Another United devaluation, BLADE delivering organs and Southwest is adding…seat assignments? (Saturday Selection)

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BLADE helicopter service is actually an organ transport service in disguise, United devalues partner awards again and Southwest may end its cattle call boarding process. All that and more in this week’s Saturday Selection, our weekly round-up of interesting tidbits from other sites around the interwebs.

LINKS TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLES ARE EMBEDDED IN THE TITLES

BLADE is actually an organ transport service

a man in a suit sitting in a plane
Greg the Frequent Miler on an NYC organ delivery last November.

Let’s get right to the heart of the matter, it won’t take a lung time. BLADE is a company that’s most well-known in these parts for providing a helicopter “taxi” service between Manhattan and two NYC-area airports (JFK and Newark). The FM Team was vicariously introduced to BLADE last year via our fearless leader, Greg the Frequent Miler. Greg matched his wife’s Delta elite status to JetBlue, and in the process scored some complimentary BLADE rides for both of them. Turns out, Greg’s seemingly hedonistic endeavor may have been more altruistic than we realized…and I’m not even kidney-ing. BLADE evidently doesn’t make its living off of carting passengers around, it makes it off of passengers that aren’t living. The company started dipping its toes into the medical field in 2019, organ-icing a way to provide quick and reliable tissue transport to hospitals for transplant recipients. While the more visible transit business is what we know the company for, the medical transport side is what’s bringing home the bacon, accounting for over 67% of its total revenue in 2023. Now that Bilt Rewards is partnering with BLADE, it’s only a matter of time before even more folks are liver-ing large.

United devalues partner awards…again

As the old saying goes, there’s three constants in life: death, taxes and United Airlines increasing its award prices with no notice. United has been on a hot streak the last few months, increasing award prices to Europe by as much as 45%, blocking Star Alliance partners’ access to its most desirable awards and now massively increasing the prices for ANA and Lufthansa first class flights. ANA was particularly egregious, doubling overnight from 121K to 242K miles one-way. In the grand scheme of things, this is all fairly minor, as only a tiny percentage of United customers are even aware of ANA and Lufthansa redemptions. That said, it’s still disappointing to see a consistent pattern of under-the-radar hits to one of the largest airline rewards programs in the world. Your Mileage May Vary breaks down the changes in the post linked above.

Man makes $70K/year from selling restaurant reservations?!?

Many of us in the world of points and miles dabble in ticket reselling to create spend and generate extra profit…but it can be a risky pursuit. Last year’s never-ending, insane demand for Taylor Swift tickets led many, normally level-headed folks to dip their credit cards into concert tickets, which in turn led to a well-known buying group (and its customers) losing more an $1,000,000 on a single deal. In the meantime, other enterprising souls had an even better idea: why don’t we resell something that we don’t have to pay for? Hard-to-get restaurant reservations in big cities have become like cigarettes in prison, getting snapped up within minutes of becoming available online. Just like concert and sporting event tickets, it turns out that part of that is due to “reservation scalpers.” Once such salesman, a sophomore at Brown University, made over $70,000 last year by harvesting restaurant reservations with fake phone numbers and e-mail addresses, then re-selling those coveted seats to folks with more money than time. His best single sale was a spot for dinner at New York’s Carbone, which he turned over for $1,050…and the buyer still had to pay for dinner! The Independent has the details.

Southwest might ditch open boarding and add seat assignments

Southwest Airlines has long been an outlier when it comes to seat assignments and aircraft boarding. Part of the joy of flying with the airline that put “UV” in “LUV” is being able to self-manage arranging a boarding order, along with 25 other cattle passengers, then making a mad-dash for the exit row seats once you get on board. While their competitors have added a plethora of different boarding groups, various levels of paid seating and even (*gasp*) premium cabins, Southwest has remained resolute in its one-class-fits-all policy. That may be changing, however. On a recent earnings call, CEO Bob Jordan casually said that, in response to worse-than-expected revenue performance, Southwest was “…looking into new initiatives” including “things like the way we seat and board our aircraft.” Shocked onlookers reported hearing the sounds of a snowball fight in hell soon afterwards. What’s next, extra legroom?

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Piyush

If you think about it, all commercial airlines are also organ transport services.

Mantis

What a time for me to be working on my United biz SUB. Hopefully I’ll be able to at least redeem for a bowl of soup and a basic economy regional hop.

Lee

On one of my regular regional routes, United is typically 50 to 75 percent more points than Delta. Think about it. To me, the utility of United’s points is too narrow. To your point, sure, someone can go after United SUBs . . . but, to what end? Which makes one question Chase as an ecosystem. If Hyatt goes dynamic (a la M&MS), what’s left other than Ink SUBs? Sure, the CSR has great travel protections but those alone aren’t enough to offset the points opportunity cost that now exists.

Last edited 1 month ago by Lee
Patrick

“…looking into new initiatives” including “things like the way we seat and board our aircraft.”  How does that translate to SWA is going to seat assignments?

Emma

If they’re thinking of revamping seating to increase revenue, then the logical conclusion is you will pay to select a seat in advance like many airlines do.

Patrick

True… one POSSIBILTY but I’ve seen so many bloggers and main steam media posting things as if it is a FACT as opposed to a possibility. At least the headlines would you leave you to believe it’s a fact. I mean, look at the title of this article… “Southwest is adding…seat assignments?”
Can you say click bait? 😉

Johnny

The way Southwest boards is hated by many, including myself. Seeing all those wheelchairs is quite the sight. So when I read the CEO’s statement, I figured they are going to change the way board, as well as generate more revenue for that change. Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my behalf.

Miguel

I’ve been racing to get rid of my United miles as quickly as possible before they become effectively worthless.