The only surprise in today’s announcement from TAM that they will officially be moving from Star Alliance to oneworld in 2014 is that there is finally a date behind the change. Sortof. The company has set a target for the move in the second quarter of 2014 but still does not have a specific date. They expect to announce that later date, well, later. The shift was virtually guaranteed by the merger of TAM with LAN, as well as the merger between TACA and Avianca; authorities indicated that both groups could not be in the same alliance.
This move consolidates much of the South American market into the oneworld alliance. With the impending American Airlines/US Airways merger it also shifts much of the traffic between the Americas into oneworld. In other news out today, Finnair is seeking to join the ATI-protected joint venture for transatlantic travel currently composed of American, British Airways and Iberia. No real surprise there, either, and it seems unlikely that there will be much in the way of objections to that move.
Oneworld is seeing big gains these days, both through mergers and through natural growth in the Middle East and South Asia. While the mergers overall are reducing competition shifts like this do seem to balance out the alliance competition levels a bit, even if some of the markets become near-monopolies.
TAM has provided a FAQ here which doesn’t have a ton of details. The press release from oneworld has a few more bits to it.
PS- Here is the obligatory, "don’t worry, your points are all fine" comment because inevitably someone will ask. It is at least a year yet before anything changes.
I woke up this past Sunday morning and was perusing my Twitter feed (you are following me there, right??) when I came across an interesting tweet from @MileValue. In short, he was frustrated at the apparent lack of award space from Sao Paulo to Europe. If the rumors are to be believed, it is simply impossible. And so he put out a challenge:
Given nothing better to do, I unleashed the power of my Star Alliance Award Search tool on the challenge. I loaded up all three routes and every day from February 15 through December 31, 2013. Then I went and got brunch and came back to check on the results. It seems that @MileValue was sortof correct. Looking through the results there were not a ton of dates with premium cabin seats available on the TAM-operated flights. Inventory was surprisingly wide open for GRU-Madrid between June 27 – August 1, but not much else. At that point I basically walked away from the project, knowing that there was some space but not a ton.
But today I’m sitting in a jury duty waiting room, desperately hoping to not be picked and I needed something to do so I’m looking over the data in more detail. Filtering for only flights offering business or first class (the initial challenge was any seat in any cabin) availability, looking at all carriers and all European gateways I came up with more than 350 options. And that’s even after excluding the phantom F inventory from Lufthansa. It turns out that perhaps we were asking the wrong question on Sunday.
Nearly 200 flights have first class inventory and more than 250 have business class (about 100 have both). Not every carrier is always available. Neither is every gateway. But there are a lot of dates available from May through December. TAM is only available from mid-May through July but other carriers have broader options. And TAM also has their Milan and Paris flights showing quite a few dates available. The raw(-ish) data is here.
If I limit the results only to economy class flights there are more than 600 route/date combinations with seats available. Milan, Paris and Madrid are, again, the most commonly available destinations but Barcelona, Munich, Zurich, Lisbon and even Porto show up somewhat regularly as available. Oh, and I’m not including the various options which involved transiting Buenos Aires, Mexico City or various North American gateways. Those would add a lot more flight options.
This is just a point in time snapshot of the inventory. I have no idea how much is still available today. And obviously this doesn’t mean that there is always a flight available when you are looking. Maybe getting that award will require an extra connection or moving a day or two for finding seats. But don’t be dissuaded by rumors of destinations supposedly impossible to get award seats into or out of. Turns out the seats are more available than you might think.
Anyone have another route or city they’re interested in seeing a compilation of data on? Turns out these aren’t all that hard to generate, though I do have to be a bit careful about the number of queries I’m running.
Well, the bad news is that United Airlines has confirmed the new earning rates for premium cabin fares on many partner airlines. In posts today on FlyerTalk and MilePoint the company offered up an explanation and a full listing of the affected fare classes (which pretty much matches the list I had produced) and also an explanation. Apparently the old rates were a mistake:
In March 2012, when we migrated to a single system, we unintentionally increased PQM and PQS earnings for some of our partners to our former OnePass levels, instead of taking them to their intended MileagePlus levels.
While these higher earning levels remained in effect for the remainder of 2012, we are now reinstating the PQM/PQS earning rates for the following carriers and fare classes to 100% as of Jan. 1, 2013:
- Air New Zealand (NZ): A, B, C, D, E, J, O, U,Y, Z
- Asiana (OZ): A, B, C, D, F, J, Y, Z
- Croatia Airlines (OU): A, B, C, D, F, Y, Z
- Egyptair (MS): A, B, C, D, F, J, Y, Z
- LOT (LO): A, C, D, P, Z
- Singapore (SQ): A, C, D, F, J, P, R, S, Y, Z
- South African (SA): B, C, D, H, J, K, M, Q, S, Y, Z
- TAM (JJ): A, B, C, D, F, J , Y, Z
- TAP (TP): B, C, D, J, Y, Z
- THAI (TG): A, B, C, D, F, J, P, U, Y, Z
- Turkish (TK): C, D
I’m not entirely sure I buy that it was a mistake, particularly given how often they changed things around right when the initial announcement was made for the new program. Still, in a rather unprecedented move, the company has agreed to honor previously ticketed flights at the old earning rates:
We realize that some of you booked flights on these partners prior to Jan. 1 and were expecting the higher PQM/PQS earnings. In this particular case, given the circumstances, we will honor the higher rates regardless of your travel date. There are a few complexities involved with posting miles at the higher rates, so please bear with us. Specifically, if you booked your ticket through United, we will proactively adjust amounts after their initial posting (typically within a few days of when the original flight is credited). However, if you booked through someone other than United (like another airline or travel agency), you will have to contact the MileagePlus Service Center after your miles have initially posted in order to make the adjustment.
This will actually net me a few extra miles on my upcoming Bangkok-Haneda flight on Thai Airways so I’m pretty happy about that.
What I originally thought was just a “fixing” of an obviously overly generous set of elite status earning rules from United Airlines‘ MileagePlus program on partner South African Airways appears now to be a massive change in earning rates for the new year. More than 70 different fare classes across at least 9 partners are affected by these changes. And in every case it is the premium fares – first, business, premium economy and full-fare economy – which are seeing the elite earning rates cut. When the new rules came out for MileagePlus in 2012 there was a rather generous upgrade in earning rates for premium cabins on many partners. Apparently United has decided they were being too generous and they’ve now cut back significantly.
In addition to the previously identified cuts for South African noted here the following fare classes now all earn only 100% of the miles flown towards elite qualification, down generally from 150%:
- Thai Airways: J, P, U, Y, Z, A, B, C, D,F
- Singapore Air: R, S, Y, Z, A, C, D, F, J, P
- TAP Air Portugal: B, C, D, J, Y, Z
- TAM: A, C, D, F, J , Y, Z
- LOT: A, B, C, D, P, Y, Z
- Croatia Airlines: A, B, C, D, F, Y, Z
- Air New Zealand: A, B, C, D, E, J, O, U,Y, Z (now showing only 100% again)
- EgyptAir: A, B, C, D, F, J, Y, Z
- South African Airways: J, C, D, Z, Y, B, M, H K, S, Q
These changes came without notification from the carrier, either through traditional means or through the online communities they have employees participating in. Quite unfortunate at many levels.
Also add in:
- Avianca: C, D, J
- Asiana: A, B, C, D, F, J, Y, Z
Access to Sao Paulo for US Airways was part of the deal they struck to trade slots with Delta at LaGuardia and Washington’s National airport. Now US Airways has finally announced their intended schedule of service for the route. Starting on May 5, 2013 the carrier will offer daily service on their 767-200 aircraft.
|Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) – Sao Paulo-Guarulhos (GRU)
|Sao Paulo-Guarulhos (GRU) – Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
So, ummm, yeah…about those flight times.
The 4:30am arrival in Sao Paulo is just over an hour before the bus service into town starts up. Most days they’ll be vying with the TAM inbound from Madrid to see which is the first international arrival of the morning. That could be good in the form of shorter immigration and customs lines or it could be a mess with limited service available. The plane sits on the ground for a few hours at that point before turning around back to North America that same day. Most carriers fly both to and from Brazil as an overnight flight; US Airways is choosing to not leave a plane on the ground all day to make that happen. American Airlines and TAM both also have daytime flights but those two carriers offer both daytime and the overnight options (and more destinations at both ends).
And the 8:25am departure on the north-bound flight is mighty early. With the traffic in general and the distance from GRU to town that means a 5:30ish departure from the hotel in the morning to get going. Maybe 6am if you’re feeling a bit aggressive.
I can only assume that the 4:30am arrival time is dictated by the slot requirements. Otherwise there is nothing stopping the carrier from leaving an hour later and having a more reasonable arrival time in Brazil and better inbound connections in Charlotte. At least for the return it would seem that they need the aircraft to continue on to Europe at some point that same night, necessitating the earlier departure.
Unlike some previously announced longhaul routes US Airways is actually going to run this one it would seem. Perhaps not the best timed flights, but having the service at all is a pretty big step.
A Brazilian travel agent marketing portal is showing off some photos purported to be the new first class cabin for TAM’s 777 aircraft. They’re not suites with a door but they appear to be pretty wide, with a huge TV screen and an ottoman, allowing someone to join you at your seat for a meal, meeting or just to chat. And a locker for your jacket and other carry-on bits. It looks pretty darn nice.
Alas, there appears to only be one row – four seats – in the cabin, just like the current layout. That means award seats or upgrades will be a challenge. And with TAM in limbo right now between Star Alliance and oneworld it is even more awkward. Still, the cabin looks quite impressive, at least to me.
That photo is courtesy of the portal site. They’ve got a bunch more on their page. Check it out.
The news that Brazilian airline TAM is leaving Star Alliance isn’t particularly surprising. The Chilean courts mandated the move and have given the airline two years from the close of its merger with LAN to be out. That merger closed last week, at the same time as Avianca/Taca and Copa joined Star Alliance, so the clock is ticking.
Interestingly, however, it is still not clear where TAM is headed. From an article in a Brazilian paper:
According to Mauricio Amaro, Chairman of the Board of Latam, the holding company combining LAN and TAM that was officially established yesterday, in the coming months the group will decide whether TAM will join the LAN’s alliance, Oneworld, or "will be independent."
While the LAN/TAM merger is building a unified loyalty program (launching this coming week!) and integrating sales and schedule arrangements, apparently they aren’t quite ready to commit to fully unifying the two brands into a single operation. And that includes keeping options open for the TAM side.
Once TAM announces its exit from Star Alliance there will be a six-month wrap-up period. A small consolation and certainly better than situations like bmi‘s departure following their acquisition by IAG.
In a move which has been anticipated for several months now, both Copa and Avianca/Taca have joined Star Alliance today. This move give the alliance an overwhelming grip on access to the Central America market and also significant access to South America. It also means that the alliance will almost certainly be losing Brazil-based member TAM in the very near future.
The Star Alliance website is now running a loop on their homepage announcing the new membership and the member airlines have also announced that today is the day, though the official press release from the alliance is not yet online.
Because of conditions set by the Chilean anti-trust officials TAM will not be allowed to complete their merger with LAN and have the combined carrier remain in the same alliance as Avianca/Taca. Today’s announcement further cements the theory that TAM is on the way out of the alliance.
Adding five new hubs in Central and South America (PTY, BOG, SAL, LIM and SJO), the Star Alliance route map is going to grow significantly.
While not all the destinations are truly new to the alliance, a number of them will be lost when TAM leaves so getting them back in is a great benefit. This adds a number of connections between North and South America (though the timing of the Copa flights is somewhat questionable in terms of convenience) and it adds additional trans-Atlantic connectivity, too.
Lots of fun to be had with this update. Lots of fun.
The new MileagePlus program from United Airlines continues to evolve, with the partner earning rates once again seeing updates this week. This round of changes mostly appears to be filling in the gaps regarding earning rates for flying on TAM and Taca, two partners which were conspicuously absent from the previous releases.
For TAM the rates are reasonably consistent with the rates from the old program. There are higher PQM rates on the premium cabin fares while the reward miles on some of those fares drops. Additionally there are two notable absences on the new chart: P and W. P was a discount business class fare and W was a deep discount coach fare. They both earned in the old program but do not in the new one.
For Taca there are still no PQMs (expect that to change in a few weeks when the carrier joins Star Alliance) and a number of fare classes have no earnings. All the classes which do earn, however, are at least 100%. And the new chart actually adds a number of the cheapest fare buckets, including S and T, to the earning charts.
Good news that the charts are finally published and even better news in terms of what the rates actually are. Hopefully these rates stick for a while.
As always, I’ve incorporated the new rates into the various calculators on the Wandering Aramean Travel Tools site.
A little while back I wrote about the potential earning rates for United Airlines’ partner carriers when crediting to the new MileagePlus program. At the time the numbers were unofficial since the site they were published on wasn’t really in production. Since then, however, the site has gone live and the numbers are real. In most cases the rates stayed the same as pre-release though some have changed. There are definitely some where the correct data is still not available and even some where no data is available. Still, it is all we’ve got to work with. I’ve incorporated the new rates (at least the ones which exist) into the various calculators on the Wandering Aramean Travel Tools site. I’ve also detailed some of the more interesting bits in the numbers below.
TAM and Taca
Most surprising on the partner charts is that there are still some which are completely empty. Neither the TAM nor Taca partner pages are showing any details right now for earning rates. I’d surmise that they’re crediting based on the rates prior to the changeover but that’s really just a guess.
Aegean and Ethiopian
These two carriers had premium fares showing better than 100% EQM earnings in the pre-release pages. That is no longer the case. All fares earn, at most, 100% EQMs now.
Thai and LOT
Both Thai and LOT saw upgrades on the earning rates for EQMs on premium fares, unlike Aegean and Ethiopian. In the case of Thai the award mile earning rates on those fares also increased.
South African and ANA
Of all the programs where the numbers may or may not be correct, these two are the ones that are screaming at me that things are a mess. Here’s the chart for SAA:
That’s a whole lot of fares with 150% EQM earnings, especially in the economy category. Also, the 1 PQP against 50% PQM bit is particularly unusual, and this is the only place in the charts that I’ve seen such.
For ANA, there are two charts, one for flights covered by the Anti-trust immunity agreement and another for all other flights. For the ATI-covered flights, the EQM/PQM numbers look reasonably normal but the award miles earning rates are a bit strange. It seems highly unlikely that the economy and discount economy fares are supposed to be earning at 125%.
So the charts are updated and things are becoming more clear in terms of the partner earning rates. But there are still a bunch of open questions, bits that need answers from the company. And the answers don’t seem to be forthcoming.