I'm at Fool HQ this week. To get here, I once again flew UAL's
I'm impressed by how UAL is using services to earn more from the seats it flies. The latest? A program called Award Accelerator. Pay a fee and United will double or triple your Mileage Plus mileage haul.
For $37, UAL offered to give me double credit for the 1,313 miles I flew from Denver to Washington, D.C. That's 2.8 cents per mile. I didn't pay the premium because I don't travel that much, and because UAL doesn't participate in American Express' Membership Rewards program, which I use to maximize vacation options. But I could easily see this system working for the regular business traveler who lives near a United hub city such as Los Angeles or (ahem) Denver.
Investors, meanwhile, should love the profit margins for this program. Charge $0.03 to fill unsold inventory? No wonder a Bear Stearns analyst estimated the Mileage Plus program to be worth $7 billion in a spinoff.
Award Accelerator is no panacea, of course. But I like the spirit of the idea: make more from every seat. That's the only strategy worth considering when labor relations are at an all-time low and oil prices routinely threaten to reach new highs.
And yet I see more that could be done with in-flight services. Make onboard Wi-Fi an option as Delta
Oppressive fees, on the other hand, are an instant turnoff. Just ask US Airways
As blogger Wayne Schulz put it last month: "US Airways introduces new free beverage service called bathroom sink." Funny? Yes, hysterical. But only because it's so freaking sad.
Join me in a golf clap for United, please. For all its faults, the carrier is trying to deliver value and make our overcrowded skies just a little friendlier. It's about time someone did.
Flap on over to this related Foolishness:
American Express is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. See what other stocks the Fool's analysts have recommended for value investors with free access to the newsletter service for 30 days. The Motley Fool owns shares of AmEx.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. He hunts for the best of tech as a contributor to Motley Fool Rule Breakers. Here's how to try this market-beating service free for 30 days. Get access to all of Tim's Foolish writings here. The Fool's disclosure policy knows there are certain movies you should never watch while flying.