United adds double EQMs promo; LOTS of fine print

United Airlines has finally stepped up in the ever escalating battle over the San Francisco/Los AngelesChicago market, adding a targeted double EQM promotion for locals flying between those cities. The new promotion, however, has sufficient fine print that it isn’t nearly as good a deal as it could have been or that American Airlines is offering. The promotion is valid through the end of August 2011.

Like usual, United is only offering the bonus to itineraries ticketed after the bonus was announced (19 May 2011). This is unfortunate but given the goal of driving new revenue it is somewhat understandable. And the offer is targeted at Mileage Plus members living in California and Illinois only. Also restrictive but most promotions are more targeted than not these days so not particularly surprising. The other significant clause, however, is much more limiting:

Offer valid on nonstop flights between Chicago O’Hare (ORD) airport and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO), on roundtrip itineraries for travel solely between Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) and not on any connecting or additional city on the ticket.

That last bit is pretty severe. Historically this sort of promotion has been available so long as the passenger is flying between the cities mentioned, even if they continue onwards at one end or the other. By setting up the rules this way United is effectively increasing the costs of participating in the promotion. Hard to blame them for trying to be as specific as possible in rewarding targeted behavior, though it does mean that the promo is not nearly as useful for many folks.

Registration is required: http://united.com/offer/mpd771.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Only for locals…they are missing lots of frequent flyers with that constraint.
    For example me, that I am executive platinum and will look for deals to keep my status in AA or UA, paying for flights in Q2 2011

  2. Pff. I have 2 upcoming SFO-JFK flights I need to book and I tried to plug into ORD to take advantage of this offer but it was a bit of a hassle and a lot more expensive to make the connection. The promotion would’ve only netted me 3500 miles, not worth the headache, IMO. I’d rather take the direct red-eye flight and call it a day.

    1. Yeah, United is doing a pretty good job of pricing this one in a manner that makes it harder to take advantage of.

      That said, there are some stories floating around suggesting that a “clarification of terms” has happened and a connecting flight IS valid but the DEQM only counts on the ORD-LAX/SFO segment. But without any definitive reports yet I’d say it is still way too much fine print to be worth going after.

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