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Tim Foolery

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United’s Historic Route Announcement

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
United Airlines
United Airlines

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?

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United Makes “Historic” Route Announcement!

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.

United Airlines
United Airlines

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?

Changes to United Club Access

The United Club membership offers a great opportunity to escape the madness of the airport.  With complimentary alcoholic beverages and light snacks coupled with comfortable seating and ample power outlets, these lounges allow you to recharge on many levels.  Check out the changes to United Club access policy before you stop by.

Starting November 1, Club Members will need to show a same day United Boarding Pass before entering the club.  Historically, you could still access the United Club if you were traveling on another airline.  I usually fly United exclusively for domestic travel, but on the off chance that I would fly American or Delta, I’d still pop into the United Club.  That’s all changed.

United Club

Pre-Vacation United Club Bloody Mary and Banana. Breakfast of champions.

This isn’t really a shocker though. Delta and American both made these changes earlier this year too.  It makes sense in some respect, but if you are buying an annual Club membership, you’d want to have access to use the lounge anytime you are flying.

This change seems pretty reasonable, but it could sure make for a frustrating surprise if you aren’t expecting it.  Don’t show up to the airport early, expecting to enter the United Club if you aren’t flying on United!

Will this impact your travel plans at all?

 

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?

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.