Tim Foolery

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Monthly Archives: December 2014

UAL 987: ORD – CDG

The flight to Paris-Charles de Gaulle is a quick one – it takes just about 8 hours from Chicago. This post will not include elaborate photos of the caviar courses offered in some premium cabins nor will I be opining about the fully flat enclosed seats. Why? We flew economy. I struggle spending the miles on a premium cabin flights to Europe from Chicago – the flight is so short and the offerings aren’t worth the points, in my opinion. Plus, the airfare itself was just about $900, while not free by any means, it’s still a couple hundred dollars cheaper than really good priced tickets during peak season.

Flight: United Airlines 987
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 20 A&B
Departure: 18h25 (19h30)
Arrival: 09h30 (10h00)

Since we left on a Saturday (we usually maximize our vacation time by leaving after work on a Friday, but the airfare was about 25% more to do that), we had all day to finish packing and to get the house ready for the house sitter (#PoorMissLillly needed a caretaker since we were going to be gone for a week). We called an UberX and left the house around 15h50 and arrived at ORD right at 16h20, with plenty of time to check a bag (god forbid, I know) and make our way to the lounge for a couple of mediocre wines and some Tilamook Cheese (which reminds me dearly of growing up in Oregon).

Our flight was delayed about 40 minutes, which allowed us more time in the lounge. Since we didn’t need to fight for space in the bins for our larger roller bags we waited to board until Group 3 had already started – this allowed us to walk through the Group 2 line and bypass everyone already queued. I hate queuing.

We took our regular seats (20A&B – which are the second row of Economy and exit rows – so full recline and extra leg room, but the only downside is that they are very cold in flight) and waited. And Waited. And Waited. The flight was full with just a seat or two empty.

The flight was delayed waiting for cabin crew – and we left with the minimally staffed cabin, full of ‘On-Callers” who were given notice of their trip to Paris shortly before they actually boarded the plane. Since the cabin crew was short, drink and meal service took quite a while and the lovely gentlemen in the row in front of us would have no part of it. He demanded First Class Service (on Cathay or Singapore, not even United First) on an Economy ticket price. He didn’t like the food (who does?), his entertainment system didn’t work and he demanded the purser fix it, while she was trying to serve meals in Economy. When he was finished with his meal, he rang the call button asking the tray to be taken away – mind you, the Stews were still serving the back of the plane. This guy was a dick. No he wasn’t French, he was American. The Stew working our aisle was great and was able to shrug it off like a true professional.

We landed about 30 minutes late and made it through customs and immigration to baggage claim in just a few minutes. We picked up our rental car (more on that later) and headed directly to the hotel. Sunday traffic in Paris was non-existent and we were pulling into the Prince de Galles hotel around 11h10.

For the price and the length of the trip, I couldn’t complain. I know what to expect on ORD to Europe. I come prepare with water, entertainment and the realization that while I’d like First Class service on Thai (refresh your memory on that here), I know I’m not going to get it, nor will I pay for it on these routes. Go in with realistic expectations and it’ll be great.

Do you find value in buying up or upgrading to Business or First on an 8 hour Trans-Atlantic Flight?

Other Changes to United MileagePlus in 2016

I recent wrote about the upcoming changes to the way flyers can earn status on United and their MileagePlus Program– if you missed it, read more about that here. There is another major change that came about earlier in 2014 (effective March, 2015) that will impact every single United flyer, not just those looking for elite status.

Historically, flyers would earn award miles based on the number of miles they actually flew – plus bonus miles based on your elite status (as a Premier Gold Member, I would earn my actual miles flown, plus a 50% bonus) and additional bonus miles based on the fare bucket you purchased (full price economy tickets, BusinessFirst and Global First tickets would also get a bonus). I never paid full fare economy, or for BusinessFirst and I’ve never actually flown Global First. To me the price is just too rich, especially when I can redeem miles for longer haul front of the plane seats. I’d rather drop 80,000 miles each way for Global First to Europe than pay $5,400 for the same round trip (I just checked a random date in May 2015 from ORD to LHR to get the estimated pricing).

These miles are much easier to come by (for me) than the $5,400 for the airfare. I historically would earn about 75,000-125,000 miles a year just from traditional flying – including my elite bonus miles. Starting in March of 2015, United Flyers will earn miles based the dollar amount you spend on the actual ticket. General Members earn 5X miles for each dollar paid, Silver Members earn 7X miles, Gold Members 8X miles, Platinum Member 9X miles and Premier 1K earn 11X.

United MileagePlus Award Miles Earning Schedule for 2015 - Image Courtesy of United Airlines

United MileagePlus Award Miles Earning Schedule for 2015 – Image Courtesy of United Airlines

So in my previous post (being able to earn status on cheap flights) finding a $700 flight to PVG, earning 14,112 award –and elite—miles previously, would now earn between 3,500 miles (for General Members) and 7,700 miles for a Premier 1K. Yeah, it’s that big of a change. Some people will actually be better off – flyers who pay high airfare amounts on shorter route trips will definitely come out ahead. People like me, who don’t pay a ton of cash for each flight and don’t pay for premium cabin on flights, I’ll be definitely earning fewer miles after the first quarter 2015.

Delta already has this plan in place and United is following suit next year (United has been matching Delta move for move on the Frequent Flyer Program for a while now). Southwest and Jetblue both have had this type of arrangement for years. I think this is how all major frequently flyer programs will be handled in the future (that’s the way hotel programs work, right?) – I’ll wager the New American will follow suit with an announcement by June 2015. While these changes do dramatically alter the current playing field, I’m not going to lose sleep over it – as you can still earn a ton of miles with credit card sign-up bonuses, credit card spend, shopping portals, etc.

What about you? Do these changes cause you lots of angst? Are you more worried about the changes to the way award miles are earned or the way elite status is? What is the one piece of advice that you’d like to offer your fellow travelers?

Thanksgiving in France – Introduction

We decided, this year, like the prior two years, to spend our Thanksgiving holiday outside of the US. Last year we were in Mexico City and two years ago, our first year abroad for this truly American holiday, we were in Ireland. We love traveling abroad during this very busy domestic travel period. Airfares to Europe are much cheaper than other times of the year – business travel is down and planes are much more empty. I priced out a ticket to San Diego and it was only $125 more to go to Paris. Could there be any doubt on where we would go?

Paris - Champs-Élysées with Holiday Lights

Paris – Champs-Élysées with Holiday Lights

We didn’t want to just do Paris again – we wanted to see something new. After a little more digging we found that we could fly into Paris and leave from Zurich for about $50 less – not that this would really impact our travel decision, but it gave us a direction in which to focus our search. Neither Mike nor I had spent any time in Burgundy before and since we love wine and food, we thought this would be a great place to spend our time. Friends had recommended Beaune, one of the larger Cities in the region.

We knew we had to make it to Zurich, but we knew we didn’t want to spend too much time in the City and the weather wasn’t conducive to long hikes in the mountains (I don’t want to freeze to death, that’s for sure). We ultimately decided to spend one night each in Paris, Bern and Zurich and three nights in Beaune.

While I know I am behind on Trip Reports (need to finish up Stockholm and start Quebec and Spain), I figured I’d power through this one while it is still fresh in my mind. Over the next several days/weeks you’ll be able to read about:

Prince de Galles Hotel – Paris
Dinner and Shoes – Paris
La Marché aux les Puces – Paris
Abbaye Mizieres – Beaune
Discover Burgundy Wine Tour – Beaune
• Cook’s Atalier – Beaune
Holiday Inn – Bern
Tour of Bern
Sixt Car Rental
Park Hyatt Zurich
Tour of Zurich
Dinner – Zurich

Do you flee the US during Thanksgiving or do you go the more traditional route and spend it with family?