Monday, May 20, 2013

United's letdown at Taipei

Eva Airlines' entry into Star Alliance on June 18th will be a pivotal move for the carrier as it essentially opens up TPE to the entire *A network.  The last nonstop *A route between the U.S. and TPE was discontinued by United in 2008, and China Airlines' Skyteam entry in 2011 solidified TPE as a Skyteam hub.  However, with Eva now as a *A member, Skyteam will have to share its fortress power out of TPE.  But exactly how big of a move is this for *A?

*A has hubs throughout Asia, most notably in NRT, HND, ICN, PVG, PEK, BKK, and SIN.  Skyteam is limited to TPE, ICN, PVG, and PEK.  In other words, TPE actually makes sense for Skyteam flyers since it's closer to South Asia than the other hubs.  However, *A hubs encircle Asia, making TPE an irrelevant stopover.  As China and southeast Asia continue to grow, TPE's significance may soon become a relic of the past.

Last year, United announced that it would resume nonstop flights between SFO-TPE in an effort to compete with fellow newly enshrined *A member Eva, who operates 2 nonstop flights per day to TPE during the peak season.  The route was scheduled to begin in April, but UA has since delayed it a full year to March 2014, citing irrelevant issues with the 787.  To add insult to injury, UA discontinued its NRT-TPE route last October, making ANA the lone *A carrier between that route.

So what's the fuss about?  For one thing, don't expect Eva to be generous on mileage earnings with United and US Airways members.  Discount economy fares on Eva only earn 50%-75% of base miles with UA.  And ANA's lone daily flight between NRT-TPE is now the only reasonable way of getting to TPE on *A, which will make layovers and award availability increasingly difficult.  So expect fare increases and full flights between those routes as biz travelers are going to stick with UA for mileage earnings and upgrade potentials.  In fact, ANA's NRT-TPE economy availability has officially been lost in the air.  That is, if you even have the luxury of being able to connect on the same day from your transpacific flight.

4 roundtrip flights to TPE in order to attain bottom-tier Premier Silver.  Oh wait, miles are not elite-qualifying . . .

It's interesting how Eva's entry into *A is only turning heads down.  With poor mileage earnings and upgrade potential, don't expect *A flyers to throw Eva a party.  ANA and UA have seemingly teamed up to make life miserable for *A flyers destined for TPE.  So much for alliances.

1 comment:

  1. How does having a Taiwanese airline join Skyteam suddenly make TPE a Skyteam hub? It's only a hub if multiple Skyteam airlines have flights to multiple destinations originating in TPE, but it's almost exclusively a point-to-point destination.

    In any case, having Eva join *A is good for most business customers, since it provides more options and most business travelers don't fly on discount economy fares. UA will be closely watching the SFO-TPE numbers on Eva and may never open its SFO-TPE route if the numbers aren't there.