The debate over the UA 4 mile ‘deal,’ rolls on in new and vitriolic/humourous forms. Brian Cohen at The Gate has a particularly well argued piece . I said my 4 miles worth and loved the debate with eloquent readers. Before I move back to the travel topics that I love, one proposal.
So many voices seem concerned for United’s public relations health, I am dubious this is anything but self-serving, but let’s take it at face value.
Honoring the 4 mile tickets likely has very limited PR value, it probably can be roughly quantified in the following formula:
(# of people with honored tickets) – (# of those with honored tickets who will have reason in the future to grouse about United) / (time for those people to grouse about United in the future)
That formula should come out to zero PR benefit.
In terms of the current approach to not honor, not many news organizations will do a pity piece on the purported ‘victims.’
What if, instead, United announces they are donating every booked seat to charity in the names of the people who made the bookings? With proper controls, because, of course, people will try to game this as well, United can present options to personalize. Even a FlyerTalk avenue exists with the FlyerTalk Cares! forum presenting myriad opportunities to help good causes from which candidates can be screened. (When was the last time the blogs had an ‘Amazing Deal Alert’ ripped from FlyerTalk Cares?)
United presumably can get a tax break on the real value of the tickets, which some believe to be about 4 cents, though the IRS will probably differ.
News outlets will pick up this narrative: the mileage junkies at their keyboards relentlessly trawling for weakness on a summer Sunday afternoon, the hysteria, the United reaction, more hysteria and inevitable threats to sue (a.k.a. American problem solving), then United creatively thinking how to turn an IT mistake into something positive for society, and the grand finale, hankie-wetting pieces on disadvantaged children seeing the world, organs needed for transplant flown across the world, each a heart-warming story.
Maybe I will put in for the movie rights.