Saturday, June 29, 2013

United Airlines Sign For Sale

The United sign from their headquarters in Chicago is for sale: http://myab.co/events/6e/i/silent/96x/?search=,  tulip logo sold separately: http://myab.co/events/6e/i/silent/96y/?search=.  Money raised to benefit the United Scholarship Fund.  The sign is 5 feet tall, so it may be problematic to install at home.
United Airlines Tulip Logo

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lifetime Status Quest

United's new elite qualification requirements now include a minimum spend component.  Delta started this trend and I suspect American / US Airways will add a similar requirement after their merger completes. This takes away most of the fun of the frequent flyer game for me.  I had always been able to fly a cheap flight to top off miles and reach the next status tier. I booked six trips to Puerto Rico (each trip was 8500 miles and $340) last year on US Airways and credited my United account.  This got me easily to 1K because I was buy cheap flights on another carrier. The new spending requirements only apply dollars spent with United, so the value of Star Alliance partner flights is reduced. Buying flights for miles that average 10c per mile isn't a good value or fun idea.  These changes got me thinking about ways to keep frequent flying fun.
United 737 Collection In Houston
Status is still critical to enjoying time in the air and lifetime status qualifications are unchanged. 1,000,000 miles is all I need to have lifetime Gold status and I'm well over half way there.  Once Gold status is guaranteed, I can relax about status while enjoying traveling.  My new goal is to fly as much as I can with United to reach the 1,000,000 mark.  If I'm flying just for miles, I'm willing to pay a small premium to fly on United planes (I also get upgrades, so that helps justify the cost difference).  It will take a few more years to reach this goal, but I hope to concentrate my efforts in the near term because I have 1K status now and hopefully at least Platinum next year. This will maximize my upgrade chances and the redeemable miles I earn for flights.
JetBlue A320 Landing at LGB
Starwood also has a lifetime status program and I'm already lifetime Gold.  Their program requires 10 years as Platinum and 500 nights for lifetime Platinum status. I need 4 years of Platinum status and many more nights, so this tier will stay out of reach and I'm not going to change my behavior to get there faster.  Besides, 25 stays in a year (Platinum annual qualification threshold) isn't difficult.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lufthansa 747 & 737 Economy Class Review - Denver - Frankfurt - Geneva

I had a good feeling about this one until I got on board.  I was able to change my MileagePlus award ticket to get the idea timing for my flights from Denver to Geneva.  This was my first time flying long haul with Lufthansa in coach and I was expecting their entire long haul fleet to have seat back TV’s in coach (they have all the other times I’ve flown with them).  Once I boarded, I noticed the old business class (not uncommon, they are still updating aircraft) and then I entered the economy cabin and was stunned to find there were no seat back TV’s.  This was going to be a very long 9 hour flight (unlike my short 10 hour flight with Lufthansa in First).
Lufthansa 747 in Denver
The plane was packed with maybe 5 or 6 empty seats in all of coach, so there was no hope of spreading out with an open middle seat.  The seat on this flight was very well padded and comfortable.  It seemed to recline pretty far too.  Boarding went very quickly and we were soon on our way.  The drink and meal service started right after we hit cruising altitude.  The meal I picked was a very flavorful pasta dish that I enjoyed thoroughly.  Really, good airline food is served to the people in the back.
Lufthansa 747 Coach Seat & Leg Room
After the meal service was cleared, I popped a melatonin and tried to fall asleep.  Thanks to my eye mask and ear plugs (bring your own, they are not provided to coach customers) I was out until my neighbor woke me for breakfast, a quick and enjoyable egg dish.  Less than 30 minutes after finishing, we landed.  A surprisingly good flight, that would have been interminable had I not been able to sleep.
Very Good Coach Meal DEN-FRA
After quickly clearing customs in Frankfurt, I went to the closest Lufthansa lounge for lunch and internet.  The closest lounge was closed for remodeling, so it wound up being a very far walk.  The business lounge was packed and I grabbed one of the last available seats (Star Gold members can also use the Senator lounge, but that was a hike).  After a quick snack and some wandering the internet, I went to my gate for Geneva.  
Lufthansa 737 Tail
The Geneva flight was staffed with a very senior looking crew, odd I thought for a one hour trip (they are paid by the hour).  It turns out that for some reason the crew on this afternoon flight overnighted in Geneva, explaining why it is a popular route for the crew members.  The flight was fast and bumpy with impeccable cabin service.  They even fed coach passengers a potato salad and salmon snack, very tasty.
Lufthansa's Intra-Europe Coach Seat
After landing in Geneva, I grabbed the 75 minute free public transport ticket in baggage claim and went to catch my bus to the Intercontinental Hotel.  My trip had some good surprises and I was anticipating more.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rabble Rabble Rabble

Unfortunately United is following Delta's lead and including a minimum spend requirement as part of status qualification.  The spending requirement is only met with United ticket purchases (016 start to your ticket number), so partner flights booked through the partner airline only count for segments and miles.  This new requirement will thin out the elite ranks, especially of low cost per mile flyers like me (I could buy 1K for less than $5,000 if I tried).  This is a win for high fare corporate flyers who can meet $10,000 spending on 10 to 20 domestic trips. The new monetary requirement, along with US Airways going oneworld, will make status, especially 1K, much more difficult to attain.  
New United Award Chart

Thursday, June 13, 2013

US Airways American Merger - Credit Card Update

When US Airways completes their acquisition of American Airlines, the new airline will use the Citi issued American Airlines card.  Now is the time to get the The US Airways Premier World MasterCard® while you still can.  The miles you earn will transfer when the airlines combine and you can still get the American card at a later date.  There's a good sign up bonus too.
Not Much Longer Until These Need New Paint

Monday, June 10, 2013

Booking On Short Notice With Miles To Europe

I was approved to attend the EBACE13 conference in Geneva as media five weeks before the event. My challenge was to book a trip to three countries using only points and miles. When I first searched for hotels, there was nothing available in Geneva for less than $1,300 a night.  My goal on this trip was to not spend a fortune or stay at a hostel. 
Departures Board in Frankfurt
My first step was to hop on United.com and find flights with miles.  Only coach was available and I would have to depart Friday (Saturday and Sunday were preferred).  I was also able to get a free stopover in Stockholm.  This was an easy process compared with finding hotels in Geneva.

There are four Priority Club properties around Geneva, a Holiday Inn in France for 15,000 points, and an Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn Express in Geneva, all 35,000 points.  My goal was five nights in the Intercontinental, and when I first looked nights 1, 2, and 5 were available, while night 3 was only at the Holiday Inn and there was no availability for night 4 anywhere.  I booked what was available and then set a link to my night 4 search in my web browser favorites bar so I could quickly and frequently check for an opening.  I had a feeling there would be a cancellation; I just needed to be the first to find it.  To be safe I made a refundable reservation at an Accor hotel in France. 
United Airlines 757's in Houston
For the next three weeks, I checked dozens of times a day for availability.  One morning though a room opened up on points (or $1,500 in cash) and I booked it.  Later that week, another room opened for the second date I needed.  I really didn’t want to change hotels in Geneva, so I was contemplating cancelling the trip if something didn’t free up.  I’m glad space became available because I had a great time.
Lufthansa 747-400 in Denver
I was also interested in better flights to Geneva.  I originally booked DEN-MSP-IAD-GVA and would spend all day Friday travelling.  I noticed that Lufthansa opened up availability on their DEN-FRA 747 about 15 days in advance, so I waited patiently and like clockwork, coach seats were available 15 days in advance.  I called United to rebook and just had to pay the difference in taxes (1K’s have change fees and close in booking fees waived on mileage tickets).  After 10 minutes, I was set with a single stop in Frankfurt.  Also, Lufthansa opens up the seat map exactly 48 hours before departure, so log on and grab an exit row or window seat if you are stuck in a middle seat.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

United Still Doesn't Understand The Power of Brands

United is still missing the mark with their Star Alliance promotions. As discussed earlier, United seems to have a difficult time finding images of their aircraft in Star Alliance colors.  The example below is from the United.com home page and has the Star Alliance logo backwards (they took a mirror of the original image) and on an airplane that is not United's.  There is a beautiful United 747 in Star Alliance colors and several other examples they can use.  Another miss by United.
The Star Alliance Logo Is Backwards & That Is Not A United Airlines Aircraft
SWISS Star Alliance Avro RJ100

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Checking Firearms In Baggage With United Airlines

I checked a handgun on a trip recently and was initially confused because how little United explains the process of checking firearms on their website.  Since I didn't know exactly what would be required at the airport, I showed up over two hours before my flight.  My unloaded firearm was packed in a hard sided case and the case was locked (with a not TSA approved lock).  I was not traveling with ammunition.  At the airport counter, I checked in as normal and said I was checking a firearm.  I was given an orange United Firearm(s) Declaration tag to read and sign. It reads as follows:
McDonald Douglas Jets at LAS
United Firearm(s) Declaration Tag:
  • I understand that the carriage of a loaded weapon is a violation of federal regulations and that United Airlines reserves the right to inspect my firearms prior to check in.
  • I am completing one declaration tag for each container holding a firearm(s).
  • I declare as required by Federal Air Regulation 108.11 that all firearm(s) in this bag/container are NOT loaded and my luggage contains no more than eleven pounds of ammunition.
  • All ammunition I am carrying is in the original manufacture’s packaging or in a container designed for ammunition.
  • I acknowledge that my Gun Case or Baggage may be subject to further inspection by the TSA.
  • I release United Airlines from any liability which may result from the discharge of my declared firearm(s). The luggage containing the declared firearm(s) is locked and I alone am in possession of the key or combination.
CUSTOMER MUST PLACE TAG INSIDE CASE AND ASSURE THAT IT IS LOCKED.
Take Off in CLT
After reading and signing the form, the passenger needs to open the case and place the form inside (so don't zip tie or shrink wrap your case before arriving at the airport). Then the United agent tags the bag and calls one of the AirServe dolts with a cart to take the case to a TSA X-Ray machine.  The passenger needs to accompany the Airserve dolt with the keys should the TSA want to open it up.  The dolt pushed the cart very very slowly.  Once at the TSA X-Ray station, a TSA agent scans the bag, places a sticker on the bag clam tag and gives it back to the dolt to push to the United counter for the bag to be sent off with other checked bags.  The additional time was about 30 minutes, 15 if the dolt walked at a normal pace.  After that is over, the passenger can walk through security to their flight.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fun Video From Lufthansa Cargo

I found this video by Lufthansa Cargo and really enjoyed the imagery; I hope you enjoy it too.
Lufthansa Cargo will take delivery of the first of five 777F this year and they have an engaging web page devoted to the aircraft.