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Showing posts from November, 2014

And with this tiny footnote, United likely ended my husband's loyalty to them

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If you look at item 1 at the bottom of this page, you'll see the power of a single footnote.
Premier members who request a MileagePlus Upgrade Award on or after February 1, 2015, for a p.s. route between New York JFK and Los Angeles or San Francisco will no longer be exempt from the co-pay. For several years now, my husband's work has paid for his JFK< >SFO flights in Economy and he upgrades those flights to United P.S. BusinessFirst with miles out of his personal account. One of the things he's really liked about post-merger United is that doing this is a piece of cake — no need to call customer service, just tap a few buttons on the website and it all happens automatically. 
But now, his upgrade to BusinessFirst is going to cost him 40,000 of his own miles plus $500 of his own dollars on top of whatever his company paid. While United miles are probably the most valuable of the US carriers, he essentially runs a deficit — he spends way more miles upgrading each fligh…

Newark Food options improving

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Several people sent me this article about Newark Airport where we're told:
Say goodbye to pre-made sandwiches and hello to haute cuisine from the likes of Alain Ducasse, Mario Carbone, Amanda Cohen and other big name chefs, plus some high tech menu and ordering systems that employ iPads instead of waiters. As a Manhattanite, I hate Newark. If I take a car I have to crawl through Soho to the tunnel, which can literally take hours if you're flying anywhere near rush hour. Or I schlep my bags to the F train, walk two avenues over to Penn Station (hope it's not raining, snowing, grey slushing, or sweltering hot out!) get on the line for a ticket machine, wait up to 30 minutes for a Newark Airport-bound train, then switch to that verkachte Monorail thing that has a top speed of 7 miles per hour while praying that my terminal isn't at its last stop because it's literally 25 minutes between the first stop and the last stop. (FYI, this amazing 1960s technology is coming soo…

LINK: A great piece in the New Yorker

A friend send me this link from the New Yorker on Friday... pretty much hits the nail right on the head.
On the “new” United, seats got smaller as the airline jammed more people into the same tube; upgrades, to escape the sardine effect, seemed to become harder to book. The number of boarding groups began to resemble something like a caste system; “change fees,” which have always been outrageous, grew higher(two hundred dollars for domestic, three hundred dollars for international), while baggage fees soared to as high as a hundred dollars. The cross-country flights somehow seemed to all be on old, broken-down planes, while gate agents and flight attendants all just seemed crabbier. Yet, I remained, through the indignities, the outrages, and the general descent into lousiness. Getting rid of competition is rarely a good thing.

United Mileage Plus does another copy-paste from Delta.

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Now that the economy is booming again, air travel demand is up, but the capacity cuts made during the recession have not been restored. Prices are up, fees are up, benefits are being slashed, elite thresholds keep getting moved higher as airlines look for ways to extract more profit from their customers.

Delta led the pack by doing two major things over the past year and a half:  changing how you earn elite status by basing it on dollars spent instead of miles flown, and rewarding points for each flight based on how much the flight cost instead of the distance  To some extent this makes sense: if I paid $8000 for a seat, I'd want more points than the person who paid $1400 for an identical seat on a super-discount promo. Likewise, it's irked me that people make Gold who've spent half as many dollars with the airline as I did and I only made Silver.

The part I find amusing about all of this is that United's management has essentially been copy-pasting Delta's mileage …

Europe for Thanksgiving...

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Normally Thanksgiving week is a great time to find cheap Business Class fares to Europe from the US. I'm guessing it's because most people have that week off from work, and the people who are traveling are going so to see family within the USA. One way or the other, it's usually a great time to find round-trip fares to Europe for well below $3000.

As I mentioned here, I earned 9600 United miles and 11,000 Amex points for a trip I took on a cheap summer Business Class fare. I always take a look at the coach fares too, so I have some idea of how much extra I'm actually paying. I the case of my Singapore Airlines flight, I paid an extra $500 for Business and got a boatload of miles on top of getting a much nicer flying experience. 
Right now I've been keeping an eye on the Thanksgiving fares because I might end up trying to meet my brother in Prague for turkey day (though I'm guessing in Prague it'll end up being more of a goose day). Unfortunately I won't…

On not chasing elite status

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For people like me who fly entirely for vacations on their own dime, I'm convinced that chasing airline elite status is a lot like going to Vegas: "the house always wins". Yes, you get a couple of thrilling payouts along the way but ultimately you lose because you'll spend heaps more money to make sure you stay in the high rollers club.

This last trip we took (JFK > SFO > JFK > YUL > JFK > SJU > JFK) was one of those times when "the house" got to rub my nose in my decision :) My husband has to fly ≈8 transcons a year for work (work pays), so he's usually United Platinum and I'm still a lowly Silver (though with their new Delta-style rules, he'll drop to Gold and I'll drop to nothing next year). We both bought economy tickets on United's PS service and then immediately submitted a request to upgrade our flights with miles to their Fancy Domestic First class (called BusinessFirst) for 20,000 miles per person, per segment.