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Our upgrade to Buenos Aires didn’t clear, so we ended up paying more than we should have for an economy seat for the 10 hour flight. Using the Global Premier Upgrades has usually worked out for us, but not this time.
United operates a two-cabin Boeing 777 on this flight to Buenos Aires. The economy seats were in a 3-3-3 configuration. The Economy Plus seat was surprisingly comfortable. While not a lay flat seat, I had enough room to drop the tray table, and rest my head for a couple hours of decent sleep. I’m just about 6′ tall, so the pitch between seats was pretty good. Although I did have a bit of a stiff neck when I woke up.
Speaking of the tray table, the food on this flight was very mediocre. The meal was standard United Airlines Economy Class Food. Luckily, we grabbed a bite to eat in Houston at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. We figured the upgrades wouldn’t clear and even if they did we were pretty sure the food would be disappointing. We planned perfectly here.
We’ve been fortunate enough to have our upgrades clear – or just book Business Class with miles – fly business class for flights this long. While it sure wasn’t an ideal travel experience, it was good for us to fly Economy. It helped remind us that it isn’t really all that bad.
We landed a few minutes early and made the way through customs, which was quite heinous. The line was well over an hour long. This just goes to show how spoiled I’ve gotten with Global Entry. Clearing Customs and Immigration we grabbed our checked luggage and made our way to our connecting flight. Our layover in Buenos Aires was nearly four hours. We planned on hopping on an earlier flight to Mendoza…or so we thought…
We had so much planning to do for our trip to Argentina. First things first: Getting There. Our Argentina Flight Planning followed our standard logic. Do we use miles and fly Business Class? Maybe we pay for Business Class? Do we pay for Economy and just deal with it? Or do we pay for a higher fare in Economy and use our Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) to upgrade to Business?
Since we both needed the Elite Qualifying Miles to keep our status with United we knew that we couldn’t cash in miles for this trip. We earn nearly 12,000 premier qualifying miles for this round trip from Chicago. We couldn’t let those miles go to waste. When we flew to Lima, we found round trip Business Class tickets for about $1,800 per person. If we could find something like that for this trip, we’d book it in an instant. Unfortunately all Business Class tickets were going for well over $5K each. The only way I’d pay that much money for a flight is to hurry home to someone’s deathbed or to flee the country with no notice to avoid a criminal indictment.
The difference between the upgradable Economy Fare and the normal Economy Fare was about $200 more per person. Basically, we’d pay $200 more for the opportunity to use our GPUs. If the upgrades didn’t clear, we’re out that money.
We followed this same logic as we booked our tickets to Rio in 2017. We booked airfare about eight months out and the upgrade cleared about a month later. Figuring that Argentina wasn’t a huge Thanksgiving destination, we thought this was our best bet.
The days, weeks and moths passed. No upgrade. We had some flight schedule changes, still no upgrades. We chatted up the fine folks at United and they couldn’t do anything, but tell us that they were pretty sure we’d clear.
Finally, it’s day of travel. We checked in and our upgrade still hadn’t cleared. We kept refreshing the upgrade list. The frustration set in. We’d paid extra money to sit in the same old Economy Seats for nearly three hours to Houston and 10 hours to Buenos Aires.
Fast forward to the return trip. The exact same scenario played out. We watched the list. Our names hovered towards the top of the list, but never crossed that magic threshold. Once we checked in at the airport, we were notified that our upgrades had cleared – for the leg between Newark and Chicago. Of the 26 hours of flying time with United we’d have on this trip, two of those hours would be in Business Class.
I’ll touch on a couple of the details on these flights later on, but at the end of the day, these flights were fine. We arrived safely. The United crew was a good mix of fun and surly, mostly surly. While our Argentina Flight Planning didn’t end up exactly as we wanted, we did have a pretty great trip.
Do you follow the same logic as we do when determining how to get somewhere?
Remember the days when your time on a flight was yours? You were disconnected from the world with no internet, no phones, no connections to the world below? Well those days are over.
Unfortunately with in flight Wifi, you are often plagued with slow downloads and frequently dropped connections. Some airlines have made it relatively easy to to get refund when the internet sucks. Here’s how you get a refund when the United Wifi fails on your flight.
Fortunately, you can do this all yourself, online. No need to call customer service and wait on hold for an extended period. United made it so easy to get a refund now. Maybe it is because their in flight internet is so hit or miss (at least for me over the last six months at least).
The Refund Process
First off, head on over to United’s refund page. This page handles everything from flight refunds, food, drink, upgrades and wifi (plus many more). The process goes much faster if you log into your MileagePlus Account, as most of the info just pre-fills into the forms.
It takes just a couple of minutes to submit the refund. Surprisingly, each time I submitted a refund, it has been granted and credited back within two business days. Every time I’ve requested a refund it was for a time where I actually had an issue on board. I may not have notified the flight attendant though. Sometimes the wifi works fine for 30 minutes or so, but is then dead for 30-45 minutes.
Despite all the issues I’ve had with United Wifi recently, I still attempt to work a bit on the flight. While it isn’t a perfect system, the ease of getting a refund makes me much less frustrated. However, I do miss the days were I could be completely disconnected while on a flight, don’t you?
Earlier I wrote about how United Airlines teased us yesterday with the promise of an “Historic Route Announcement” coming today. I put out my hopes and thoughts on what this announcement would be. You can take a look at that in more detail here.
Just after 11am central time today, United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz made good on his promise and here’s what we found out. United will be expanding service at San Francisco (SFO), including:
- Toronto, Canada (YYZ) – NEW SERVICE
- Melbourne, Australia (MEL) – NEW SERVICE
- New Delhi, India (DEL) – NEW SERVICE
- Seoul, South Korea (ICN) – INCREASED FREQUENCY
Well, I don’t know if I would call this historic. I wouldn’t even call it interesting, honestly. Three of these routes are already served by Star Alliance Partners: Air India to New Delhi, Air Canada to Toronto and both United and Asiana (and Korean) fly between Seoul and San Francisco. The only thing new here is a Star Alliance flight between SFO and MEL, which currently is only operated by Qantas.
Marginal increased frequency (assuming the Star Alliance Partners don’t reduce their frequencies in light of these coming on) at a United Hub. Great.
So if you take a look at my predictions, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Chicago is still the red-headed step child. United Airlines still doesn’t serve Africa. I guess this is why I’m a casual observer and not in the airline industry.
Were your predictions right on or were you as off base as me?
Yesterday, United Airlines teased us with an “Historic Route Announcement” that would be coming out today. The AV Geeks around the internet were abuzz with the possibilities. The announcement read:
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz will host a media conference call tomorrow to discuss an historic package of new and expanded international routes and talk about how they are a capstone to a breakthrough year for United.
This package of new and expanded international routes, really piqued my interested. As a United guy who lives in Chicago, I’ve felt like the red-headed stepchild lately. We did get the first Polaris Lounge, which is a great improvement over other offerings, but we still don’t have any regular 787 service from O’Hare and our reach to Latin America is limited.
What I Want:
I would love to see addition services from O’Hare – here are my dream new destinations:
- Sydney (SYD)
- Singapore (SIN)
- Bangkok (BKK)
- Johannesburg (JNB)
- Buenos Aires (EZE)
Now, I have done no real research on these routes from Chicago. I do know that Delta’s ATL-JNB route is quite profitable. These are all very long flights that may not make much sense if you can’t fill the plane with cargo and passengers, but I’m selfish. I want to visit (or revisit) each of these cities and I’d love to have a non-stop option from home.
What I Think Will Happen
What do I really think will be announce? I think Chicago will be shut out and we’ll see a big announcement about more services at Dulles. The new Polaris Lounge was just announced recently and I wager that we’ll see United announcing flights from Dulles to:
- Johannesburg (JNB)
- Accra Ghana (ACC)
- Addis Ababa (ADD)
- Abu Dhabi (AUH) / Dubai (DXB)
I think United is going to double down on Dulles and the historic announcement will be the carriers return to Africa and adding new destinations.
What do you think is on deck here? How crazy do you think I am with my hopes and thoughts here?