United

Why I Have ZERO Sympathy For U.S. Airlines Whining About Gulf Carriers

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For over two years now, the “big three” U.S. carriers have been trying to stop the “big three” Gulf carriers. The basis of their claim is that Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, have been violating the Open Skies agreement because they’re government subsidized, and therefore the playing field isn’t level.

They argue that it’s not fair that a reciprocal agreement causes them to have to compete head-to-head with airlines that are really big government vehicles.

I haven’t been very sympathetic towards the arguments the U.S. carriers make. Many people have assumed that it’s because I love the glitz and glam of the Gulf carriers, and don’t think of the impact it has on U.S. jobs, etc. That’s not the case. My main issue is that the U.S. carriers are making their case so poorly, to the point that it really feels to me like they’re targeting and bullying three airlines.

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Marriott & United Add Reciprocal Benefits For Invitation-Only Elite Members

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Over the years we’ve seen some airlines and hotels partner in order to offer reciprocal benefits for members. This is a concept that Delta and Starwood pioneered when they introduced Crossover Rewards in early 2013. It’s a great way to cross-promote, given that people who are frequent flyers are often also frequent hotel guests, and vice versa.

One of the next big airline and hotel partnerships was between Marriott Rewards and United MileagePlus. It was introduced in mid-2013, and is called RewardsPlus. Among other benefits, Marriott Platinum members receive United Silver status, and United Gold members and above receive Marriott Gold status.

Well, Travel Codex is reporting that Marriott and United have taken this partnership to the next level, and are now offering reciprocal benefits for the invitation-only elite members of both loyalty programs:

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Bad News For United’s New Polaris Seat — Expect Big Delays

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In mid-2016, United announced that they would revamp their international business class product. With these changes, United is introducing a new seat, a new onboard soft product (better bedding, food, drinks, amenities, etc.), and even new lounges.

United rolled out the new Polaris soft product as of December 2016, so all eligible flights already feature the improved catering and bedding.

However, so far the only planes to feature the new seats are the few 777-300ER aircraft that United has already taken delivery of. These will start flying between San Francisco and Hong Kong as of next week, and between Newark and Tel Aviv as of May 2017.

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Great United Business Class Fares To China — Fly Roundtrip For $1,700

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With airline loyalty programs significantly less rewarding than they were a few years back, the good news is that discounted premium cabin fares are also cheaper than they used to be. So rather than being blindly loyal to an airline and dealing with the hassle of miles, nowadays when the price is right it can often make sense to just outright purchase the business class ticket you want.

That’s why I also think it’s worth pointing out great business class fares when I come across them. The past few years we’ve seen tons of sub-$2,000 roundtrip business class fares to Asia, and at the moment we’re seeing an especially good fare on United out of Toronto.

In general we’ve been seeing great transpacific airfare out of Canada, at least when priced in USD. Given that positioning to Toronto is quite easy from the east coast and midwest, this is a great opportunity to save a ton on the cost of airfare.

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Today Only: 8 Bonus Miles Per Dollar Spent On Apple Purchases

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Yesterday I wrote about how for one day only, the American AAdvantage eShopping Portal was offering four bonus miles per dollar spent on Apple purchases. This is in addition to their spring bonus promotion at the moment, offering 300 bonus miles after spending $150, or 1,000 bonus miles after spending $350. Given that we don’t often see bonuses on Apple purchases, I considered that to be a pretty good deal.

Well, today there’s a deal for United flyers looking to make Apple purchases, and it’s even better.

Today only (Friday, March 10, 2017) you can earn eight bonus United MileagePlus miles per dollar spent on Apple purchases through the MileagePlus Shopping portal.

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Earn Shiploads Of United Miles Renting Cars From Hertz

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I don’t rent cars all that often, but when I do, I like do earn shiploads of miles. Like enough miles that the car rental ends up being practically free.

As crazy as it sounds, this is actually possible thanks to a partnership between United and Hertz and a promotion that they’ve been running for a while now. It’s actually so good — at least for high status United flyers — that I don’t know why it doesn’t get talked about more.

This offer has been slated to end several times in the past, but always seems to get a reprieve for a few more months. This time it was extended until May 31, 2017.

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United Reveals Their First Transatlantic 777-300ER Polaris Route

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United introduced Polaris on December 1, 2016, which is the name for their new first & business class experience. This includes new airline lounges, improved food & beverages, better bedding, and also new seats.

The catch is that United’s new business class seat is so far only available on 777-300ER aircraft, and as of now United has just one of those. So while you can experience the new soft product, it’ll be a few years before most passengers in Polaris find themselves in the new seat.

At the moment United is operating 6x weekly flights between Newark and San Francisco on the 777-300R. Meanwhile the 777-300ER will make its international debut as of March 25, 2017, when United starts flying the plane between San Francisco and Hong Kong.

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United Basic Economy Tickets Are Now On Sale (And Being Marketed Dishonestly)

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Earlier today American began selling basic economy fares, and now United is selling them as well. This isn’t coming as a surprise, given that both American and United have already revealed the full details of these fares, and we knew they’d start selling them around now.

However, with American I get the sense that they’re sort of embarrassed about introducing them. They realize it’s not good for customers, but they’re going to do it anyway, because money. However, United actually seems to want to convince customers that basic economy fares are good for them. Ironically, United is also being the strictest of any carrier with these basic economy fares, as:

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Review: United Polaris Lounge Chicago

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We arrived on our United “Polaris” flight from London and had a four hour layover in Chicago before our connecting flight. This gave us plenty of time to check out the brand new Polaris Lounge which we were rather excited about. Unfortunately, it was a few days before they began serving restaurant-style order-off-the-menu meals so those won’t be part of this review. A day late and a dollar short. Or something like that.

We cleared security and headed over to Terminal C through the psychedelic tunnel.

As you come up the escalator, the United customer service counter is straight ahead. And the Polaris Lounge is just to the left of it.

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Review: United Club London Heathrow

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This was the first time that we had passed through London since the new Queen’s Terminal opened and we were curious to see it. I don’t remember that much of my last visit to London Heathrow other than the Star Alliance airlines were sharing a common, mostly nondescript lounge that seemed to have few if any windows.

With the opening of Terminal 2, there are now so many choices for Star Alliance flyers at London Heathrow that it’s almost overwhelming. Ben has recently reviewed all of them — Lufthansa, Singapore, Air Canada, and United. That meant there was no need for me to take one for the team and we could just head to the best. Which is considered to be the United Club. That’s not a misprint.

Not only was the United Club rated the best but it was also undeniably the most convenient as it turned out to be right next to our gate. We headed over, though got sidetracked for a long time at the kids play structure as you approach the pier. It’s an impressive space filled with kids, and is even staffed by a Heathrow employee. Judging by the no photography signs posted in the vicinity, the Brits are camera shy, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

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5 Fantastic Uses Of United Miles

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There are numerous ways to use United miles, and you can do some really fun stuff with stopovers and open-jaws.

For the purposes of this post I’m going to keep it simple and highlight the one-way prices for some of the “sweet spots” in the United award chart, along with a couple of regions where I find United miles to be particularly useful.

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When (And Where) Will The Next United Polaris Lounge Open?

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United recently introduced their new Polaris product which will feature a new business class seat, an improved soft product, and a network of lounges exclusively for premium cabin flyers. The new soft product launched in December of last year, while the new seats won’t start appearing for another month or so and will then take up to five years to trickle out across the fleet.

I had the opportunity fly United Polaris for the first time last month and was reasonably impressed with the enhanced dining and bedding options as well as the new amenity kit.

I also had the chance to visit the United Polaris Lounge in Chicago and will have a review shortly as part of my current trip report. Suffice to say that the Polaris Lounge is the most impressive aspect of the new product in my opinion — I think even the most casual of business class traveler will recognize that it is definitely not a United Club.

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How To Safely Fly With Your Dog

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Over the weekend both View From the Wing and Live and Let’s Fly shared the heartbreaking story of a dog who died after being shipped on a United Airlines flight. The owner’s mom checked the dog in to United in Detroit for what should have been a relatively simple itinerary to Portland, Oregon via Chicago.

For whatever reason, when the dog arrived in Chicago they were told he “didn’t fit,” which resulted in the dog being sent to an airport kennel overnight, and put on a flight the following day. When the dog arrived in Portland (20 hours late), he was lethargic, and non-responsive, and died shortly after reaching the vet’s office.

To be clear, this is horrible, and I can’t imagine how devastated the owner is. United is (of course) assuming no responsibility, which I’m sure is maddening, but is consistent with United’s terms for pet travel.

But there are also some things the owner could have done to better insure against this awful eventuality — she certainly didn’t do anything wrong, but she might have made different choices if she’d had better information. I have some experience with pet travel, so figured I’d share some tips, and some of my thoughts on what might have gone wrong here.

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The Real Failure With Last Night’s Unfit To Fly United Pilot…

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Earlier I shared the story of a United captain who showed up to work an Austin to San Francisco flight, clearly not in a state to fly. She was wearing flip flops and jeans, which should have been the first clue. She then stood in front of the cabin and made a PA about how she’s going through a messy divorce, how both Hillary and Donald suck, made a comment about the interracial couple in first class, said that the co-pilot would fly since “he’s a man,” etc.

Obviously she’s in a very bad place, and I hope she gets the help she needs.

There’s something I didn’t notice the first time around, though, that makes this situation even worse. Earlier I hadn’t seen a video of what she had said, though some videos are emerging now. Here’s a video of the very tail end of what she said:

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