United

Airline Distressed Traveler Kits: Lifesavers Or Useless?

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Airlines lose bags. That’s just a fact of life. If you fly enough, and check a bag, eventually the statistics will catch up with you.

Now to be fair, most of the time airlines don’t actually lose your bag, they just misplace it for awhile. It ends up on the wrong plane, sits in baggage purgatory, or whatever. That is to say most of the time you’ll eventually be reunited with it. Even so, it can be kind of annoying in the interim to not have your stuff.

Most airlines recognize this and have some form of distressed passenger amenity kit that they offer to passengers who have had their bag get lost. The contents of these kits tends to vary, however, as airlines seem to have different concepts of what is “essential.”

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My Experience With United’s Free Food For 1Ks In Economy

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A year ago January, United started offering Premier 1K and Global Services members a complimentary drink and food item if their upgrade didn’t clear. American was already offering their top-tier flyers complimentary food and drinks in Economy, so this was obviously a very positive change at the time, you might even say a change I like.

Now sure, a cynic will point out that this is literally throwing us a snack box to make us forget about the fact that our upgrades rarely clear anymore, but I’m going to choose to focus on the positive. At least for this post.

Anyway, we’re now a year into this program, so I thought it would be worthwhile to review my experience and see how you all have fared.

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The Next 16 First & Business Class Products I’d Like To Review

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In early 2016 I set out to review as many new first & business class products as possible, as a way of sprucing up blog content. While I figured I’d really miss the repetitive nature with which I flew many of the world’s best first class products, I’ve found reviewing new airlines to be extremely enjoyable. That goal didn’t stop in 2016, and my goal in 2017 is to try even more new airlines.

In the first couple of weeks of the year I’ve flown business class on EgyptAir, Royal Jordanian, Royal Brunei, and Emirates, all of which were new products for me.

As I begin to plot out my next big trip, I figured I’d make a list with the next 16 products I really want to review, in no particular order. I’m always curious to hear what you guys think, because at the end of the day my airline selection is based on what you guys are most interested in reading about.

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CONFIRMED: United Polaris Lounge Now Offering Restaurant-Style Dining!

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Yesterday I shared the rumor that the United Polaris Lounge in Chicago would begin offering restaurant-style dining service today. This is one of the key features of the lounge that United has been heavily promoting. Prior to today, however, they had only been offering buffet service which, frankly, wasn’t the game changer we had been promised.

Well, it turns out that the rumor was true!

The United Polaris Lounge in Chicago is now accepting orders for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Points Guy has posted a copy of the menu and it looks pretty darn good.

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RUMOR: United Polaris Lounge To Begin Restaurant-Style Dining Tomorrow

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United recently rebranded their premium cabins as United Polaris and introduced a new all-aisle access business class seat. The Polaris soft product launched on December 1 of last year, but the new seats won’t start to be installed for a few more months. And it will take a few years to trickle out across the entire fleet.

To accompany the on-board product, United is also launching a series of premium Polaris Lounges. One of the key features of these lounges is that they will have restaurant-style dining, meaning you’ll get to place an order and have it delivered to your table.

I think this will be a nice option, especially for trips to Europe where the flight is so short that it’s hard to have enough time to both eat and sleep.

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Can Kids Fly In First Class?

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When it comes to traveling with kids, there are three things that matter — space, space, and more space. That’s true on the plane, in the hotel, and in the rental car. I don’t much care about the service or the food (assuming there is some!), I just want more space. That lets the kids sprawl out, lie down, and be kids.

Reader Rhebon recently asked a question in the Ask Lucky forum about traveling with kids.

“I have a very simple question and I think you never talked about that subject?!? What airline is best for travelling with kids on a longhaul flight? Is it OK to fly first class with younger kids (2&5)?”

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America’s Best AvGeek Flights: The United Island Hopper And Alaska Milk Run

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There are many reasons I like to get on planes, including that I love to visit new places, I love to try new airlines, and I’m also just an aviation geek who loves being on planes. Regardless of where I’m going or what airplane I’m on, the wonder of flight is never lost on me. Aviation is an amazing thing.

As far as flights within the U.S. go, I think there are two routes in particular that only an aviation geek would ever voluntarily take from start to finish. I’m specifically talking about United’s island hopper and Alaska’s milk run. My goal is to fly on both of these in 2017. For those of you not familiar with either of them, I figured I’d cover the basics.

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Review: New United Club LAX

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While most readers know me as the lone (consistently) pro-Delta voice on the blog, I recently flew United Airlines out of Los Angeles. (In truth, I’ve long since requalified for Diamond Medallion, Delta doesn’t offer a nonstop from Los Angeles to Washington just yet, and during the holiday season United flies internationally-configured 777s between Washington Dulles and Los Angeles/San Francisco, so using miles I was able to score a “Polaris First” seat for the four-hour flight.)

Given the new United Club lounge that just opened at LAX’s Terminal 7 (which is in the midst of a remodel, if a rather generic one), I took this as an opportunity to review the new space. Tiffany generously offered one of her United Club passes that come as part of her perks as a Hyatt Diamond.

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United Gets Punitive With Their Basic Economy Fares

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Delta was the first U.S. legacy airline to introduce basic economy fares, which was their attempt to compete with ultra low cost carriers like Allegiant and Spirit. For select passengers booking the lowest fares, you can’t select seats in advance, can’t make any changes to your ticket, and aren’t eligible to upgrade.

Both American and United plan on introducing basic economy fares in 2017. Typically we see American and United following Delta’s lead, though in this case United is taking it a step further than the competition when it comes to basic economy fares.

So, what makes United’s upcoming basic economy fares the most restrictive?

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United’s New 777-300ER Is Now Bookable — Here’s What You Need To Know

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Yesterday United officially announced their first 777-300ER routes. This is significant since the 777-300ER will be the first plane featuring United’s new Polaris seat, which looks like a huge improvement over United’s current business class product(s).

Specifically, United announced that the 777-300ER will fly between Newark and San Francisco between February 16 and May 4, 2017, and will then begin flying between San Francisco and Hong Kong starting March 25, 2017. There’s a good chance that United will use the 777-300ER for some short domestic hops prior to February 16, though.

We didn’t know exactly which flights would get the plane between Newark and San Francisco, though, or what fares and upgrade space would look like.

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United Announces Their First 777-300ER Routes, Featuring Polaris Seats

United 777-300ER (PRNewsFoto/United Airlines)

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 isn’t in service yet. So while you can now experience the new soft product, you’ll potentially be doing so from a business class product featuring eight seats per row.

The first United plane featuring Polaris will be the Boeing 777-300ER, of which United has 14 on order. After that, existing 777-200s will be the next plane to get the new product.

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United Cuts Elite Upgrades On Some Hawaii Flights

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Different U.S. carriers have different policies when it comes to complimentary upgrades on flights to Hawaii. For example, American allows elite upgrades on all routes to Hawaii, while Delta only allows elite upgrades to Hawaii on their flights out of Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Seattle.

Well, it looks like United is making some changes to their complimentary elite upgrade policy for flights to Hawaii:

“As of December 8, 2016: All Chicago (ORD) and Denver (DEN) Hawaii flights departing on or after March 1st, 2017 will no longer be eligible for Complimentary Premier Upgrades or Instant upgrades. West coast routes between Hawaii and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) will continue to eligible for both Complimentary Premier Upgrades and Instant Upgrades.”

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Today Only: Earn 15 United Miles Per Dollar Spent At 15 Retailers (Including Bose!)

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Online shopping portals can be a great way to pick up additional miles & points for purchases you’d make anyway. Just for following a specific link you can earn bonus points in addition to the ones you’d earn anyway for credit card spend.

Through 11:59PM ET today, Monday, December 5, 2016, you can earn 15 bonus United miles per dollar spent at 15 retailers.

I value United miles at ~1.4 cents each, so to me the 15 miles per dollar are the equivalent of a ~21% return on your spend, not including any points earned with a credit card.

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A Friend’s Experience In United Polaris Today

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Update: My apologies for not fact checking this more carefully, as apparently United’s Premium Service transcon flights don’t qualify as Polaris. They just get the bedding, but the rest of the experience hasn’t been changed. Sorry!

As most of you probably know, United’s new Polaris product is debuting today, which is the name for their new premium cabin experience. While United is introducing a new seat to go along with Polaris, unfortunately it’ll be several more weeks before the first plane with the new seats is flying, and several more years until most of the longhaul fleet features the product.

There’s no denying that United is doing a brilliant job marketing their new Polaris product, and really making it look like they’re reinventing business class.

I hope to have my own review of United Polaris soon, though in the meantime I figured I’d share what a friend just sent me, as he flew a premium transcontinental flight today, which also gets the new service.

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