United – Continental tagged posts

2015 Index and YWW Year in Review

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It’s a bit late, but here is my 2015 travel year in review post.  It was a huge travel year for me, as I hit 5 continents and did more long-haul flying than I’d ever done before. It was a lot of mileage redemptions, and low on the mileage earning front.  I re-qualified for American Airlines Gold status. I thought about going for Platinum but it was a busy enough fall and winter that the marginal utility was not enough to outweigh the financial and other costs.

As for the blog, I have kept it as a personal travel diary rather than changing to something else, but hopefully folks find it enjoyable, useful, or both.   My philosophy is the same today as it was in my 2013 year in review post: “I will never stop loving travel, but business class and nice hotels isn’t the point of life.”

So, what were my travel patterns and accomplishments of 2015? I’ve put indices of the places, planes, and hotels I’ve reviewed at the bottom of this post, and have some statistics as well. It was a heavy year of international travel, with only one domestic purely leisure trip.
6
Total continents visited: 5
New continents: 1 (Australia)
Total countries (excluding U.S.): 10
New countries: 5 (Australia, United Arab Emirates, Korea, Taiwan, Brazil)
New states: 1 (Missouri)

New airlines: 7 (Qantas, Etihad, Asiana, TAM, Virgin Australia, Germanwings)

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Re-Finding Myself: Trip Report: Washington to Frankfurt to Berlin in United Global First and Lufthansa Business

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As my last post discussed, I spent a long Labor Day weekend having some solitary time in Berlin, a city I haven’t spent much time in and one I figured would be a good one to explore and wander for 4 nights.  I was write.  This is part 1 of my trip report.

United Flt. 932 Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Frankfurt (FRA)
Boeing 777 Dep. 12:08pm Arr. 11:50am Global First
Lufthansa Flt. 186 Frankfurt (FRA) to Berlin-Tegel (TXL)
Airbus A321 Dep. 1:59pm Arr. 3:03pm Business Class

My flight out of Dulles was a late one – not departing until 10pm, less than ideal for a lot of reasons, including that it wouldn’t get me to Berlin until late afternoon. But it did allow for me to have a full day at work and take a leisurely trip to Dulles. I figured it would be a good chance to try the new Silver Line metro, which will eventually get to Dulles, but now gets you almost there. The train itself was a pretty pleasant ride, though it is still a long ride. I boarded in downtown DC at around 6:45, and at 7:35 got to the terminus. You’d think a brand new station which is known to be the connection to the Dulles bus would have good signage and a convenient transfer, but no. It was a long and confusing walk of up and down, inside and outside, before finally reaching the bus bay, where you had to guess which direction to go to to find the Washington Flyer. I found it…as the bus was pulling away. I figured I’d just take a taxi rather than waiting 20 minutes for the next bus, as I figured it couldn’t be that much more expensive. I was wrong – it was $18 sans tip for the 10 minute ride, compared to $5 for the Flyer. Oh well. I made it to the airport in 80 minutes, which is good for Dulles, but just reminds me I hate Dulles.

There was no line at the United Global First check-in counter, which is just a kiosk in the counter position, which I think is tacky for a First Class product. I pushed all the right buttons, and an agent tagged my bag, and I was headed on my way. No mention of lounges or any sort of individual recognition or treatment — a good synopsis of the Global First experience in general. Although I had booked via Aeroplan, I had got my United Mileage Plus number on my reservation, so I was able to use Precheck, though the airport was pretty empty anyway (and a woman was holding up Precheck by taking everything out of her bags). Security was quick and I grabbed the train to Dulles’s B-gates.

My flight was actually out of Dulles’s C-gates, where there is a United Global First Lounge. But my research had suggested that the Lufthansa Senator Lou...

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Anatomy of an Award: Labor Day in Berlin on Short Notice in Premium Cabins

Category: AirlinesHotelsTrip Reports Comments: No comments

A few weeks ago, I decided I really needed to get away for a long Labor Day.  Preferably to a city where I could explore nightlife if I wanted, but also could lose myself walking or sitting at a cafe.  Oh, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, I didn’t want to repeat a city I’d been to recently, and I wanted to be able to get there relatively quickly from DC.

Berlin seemed like a great choice, as I’ve only been once — in 2004 with my study abroad program on a “study tour.”  10 years older, and for leisure travel, it would be a completely different city.  Berlin is also a very reasonably priced city, and would serve as a place to use my expiring free Hyatt night that I get as a Hyatt Visa cardholder, as the Grand Hyatt Berlin is somehow only a category 4 hotel.

But late July is not the best  time to be looking for premium transatlantic availability for Labor Day,  particularly to a city like Berlin that has almost no direct transatlantic service  — just Newark to Berlin on United, and Chicago and JFK to Berlin on Air Berlin.  So I wasn’t surprised to see there was nothing available on the days I could travel.  So I watched  both Star Alliance and One World availability on all transatlantic flights like a hawk for a few days, and when a flight from Venice to Philadelphia on US Airways in Business class opened up, I grabbed that for 50,000 American miles  (which ends up as 45,000 miles since I’m an AA credit card holder).  Unfortunately, there was no Air Berlin connection into Venice that would get in that time, so I figured I’d fly in the day before and have 22 hours in Venice.  I hadn’t realized how expensive Venice hotels were though, and 22 hrs is kind of a rush through a city like Venice.  So I figured I’d keep my eyes open, as AA has a free change policy on award tickets so long as the origin and destination are staying the same.

I wasn’t that concerned about an outbound flight, because I...

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Three Last Hurrahs = Going to the Seychelles and France!

Category: AirlinesHotelsTips and ToolsTrip Reports Comments: 3 comments

There is a confluence of three deadlines coming up:

(1) US Airways miles will be less useful for Star Alliance reward bookings as of March 30.  (The airline says it will retain relationships with some Star Alliance members after that date, but for how long and in what form is unclear).

(2) United miles will be massively devalued at the end of the month — particularly for travel on partner airlines.  First announced on Flyertalk, which, for some reason airlines think is an appropriate way of communicating changes with customers, United is creating a new two-tiered system for award travel, penalizing you for any award that includes a segment on a partner airline.  The change is most insane for Business and First class travel.  For a simple US to Europe business class award goes from 100,000 miles roundtrip to 115,000 roundtrip on United, and 140,000 using one of United’s many European partners — a 40% increase.  This is part of a trend of US airlines disincentivizing flying on their partners (see also Delta’s MQD requirement, which only rewards dollars spent on Delta).

(3) Ethiopian Airlines is ending its service to/from the Seychelles as of March 2014.  This is hardly earth-shattering news, but it means that no Star Alliance carriers will be serving the Seychelles as of March.

#1 and #2 were on my mind, as I have a ton of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which are most useful for booking United awards.  I try to do two big trips a year- one in February and one in the summer, and though I’ve booked my Summer 2014 trip, I hadn’t booked anything for the Winter.  My boyfriend and I had been discussing going to France at some point, as he has spent a lot of time living there and hasn’t been back in awhile.  So I began noodling around with Star Alliance flights to see where might be a good place to combine with France for a late February vacation.  Right away, I found some great award availability to Africa — a strength of Star Alliance, given Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, EgyptAir, and Brussels Airlines (and Lufthansa to a lesser extent) presence.   Mauritius was complicated, so the options came down to South Africa and the Seychelles.  My boyfriend was pulling for Seychelles, and I found flight availability that was really good on dates that worked out.

On the outbound, we’re flying on the nonstop Et...

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YWW is Moving . . . to the Capital – and Croatia

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YWW is Moving . . . to the Capital – and Croatia

No, the blog will stay at this web address, but, as alluded to in a previous post, I’ve accepted a job offer in Washington, DC, and will be moving there later this summer.

How does this affect you, dear reader?  Well, first, I am not sure whether my new position will allow for as much long weekend travel.  But time will tell.

Second, relocating from New York to the DC area will likely result in a change of airlines for me.  Right now, Delta and the Sky Team are my primary carriers, with United and Star Alliance as secondary.   I have been living in Queens as opposed to Manhattan’s West side for the past few months, and this has caused United to fall far behind, though, as Newark is a PITA to get to.   I’m not sure what I’ll do once I get to DC.  US Airways is dominant at DCA, which will almost undoubtedly be my preferred airport for domestic travel.  And United dominates at IAD for international travel.  Until this year, this worked great, as you can credit US Airways flights to United and vice versa.  As US Airways merges with American and leaves the Star Alliance, though, this will change within the next 12 months.  Whether I focus on United or US Airways/American will likely depend on where my work assignments take me, but I am leaning towards focusing on United miles for the rest of the year, as I already have 8000 premier qualifying miles.  Then, in 2014, I can try for a status match or challenge to US Airways/American.

Finally, I’ll have about a month between jobs, and will use the opportunity to take an unexpected second summer vacation.  I was late to be booking, either a cash flight, or a mileage award, but I was able to find award availability on dates that worked in business class going to Croatia – a country I’ve never been to, that combines cities and beaches. 

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Giving up my A380 Singapore Suite . . . my new Asia plan

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N.B.  This is a longish post that those who don’t find details of award booking interesting may find mindnumbing.  Look at the pictures if you just want a summary.

As I’ve previously detailed, through a series of fortunate circumstances, I got the chupacabra of award redemptions — First Class on Singapore Airlines in its new “Suites” Class on the A380 — using United MileagePlus miles.  The way this came about meant, though, that I couldn’t make any  change to that (or the other premium long-haul Singapore Airlines flights in my itinerary) if I wanted to stay on a premium long-haul Singapore flight.  Award availability on those flights was open for a brief window, and then closed.

I was presented with an opportunity to extend my upcoming Asia vacation for about a week, though, that I’d be a fool not to take.  My trip was actually pretty short as is — with only 7 nights in Asia, a short trip to spend so many hours flying.   My boyfriend is already planning on staying in Asia four days after me, and he wouldn’t mind my tagging along.  But the Suite . . . !?!?

I decided I would make the change if I could find some awes...

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Free Miles- American and United

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For those who may not follow other blogs, both American and United have offers for free miles:

500 free American miles for giving your thoughts on Facebook

up to 1,000 United Miles for linking your Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare account to new website Bckstgr.com.  As a warning Bckstgr is loading SUPER slowly right now, probably because so many blogs have posted this!

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Eight Trips, Five Months: Back to the Road (or the Air) I go

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After a remarkably long travel hiatus, I’m starting a crazy few months of travel for work and pleasure this weekend.  From now through March, I already have eight trips planned -on both coasts and three continents!  I’ll try and be a more active blogger throughout, but here is a quick preview.  I could use tips for much of the travel, so feel free to post in the comments!

November

Philadelphia: A hop on Amtrak to take advantage of Radisson’s stay night get one night free promo, using a successful Best Rate Guarantee match at the Radisson Plaza- Warwick Hotel, followed by a night at the Residence Inn Center City Philadelphia using my anniversary night courtesy of the Marriott Rewards Visa.

Dublin and Paris: Thanksgiving evening, I’ll be flying to Dublin in a food coma on a great $370 fare. I’ll spend 2 nights at the Radisson Blu Royal in Dublin, taking advantage of the BOGO rate Radisson offers on weekends in Europe for Club Carlson gold level elites.  From Dublin, I’ll head over to Paris for 25 hours, before heading back to New York on the upper deck of an Air France A380, courtesy of an equipment change and persistence.  My night in Paris will be spent at the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand, for free, as a result of another successful Best Rate Guarantee claim.  I’m not quite sure how I’ll spend my time in either city. I have two full days in Dublin- anyone have experience with excursions to Belfast or the countryside? Worth going to Belfast on my own for an afternoon?

December:

San Francisco & Sonoma: I have a Frid...

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Taking Advantage of IT Glitches: I’m Going to Southeast Asia

Category: Airlines Comments: One comment

While this is not really a post about the four mile mistake award fare to Hong Kong, I’ll briefly summarize the issue and provide my thoughts:  (1) On Sunday, for a few hours, when booking award tickets to or through Hong Kong on United.com  (including those in first class), the final screen showed the correct total (generally 140,000 miles roundtrip) above the “total” line, and then 4 miles plus taxes below the total line. When booked, individuals with sufficient miles for the correct total in their Mileage Plus account saw the correct total deducted from their account.  Individuals who did not have the 140,000 miles were able to book with no miles deducted from their accounts. (2) Several blogs and Flyertalk...

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Weekend in L.A. Part 3: United IRROPS Galore and US Airways Transcon

Category: Trip Reports Comments: One comment

Overall, my time in L.A. was great.  I was able to catch up with a lot of folks I hadn’t seen in awhile, and the weather was absolutely perfect – a nice break from the very hot and humid weather in New York.  But Sunday came, and it was time to head back to New York for work on Monday morning.

As mentioned in earlier posts, my original routing was from Burbank up to San Francisco, connecting to a nonstop to Newark, with a confirmed miles upgrade to Domestic First.  I wasn’t scheduled to leave Burbank until about 8:30pm, so I had a leisurely Sunday around town.

Just as I was getting ready to head to BUR from my last destination, I checked the flight status on Kayak on my Blackberry and saw my BUR-SFO leg was cancelled.  Uh oh.  I knew that I was scheduled on the last BUR-SFO of the day, and on Friday afternoon I had gotten an email asking me to cover an 11 am court conference in New York Monday morning.   I also had not anticipated this issue, so hadn’t researched other flights, and was literally on the road, so didn’t have any internet access to come up with suggestions.  As I hadn’t received any email or text, I had no idea what I was rebooked on.

I called United, and took a friendly approach with the agent, saying I wanted to know if there was any way for me to get home over night.  I right away said I could fly out of LAX, and into JFK or Newark or LaGuardia.  The agent played around and told me she could get me on the nonstop from LAX to Newark at 7am the next morning, getting me into New York at 3:30pm.   Although it could be worse, that would realistically mean missing the entire day of work Monday.  And although it wasn’t a big deal, I asked if they’d provide accommodations for the night, to which I received an expected no, as the flight cancellation was due to weather in San Francisco.  So I knew it was time to creative.

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