Tag Archives: united

Berlin Part 1: Getting There

We flew United business class from Washington D.C. to Dublin, and then economy Aer Lingus from Dublin to Berlin. There are no direct flights from D.C. to Berlin, and while there are better business class options – flying United cost 57,500 miles versus the pricier 70,000 mils required for United partners.

First, the United lounge in Dulles airport. Dulles is not slated to get a new Polaris lounge until 2018 or 2019. The current version is not the best lounge, but also not the worst. Comfortable, free wifi, plentiful snacks… it’s hard to complain.

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United’s Boeing 757-200 doesn’t have the fancy new Polaris hard product that some planes do, but at least we didn’t get stuck with United’s terrible 2-4-2 business class configuration. With a 2-2  configuration, the seats were perfect for traveling couples like us, with lie-flat seats and plenty of space to get comfy.

The service was friendly and accommodating. The new Saks Fifth Avenue blankets and pillows worked great (though I’m not exactly picky), and we managed to sleep for a couple of hours.

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Once in Dublin, we settled into the Dublin Airport Executive Lounge thanks to our Priority Pass card. I was exhausted so I curled up into a ball and fell asleep. But first, I took some pictures.

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Part #9: First Class Baby!

Part #1: How I Quietly Fell in Love with Japan
Part #2: Getting Around Kyoto
Part #3: Bamboos Galore!
Part #4: The One in Which I Did Not Get Attacked By a Monkey
Part #5: In Search of a Geisha
Part #6: The Not-So Silver Silver Pavilion
Part #7: Orange I Glad I Made it to Inari?
Part #8: The Very Gold Golden Pavilion 

After two and half weeks in Asia, it was time for me to return home. I had a great time, but I was looking forward to my apartment, my bed, my television, etc. I was also looking forward to flying first class – YES, FIRST CLASS.

First class on United was only an extra 10,000 miles over business class – 80,000 miles and $61.40 – which was a no-brainer to me. For years, I’ve drooled over reviews of over-the-top first class products on Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, etc. United’s first class does not live up to that standard – not terribly surprising given United’s mediocre business class product. It was more like an extremely luxurious business class seat, but it was still lovely.

First up, I visited the lounge in Osaka’s airport.

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I had a short stopover in Beijing and sprinted to the first class lounge to take some pictures and stock up on diet cokes. The lounge was spacious and lovely. I wish I had a little more time to revel in the luxury.

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Finally, first class, or, FIRST CLASS!

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The Benefits of Amtrak Select Plus

I had a short trip to San Diego for work (more on that later), and the only return flight that worked with my schedule was a redeye from San Diego to Newark with a three-hour stopover en route to Baltimore (and then an hour trip to my apartment). I don’t have status with United (or any other airlines for that matter) so upgrades were not an option. I simply prepared myself for a hellish journey home, counting down the hours until I could collapse in my own bed.

There was one silver lining: Amtrak Select Plus. Thanks to all the Amtrak traveling I did in 2013, I still have Amtrak Select Plus status through February 2015. Amtrak Select Plus isn’t all that great, except for one little known perk: It gives you access to United airport lounges.

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Now a lounge doesn’t make up for sleeping in 40 minute increments in economy, but it is a nice pick-me-up in between layovers. The Newark lounge even had showers.

San Diego:

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Newark:

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Part #1: Off to China!

Two weeks ago, I set off for my second trip to Asia. My itinerary included four days in Beijing, six days in Shanghai, and five days in Kyoto, Japan.

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Step one: Getting to Beijing. My sister and I booked Saturday night flights (me from DC, she from NYC) that had us meeting in Frankfurt. My first leg was United business, and while comfortable enough, it was one of the worst international business products I’ve tried.

Now, I almost feel bad writing this. Flying in business class is a luxury most people can’t afford, and the only reason I can afford it is with miles. And the truth is, as long as I can lie down and sleep, I’m pretty happy. And by that extremely low bar, United passed with flying colors.

But I’ve flown several different business class products now, and my newfound knowledge demands an honest comparison.

The seats were lie-flat with a two-four-two configuration. Some of the better products – like Cathay Pacific – have a one-two-one configuration. At the very least, most planes have a two-two-two setup. While the seats lay flat when fully extended, they were only 20 inches wide. I was fairly close to my neighbor and did not have a lot of personal space for my stuff. Many of the newer products have pod-like seats that afford greater privacy and space.

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That said, the movies were good, I slept about three hours, and it sure as hell beat economy.

Air China was surprisingly better. For starters, they offered a two-two-two configuration, with wider seats (22 inches of pitch) and a lot more space and privacy. Unfortunately, the English movie selection left something to be desired, but the hard product was a significant improvement over United.

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And, they provided slippers! I love when airlines give me slippers so I don’t have to put my shoes back on every time I go to the bathroom.

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When you wake up at 3 AM for a 6 AM flight…

Our big trip to Asia started with about 1 hour of sleep. That was okay because we had 25 hours of plane time ahead of us and not much to do but watch movies, check the airplane map and sleep.

Check-in at JFK was relatively painless. There were no lines, but it took 20 minutes to convince United to check our luggage all the way through to Cambodia. After security, we were off to the lounge, which, to my surprise, was open at four a.m. in the morning.

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But the best part of our flight leg to San Francisco was United’s new transcontinental business class seats. Domestic business class seats are usually nice, but not meant for heavy duty sleeping. And by the time we boarded the plane, I desperately needed some heavy duty nap time. Luckily, United’s new transcontinental business class seats are comparable to international business class, complete with a full array of media options, lie-flat seats, outlets for our many gadgets, comfortable blankets, etc.

This was just what I needed. Somewhere between New York and Colorado, I managed to sleep for three hours.

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My United Miles Posted!

Yeah, I’m more than a little excited. I’ve literally refreshed Award Wallet at least ten times a day over the past week, and tonight I finally saw that magic number: 52,017 miles. More soon on how I managed to book two business class seats to Paris, but for now, let’s do the Seinfeld happy dance.

 

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Waiting for Gedot… And Points

How many times can I refresh AwardWallet.com a day without going clinically insane? I’m on the verge of finding out.

Waiting for points to post is the hardest part of the miles/points game. I want to book two business class tickets to Europe in December for myself and The Boyfriend. I used the recent U.S. Airways 100% bonus on sharing miles to transfer some miles to The Boyfriend’s account and then his miles back to mine. While this wasn’t the most economical use of the promotion, I managed to top off my Dividend Miles account and reach the 100,000 miles I need to purchase one business class ticket. Now, I’m waiting for the 50,000 bonus miles to post on my latest churn – my United MileagePlus Explorer credit card. This will bring me up to 80,000 miles and I’ll use some Chase Ultimate Rewards points to cross the finish line. My last batch of United miles posted on October 12 so I’m assuming the next batch will post on November 12 and I’ll be good to go. Since I’ve had some luck expediting Amex points, I called and emailed Chase to see if they would generously do the same, but no luck. They are sticklers for the rules, it seems.

So now, I sit and wait, and watch award availability appear and disappear while I pull my hair out. Good times.

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