United Airlines backlash over “stolen” Chase points, IRS launches free tax filing and more award space to Taiwan (Saturday Selection)


United Airlines is facing a formal complaint after not returning someone’s Chase points, a spiffy Asian carrier starting new route from the US and the IRS launches a pilot program for free tax filing. All this and more in this week’s Saturday Selection, our weekly round-up of interesting tidbits from around the interwebs (links to each article are embedded in the titles).

IRS launches free tax filing in 12 states

close-up of a tax form with a green bill and a statue of liberty on it

For some time, the IRS has been working on a program for free, online tax filing called “Direct File;” the idea being that people with relatively simply tax returns will be able to file them electronically at no cost. The pilot version of Direct File is now live in 12 states and it’s possible to file for free after creating an account. There’s a fairly low bar for what’s considered “too complicated” for Direct File: you can’t have business income, itemize your deductions or use certain credits against your taxes. Still, the IRS estimates that 1/3 of all taxpayers will be able to use this system and, ideally, it will provide a streamlined avenue for both filing and for obtaining returns quickly. “Taxes,” “simple” and “government” aren’t often found in the same sentence; nevertheless, early reviews have been positive.

DOT complaint lodged against United for unreturned Chase points

Ever been frustrated by “phantom” award availability, where award space shows up on a flight search, but when you go to book it, it disappears or errors out? Even worse, have you been bamboozled by phantom award availability, where you transfer points to a program to book the award and then find out the award doesn’t exist? If so, your champion is here. Seth Miller (@WndrMe) recently caught wind of a formal Department of Transportation (DOT) complaint brought against United Airlines, where a person transferred 193,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points based availability that was shown on UA’s website…only to find that it was all smoke and mileage mirrors. The flight was still showing on the website when the points arrived, but the UA member repeatedly got error messages when trying to book it. They then asked a phone agent to book the flight, but the agent said that they weren’t able to either. After that, the person asked United to refund the points back to Chase, since United had been paid for the miles, based on a flight that United was selling but didn’t actually exist. United told them to pound sand. So, they filed a formal complaint based on “unfair or deceptive practices.” I’m 100% behind the UA member in this case and love that they were willing to go the extra mile and file a complaint…most of us would throw up our hands and try and burn the miles on a different flight. Gary Leff breaks down the whole story in the post linked above.

Hilton finalizes purchase of Graduate Hotels

Graduate Hotel Providence, RI (image courtesy of Graduate Hotels)
Graduate Hotel Providence, RI (image courtesy of Graduate Hotels)

In its first outright acquisition of the 21st century, Hilton this week finalized its purchase of a somewhat under-the-radar brand called Graduate Hotels. This smaller, boutique chain primarily targets college towns in the US and also has two (nice-looking) locations in the UK. I’ve been to a few of these properties and I’m a big fan, as it pairs snazzy interior design and comfortable rooms with terrific locations in many desirable US cities that are somewhat underserved by the major hotel chains. I’ll be interested to see what standard room availability and pricing looks like once they arrive on Hiltons site, as the properties that I’ve been to have been among the pricier options in their given markets…although not without reason. This is a big win for Hilton Honors members and will provide some much-needed diversity to what’s often a solid, but underwhelming, US portfolio.

Starlux adding flights from Seattle to Taipei

Aerial view of Starlux business class (Image courtesy Greg the Frequent Miler)

Starlux is a Taiwan-based airline that was founded in 2018 and began operations in 2020, a tricky time to start a new travel company, to say the least. Despite the poor timing, it has garnered significant momentum and excellent reviews for both its hard and soft product. The airline is now flying sharply-outfitted A350s non-stop between Taipei and LAX/San Francisco; Greg the Frequent Miler recently flew Starlux roundtrip to Taiwan and his review was glowing:

STARLUX A350 business class offers a terrific combination of top-notch service, excellent seat design, huge & beautiful in-flight entertainment screens, and luxury extras like fitted mattress padding, pajamas, and slippers.

Now, Starlux has announced that it will be launching its third long haul flight between the US and Taipei (TPE), this time from my home airport of Seattle (SEA). The flights will start at 3x weekly and get from SEA to TPE in ~11-13 hours depending on the direction of travel. More capacity from the US to East Asia is always a positive development in my mind and Greg’s review has me salivating to try out Starlux when it starts calling on the Pacific Northwest in August.

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Daniel A

While we all sympathize with the person that transfered points for phantom availability, following a simple Best practice would have avoided the situation. Always check at least two partners to confirm availability before transferring points. For star alliance, I find Aeroplan and United the easiest to check.


That’s good to save us the hassle but I support pushing back on the airlines about phantom availability. If they aren’t willing to invest in IT upgrades to address the issue then they should accommodate points transfer refunds for these situations.

To not do so is akin to a retail store advertising gift cards that can be used “on any items we sell”, selling that gift card to a customer, and then telling that customer “sorry you can’t purchase this item with a gift card” when they attempt to redeem it.


I hope they nail United for the phantom availability.

Michael Scott

The IRS has been allowing free electronic filing for years using freefilefillableforms.com. Of course you have to know what to put on each line because minimal calculations are done. Many of the “paid” providers already offer free filing for simple returns. This is something the IRS should have done long ago.


My accountant is not an IRS registered e-file agent. He sends me the (moderately complicated) completed forms then it is up to me to file.

So with “free file fillable forms” I would just have to copy the numbers from my return into the website and it gets e-filed?

Michael Scott

I don’t think it’s that easy. I used to work for a CPA firm so I have some knowledge of what I’m doing. I’m not sure someone without a basic knowledge could do it. You have to be able to understand the directions for each form and know which forms feed into other forms. It obviously can be done, but if you don’t have an interest in it and don’t like puzzles, it can be frustrating. Maybe worth a try if you have the time.


Wonder how long Intuit/Income Tax Prep companies fought to deny taxpayers a way to file directly.


China Airlines (CI) is also re-entering the SEA market (4 airlines will serve SEA-TPE market) starting mid-July this year. Good availability on Flying Blue


Ooh, exciting news about Starlux from SEA!


Seems a good fit seeing as you can only book Starlux with Alaska Mileage Plan.