t, adjust the price or notify me of the plane change before hand. You already update me on flight changes via SMS.

Changing planes and therefore the experience with out notifying your customers is just dishonest and as my grandmother would say; “not on the up and up.”

Come on, you can do better than this United!