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Tim Foolery

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Tag Archives: Chicago

Experiencing United Airlines New Boarding Process

Recently the United Boarding process was tweaked.   Their plan was to make the process and boarding area more clear. Instead of having five groups of people lined, up, only two groups would line up first then after those groups boarded, the next groups would line up.

In theory this makes sense, but as I mentioned before, I was pretty sure that people would still line up and it would be a mess. This change also altered which flyers were in which groups. This second change was what really concerned me. I usually only travel with a roller bag and I was afraid I’d get stuck putting my bag well behind my seat, meaning I’d have to fight through the crowd to collect my bag upon landing.

United Airlines' New Boarding Process

United Airlines’ New Boarding Process

Last week I took my first flight with this new boarding arrangement. I flew from Chicago to Toronto and the process was quite smooth. I chock this up to a few things 1) My flight didn’t have many elite flyers, so I ended up being the 6th person on board and 2) Canadians are nicer rule-followers. My bag was directly above my seat too.
In the boarding area people the Group 2 boarding line was relatively long, but Group 1 was very short. All of the seats in the boarding area were taken and no one was crowding the boarding door either. I’m not sure this will happen on a flight without courteous Canadians making up most of the manifest.

How have you fared in the United boarding changes? Have you been screwed out of overhead bin space at all? Do you think it makes the process any better?

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Why I Love Toronto

I spend a bit of time each year in Toronto.  Coming from Chicago, Toronto is a very easy city to navigate.  While I do find the comparisons between these two cities to be pretty accurate, there are some things that I think Toronto gets right and Chicago fails.  Here’s why I love Toronto.

Both cities have really great food scenes.  From fine dining to casual street food you can’t go wrong in Chicago or in Toronto.  Canoe, in Toronto has an amazing view that is only matched by the food itself.  The Michelin Guide doesn’t visit Toronto, so you can’t find any official Michelin Starred restaurants, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have great options.

The transit in both Cities is great.  I don’t have a car in Chicago and I’ve never needed to rent one in Toronto.  I get everywhere I need to go by foot, streetcar or subway.  Worst case scenario, taxis, or ride share options are plentiful.

Why I Love Toronto

The 3D Toronto Sign in Nathan Phillips Square

Why I Love Toronto

The one thing that I love about Toronto, much more than Chicago, is the diversity.  Both cities have a few million people and a strong immigrant community.  When walking around Toronto, I often hear several language.  Not only do you frequently hear English and French, but it isn’t uncommon to hear Arabic, Hindi and Mandarin.  While these language exist in Chicago, I never hear them when I’m walking around in the central business district.  This worldliness gives Toronto a more cosmopolitan feel than Chicago.  This is really why I love Toronto.

What do you think about Toronto?  Is there just one thing that you really dig about the City that you can’t get back home?  What’s the one thing you suggest to people visiting Toronto?

Open House Chicago 2018: Beverly / Morgan Park

Open House Chicago is one of our favorite weekends each year.  If you are unfamiliar with this event, take a look at their website for all the details.  High Level:  250+ public and private spaces are open to the public over a weekend in mid-October each year.  You’ll see everything from private clubs, to corporate offices to modern factories.  Have you ever wanted to see what the Groupon offices looked like?  What about a luxury hat manufacturer housed in an old fire house?  Well, you can with Open House Chicago.

2018 marked the eighth year of this event in Chicago and the idea has spread all over the world with more than 40 cities participating.  Each year, we decide to venture out of our known areas and explore an unfamiliar neighborhood (unfamiliar to us, that is).  This year, we ventured out to Beverly / Morgan Park on the far southwest side of the city. Having never really explored this area, we were very excited to welcome a new neighborhood not only into our lives, but into Open House Chicago.

Photo Journal of Beverly / Morgan Park

LaSalle Street Train Station Chicago - Headed to Open House Chicago

Hopping on the Metra Rock Island for a quick 20 minute ride down to Beverly for Open House Chicago

Morgan Park Academy

Morgan Park Academy

Morgan Park Academy

Beautiful Tiled Roof of Morgan Park Academy Alumni Hall

The grand entrance to Morgan Park Academy Alumni Hall

The grand entrance to Morgan Park Academy Alumni Hall

Morgan Park United Methodist Church

Morgan Park United Methodist Church

Morgan Park United Methodist Church

The stained glass dome at the Morgan Park United Methodist Church

Morgan Park United Methodist Church

The parlor at Morgan Park United Methodist Church

Ingersoll-Blackwelder House

Ingersoll-Blackwelder House

The Givins Castle

The Givins Castle

The Givins Castle

The Givins Castle

The Gravier-Driscol House - Ridge Historical Society

The Gravier-Driscol House – Ridge Historical Society

Beautiful Homes in Beverly Chicago

Beautiful private homes, not part of the tour.

Beautiful private homes, not part of the tour.

Beautiful private homes, not part of the tour.

107th St / Beverly Hills Station - Metra Rock Island Train

107th St / Beverly Hills Station – Metra Rock Island Train

Taking only public transit and walking, we made our way through every site in Beverly (we didn’t photo all of them though), grabbed a great lunch at the Horse Thief Hollow (104th/Western) and a beer at the end of our trip.  The weather was spectacular, the people were welcoming and the neighborhood was beautiful. If you haven’t explored Beverly, go do it. It’s a beautiful place.

Have you explored Open House Chicago (or another city)?  What are your favorite sites?  Do you have any tips and tricks for people?

United Premier 1K Status Just Got Harder to Achieve

Changes to the MileagePlus program, most notably the United Premier 1K Status have been announced.  MileagePlus offers six levels of status to frequent flyers: General Member, Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K and Global Services.  Basically, the more you fly the higher your status.  I’ve been a Premier Platinum member for a few years now.  To earn this status I must fly at least 75,000 miles annually, plus spend $9,000 with United.

Historically, United Premier 1K Status has been awarded to members who fly 100,000 miles annually and spend $12,000 with United.  I’ve never flown enough paid miles (miles flown on award tickets don’t count in this tally) in a given year to earn 1K Status.  I’m pretty content with my simple Premier Platinum too.  Each year, I do the math and see if it makes sense to accelerate travel to earn 1K status. I never has, for me.

United just announced a change in the earning requirements for Premier 1K Status.  In addition to flying 100,000 miles annually, you’ll have to spend $15,000 with United.  That’s a 25% jump year over year.  Now this is effective for status starting in 2020.   Therefore, you’ll have to fly the same number of miles, but spend quite a bit more money just to keep (or earn) your Premier 1K Status.

United BusinessFirst Amenity Kit

United BusinessFirst Amenity Kit

United has been making some other changes recently too.  In addition to the changes to their boarding process, they are also changing the earning bonus on one of their premium fares.  You can check out their dedicated website for all the details.

Are you currently a Premier 1K?  How does this change impact your travel plans for 2019?  How easy will it be for you to requalify for this lucrative status.

United Airlines’ New Boarding Process

United Airlines just announced changes to their passenger boarding process. Every couple of years it seems like the airlines (not just United, of course) try a new method for boarding their planes. For a while, it seemed like every airline had an elaborate queueing process, with half a dozen or more boarding zones. These zones caused people to line up long before boarding actually began. Sometimes the passengers getting off the arriving plane were met with a wall of people eagerly lined up to board. It was a mess.

United is trying to fix that issue. How many of you have been to O’hare, SFO, or EWR recently and had your path obstructed by dozens of people in the boarding line, snaking into the main concourse? Well, United’s plan to fix this is simple. Passengers should only line up if they are in Boarding Groups 1 or 2. Groups 3-5 remain seated and then they’ll be called once the first two Groups are on board. That part of the plan seems fine, although I really don’t think it will work. See, if you are in Groups 3-5, you’ll end up boarding through Lane 2…which means you’ll likely still be fighting for your spot in that line.

United Airlines' New Boarding Process

United Airlines’ New Boarding Process

Reorganization

My biggest issue is how the new Boarding Groups are organized. I’m a Premier Platinum flyer with United, meaning I fly 75K+ miles each year and spend $9K with them. Currently, I board in Group 1. Group 1 consists of Premier 1K (100K mile flyers), Premier Platinum and First Class Passengers. We are the first to board the plane after the pre-boarding folks (Uniformed Military, Families with small children, Global Services and people with mobility issues). This is great for me. I board and get situated; I never have a problem finding overhead bin space near my seat for my roller bag. Group 2 included Premier Gold (50K mile flyers), Star Alliance Gold, and certain credit card holders. When I use to board with Group 2, I had a hard time finding space for my bag near my seat – often times I’d need to go back 4-5 rows to properly stow the bag. Now I don’t usually need my bag while in flight, it is just problematic when we deplane. Swimming upstream to get my back is always a pain the neck.

The New Process

The new process adjusts who is in Group 1. Now Premier 1K is part of pre-boarding. Group 1 consists of Premier Platinum, Premier Gold, Star Alliance Gold and Premium Cabins (First and Business Class passengers).
Now I know that on the grand scheme of things, this is a minor issue. The most important part of flying is arriving safely and close to the schedule. One of the benefits for hitting 75K miles each year was to board a bit earlier. If I’m not traveling with my roller bag, I don’t board early.  I wait until the bitter end as I don’t want to sit on the plane any longer than I have to.

The best part of this change is that it keeps the credit card passengers a Group behind us. Once I get a couple more trips under my belt, it may all work out just fine and I’ll actually enjoy this new structure. I’m not sold on it now though.

If I were designing the boarding Groups (purely for selfish reasons of course), I’d have Global Services continue to pre-board. Then Group 1 would be First Class, Premier 1K and Premier Platinum. Group 2 would be Premier Gold, Star Alliance Gold and credit card people (I believe that United makes decent money off these folks). Group 3 would be Premier Silver, Star Alliance Silver and people who purchased Priority Access. The rest of the Groups would remain unchanged.

How will this change at United Airlines impact your travels? Are you boarding sooner or later? Do you not care at all because you just check your bag and don’t have to worry about it?