Tim Foolery

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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.

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?

EVA Air Infinity Lounge

After hurrying off the flight from Chicago, I quickly made my way to the EVA Air Infinity Lounge.  EVA Air has several lounges available in Taipei, but I decided to visit just one.  As I made my way to the lounge, I was struck by how absolutely dead this major airport was at 04h15.  Empty hallways as far as the eye could see!

The Airport

The Departure Board

The departure board – no flight departures for hours.

Empty hallways at TPE

Early morning and empty terminal

Empty hallways at TPE

Soon these halls would be filled with excited travelers, not so much at 04h30.

Entering the EVA Air Infinity Lounge you are greeted by several staffers, plus an inquisitive robot.  The robot seemed mostly to distract people entering the lounge.

EVA Air Infinity Lounge

EVA Air Infinity Lounge

The Lounge

My first order of business was to grab a shower.  It had been nearly 20 hours since I had last showered.  While I wasn’t working out, I did feel quite gross.  Maybe the gallons of champagne I drank had something to do with that.  I immediately swapped my boarding pass for a shower key.  Every time I take a shower at TPE, I struggle to figure out how to actually enter the shower area.  I can’t offer guidance either, as I try a dozen different ways to get in and then it finally clicks.  Just ask for help. I’m too stubborn to do that though.

The shower room isn’t anything fancy, but it is clean and has hot water.

Accessories in the shower room

The private shower room is stocked with fresh toiletries and towels.

Bulk Products in the Shower

Bulk shampoo, conditioner and body wash were waiting in the shower.

Private Shower Rooms must have a toilet, right?

Not too fancy of a toilet, but it did have several bells and whistles, that I didn’t try out.

After the shower, I felt like a new man.  I wasn’t very hungry, but I did force myself to grab some water, more champagne and some ice cream.  The lounge was relatively quiet this early in the morning, which allowed me to get a little work done and relax before my next flight.

Video Arcade or Lounge?

EVA Air Infinity Lounge looks like an arcade from the 1980s.

Video Arcade or Lounge?

The EVA Air Infinity Lounge has ample room for guests.

I had spent the last 15.5 hours eating and drinking, so I wasn’t too keen on the idea of breakfast food.  Plus, I had another 5 hour flight in Business Class in just a couple of hours.  I’ll skip this meal.

Self-serve beverage station.

Self-serve beverage station.

Breakfast Pastries

The breakfast pastries weren’t all that appetizing

Chilled Breakfast Case

Yogurt, butter and other chilled breakfast items

En Route to the Gate

I got a little tired of just sitting around the EVA Air Infinity Lounge, so I headed off to explore TPE and make my way towards the gate.

Pilot Hello Kitty

I don’t understand the infatuation with Hello Kitty, but I do dig the aviation themed kitty.

Boeing 777-300

My flight from TPE to SIN. Love this Boeing 777-300.

Sanrio Planes Crack Me Up

While not exactly THE Hello Kitty Plane, this Sanrio livery was hot.

I’ve never had much time to spend exploring TPE, but I’ve been pretty pleased with my time there.  Unfortunately, EVA Air doesn’t offer any stellar ground services like Thai Airways, Singapore or Lufthansa does, so there really isn’t any reason to push for a longer layover.

Have you spent much time in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport?  What should I be on the look out for next time I transit?