I was sitting quite happily at the United Club in Chicago recently when I received a message from United that my flight for the following day had been cancelled. This was serious as it was part of a San Francisco to LA, LA to Newark and finally Newark to San Juan combo.
Taking advantage of a moment without a queue at the desk I approached the agent and explained. I knew there was a flight 90 minutes before and so asked about that. Scratching her head she came back and explained that they have cancelled my original flight, but added a new one a minute later.
And oddly, all of the passengers with upgrades on the first flight had suddenly gone back on the waitlist, despite being confirmed on the previous flight in First.
And, they haven’t rebooked you either….
Anyway, good news – she rebooks me on the new flight UA2076, snags a First Class seat and books it.
But very odd none the less.
In the space of two days I got to fly one of each airlines 737′s. The American flight from LAX to San Francisco was short, whilst the United flight was from San Francisco to Newark.
The plane, resplendent in AA’s new livery, was towed in to the gate at LAX due to the building works you can see in the background.
First class had very nice black leather seats which I don’t remember seeing before.
The entertainment system was live as we boarded and I was able to watch a few episodes of some sitcoms whilst people boarded and the carry on was stowed. The new Sky interior meant that the new style of Boeing bins were being used.
Over Row 3, the bins are much smaller, due to the aircraft shape. Oh yes, there was WiFi.
The flight attendant brought earbuds around for those without headphones, and did a small pre-departure drink run of water or orange juice. After takeoff she did snack mix and a full range of drinks, coming through for a second pass before landing at SFO.
In fact the landing at SFO was a little eventful with a go around just before landing. There was quite a lot of turbulence and so the tower told the pilot to go around and we soared off over the cost to rejoin the landing planes. No big deal; I’ve done that before but it’s probably a year since it happened.
Well it started badly enough when the flight moved gates three times and was delayed leaving.
This image from the United mobile app tells you everything you need to know about their 737-900.
That’s right – everything resembling useful time spending or productivity devices – WiFi and entertainment – are coming later. Even the electrical power didn’t actually work on a 6 hour flight! The guy sitting next to me, who I suspect was a player in the NFL, couldn’t really believe it either. He plugged in his headphones and napped. I took out my iPad and used it until the battery died, which was pretty close to the end of the flight. I’d paid to sit up front as part of an international ticket, and was pretty unimpressed with the service. Originally, when I booked many months ago, this was an internationally configured 757 with lie flat beds, and United though this was an appropriate equipment change at some point. If I had control of a corporate spend, I wouldn’t be sending my executives on this airline.
So when faced with a choice of 737′s I’d certainly not choose the United one!
United opened a new club in an old location earlier in the month. I was able to visit a few days after it opened.
The location is on the way to the 60 gates that United has opened recently and serves the gates around the main security entrances. The location is actually a reprise of where the second Red Carpet Club used to be many years ago. Outside security the original club closed in the wake of 9/11.
Designed to the new United Club standards it is bright an airy although there is no natural light.
You enter the lounge up in a lift, along a corridor lined with historic pics of United planes, and are welcomed at the Reception desk.
The room is broken in to many different areas and there is a full bar.
Unfortunately, it has the same snacks as every other United Club in the USA.
Overall it is a good addition, close to the 60 gates and there is plenty of seating. It seemed a lot quieter than the other club in the domestic terminal and the staff were super friendly. Worth a visit next time you are at SFO.
United has quietly announced another copy-cat change to Mileage Plus which will change the way we earn miles. Gone is earning based on distance flown, and in comes the Delta model of earning based on fare paid.
There are similar multipliers to Delta for elite members:
This changes a $250 JFK-LAX ticket in Coach from about 10,000 miles earned for a 1K to 2,750 miles. A huge cut in earning.
There is no change to elite status earning which continues to be based on distance flown.
The change applies to all members worldwide.
A sad day in my book, and the end of Mileage Running for earned miles at least.
I suspect the picture above says more than a thousand words to the experienced traveller.
Landing at LAX this morning, after sitting on the taxiway for 20 minutes, I noted that my international configured 757 to Newark was cancelled. Checking my reservation on the mobile app (as every flight attendant on United appears to be telling me to do these days), I found an all to familiar problem – United had nothing about its cancellation.
With less than an hour to the next departure the only seat left on the next flight was in middle, at the back of Economy Minus. I had about 18 hours booked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and there was no way to get there today with United, or American. The agents in the United Club were as helpful as they could be, and put up with some really angry passengers.
So, I had to abandon the trip – 8,500 status miles – along with it.
In comparison to United, Hyatt could not have been more helpful.
I called their number, and explained the problem. The agent waived the cancellation charge on the Hyatt Place in San Juan and found me a room at the Hyatt Place at LAX. Increased room rate of course, but My Elite Rate, saved me 20% off my new bed.
So, here with have the contrast – United who cancelled the flight for mechanical problems did not nothing – except of course to charge me for a new ticket to SFO tomorrow – ($400) – thank goodness for travel insurance – and Hyatt who had nothing to do with the problem, sorted me out.
Now to find a way to get those status miles back as well as press United for a refund of the original ticket and re-credit of the upgrade certs. I suspect this saga is going to run and run.
(BTW, when I called the Hyatt Place at LAX for a pickup by their shuttle, they explained that it was out for maintenance and that I should hop a cab and they would pay. Now that is service!)
On perhaps a fittingly rainy morning, LHR T2 opened for passengers today. As I went through at round 5am, there were certainly more managers than passengers, but it all seemed to be working fine. Passengers were checking, security are doing their jobs (with huge smiles I might add), and passengers are shopping.
In a word (or two) it’s working!
Whilst I was the first person through Fast Track I am not going to get my upgrade to Global First today – been bumped by a Global Services passenger from the top spot and anyway it’s booked full.
The lounge is as long a walk from the terminal as I remember it from the United reception, but the lounge is still super. I wasn’t first in the lounge (only third), but it has great food. Hot cooked breakfast – sausage, baked beans, hash browns, bacon are all available. Cheese and cold meats, yoghurt, fruit are all there too. Best catering I ever remember United supplying.
My missed upgrade means I don’t get to see what the Global First passengers are enjoying this morning.
However, I can report, that amongst the wines available from the bar there is Champagne – a welcome return to the days of Terminal 3 when you could have some bubbly.
So, come along to T2 it is ready for the world, and if you’re flying United, you are in for a treat.
United asked a number of its UK based frequent flyers to a reception last week, for the launch of their new United Club and Global First lounges at the newest Terminal at Heathrow, Terminal 2. Due to open on 4 June, the lucky MileagePlus members were the first ‘passengers’ to experience the lounge.
The evening started with check-in at the Marriott Heathrow, where out ID’s were checked and we were able to enjoy a pre-departure drink.
There were noodles at the entry to the hotel you could enjoy on the way to/from the coaches.
We received special security badges to wear:
On arrival at T2, we were escorted through the full security process, x-ray, belts off, liquids out, to get airside to the new terminal.
After the long (20 minute) walk to the United Gates we arrived at the lounge:
The lounges are to the right when you come up from the escalators and are located one floor up, accessible via two lifts
On arrival there is a check-in desk and you turn right for Global First and go straight on for the United Club. At the reception we were met with staff holding trays of drinks, including some invented by the UK cabin crew and ground staff.
The lounge is huge with a window that runs along the full length and height of the lounge along one of the long sides of the room. Bright and light are the immediate reactions – coupled with lots of light, white, and gold surfaces, United’s signature blue is ever present.
In front of the windows is a large bar which reminds me of the Cathay Lounges in Hong Kong.
The room is cleverly divided in to different areas with large glass screen allowing in the light but creating at atmosphere of privacy. In the centre is a striking sculpture
The twigs are recreated in the reading room area towards the back of the lounge.
The loos are huge, able to accommodate a wheelchair it felt in each of them. Although with only 6 in the gents, I wonder if there will be queues.
(There is also a seat in the loo, great for changing without having to take over one of the showers, which are housed separately, in areas opposite the picture window).
There are several work areas with plenty of power and tall stools – I spent most of the reception sitting here as you got a great view of the lounge.
The United Global First lounge is behind the lifts and across the hall from the Reception desk.
A smaller, and more elegant space it speaks to a time when travel was genteel, classy and tranquil.
Large low level sofa areas are adjacent to the entrance:
Towards the back, again near the huge windows, is the signature reproduction of Big Ben, made by the same company that made the original
There is more seating in this area.
The signature structure in the room is a large circular area, that was being used for wine tasting on the night of the Reception. I am not sure whether this is to continue after the opening.
At the opposite end of the room from the clock are some comfortable loungers which I am sure will be popular:
There is an a la carte dining area
Throughout the lounge there are clear flight departure screens
As the evening went on the screens over the windows were raised giving a spectacular view of the airport and sunset
At the end of the evening there were speeches (No Mr. Smisek of course), and a prize draw. About an hour from the end we had the chance to leave, being escorted back to the terminal as if we were an arriving passenger.
A great evening where United made us truly feel welcomed to a great new lounge to their portfolio. For those that have been travelling since the days of the old Red Carpet Club at Terminal 3, the new Red Carpet Club at Terminal 3, and the Star Alliance Lounge at Terminal 1 – this new venue is so far above those it is hard to know how to describe it. Well done United, although my diet wasn’t helped…..
I do want to say a little about the food. I have no idea whether or not what we were offered was what it will look like at opening, but they have chosen Sodexo as their partner and there will be a resident chef, so I am hopeful the quality will be great.
Heathrow Airport have confirmed the dates of moves associated with T2 opening and the AA/US merger.
Airlines moving to Terminal 2
4 June – United
18 June – Air Canada, Air China, ANA
2 July – Asiana, EVA Air, Thai and Turkish
9 July – Aer Lingus
23 July – Aegean
10 Sept – SAS, Virgin Atlantic Little Red
17 Sept – Egyptair, Ethopian, Singapore
1 Oct – Austrian, Lufthansa
8 Oct – Germanwings
15 Oct – Brussels, SWISS
22 Oct – Air New Zealand, Asiana, Croatia, LOT Polish, South Africa and TAP
On 24 June, USAirways moves in to Terminal 3 (from T1) to join American
United Airlines operates from Terminal 5 at Rome Airport. In order to reach this remote terminal you have to take a shuttle bus from Terminal 3. Luckily, the Hilton offers a shuttle for their passengers. Terminal 5 is located some distance from the other terminal at FCO, and provides a secure check-in. There were a large number of police around, outside the building, as well at the security checkpoints. American Airlines, Delta, USAirways, and ElAl operate from this terminal, as does United.
After a quick check-in I was went on my way to the security lines, which were pretty slow primarily as passengers did not seem to understand the requirements. After Security you board shuttle buses which transport you back to the main terminals.
Terminal 3 is quite modern and after exiting the bus and going up an escalator you enter the shopping area.
United use an Alitalia Lounge for their premium passengers, Star Alliance Gold and United Club members. There are lifts to the lounge which is on the ground floor of the terminal. Exiting the lifts you are faced with a choice of two lounges.
The lounge is quite retro, and I only managed a couple of snaps before I was told to stop taking pictures!
There was a small selection of food, self-service soft drinks and a barista serving alcohol and freshly made coffee.
The WiFi was fairly fast and there were sockets between the seats. I enjoyed my stay, although there is no natural light. I left a few minutes early to join the line for check-in. The flight was already operating late (due to late inbound aircraft), but further delays occurred due to a technical problem with the B767-300. 4 Air Marshals boarded before we did and ‘random’ bag checks were done before boarding, at the top of the jetbridge. The aircraft is a former United 767-300 refitted to Continental specs. This plane, it is worth noting has wider seats in BusinessFirst than the three-class 767-300 which have not been changed.
We left very late, and the information was pretty patchy due at least to the very poor PA system. After boarding the Captain told us about a further delay.
The seats in Business First are 2-1-2 and I had seat 1D, at the front. They are lie-flat seats so there is not much of a problem from adjacent passengers moving around. The toilets are at the front, adjacent to Row 1 which could be a problem if you had the two window seats.
All of the food is served from the galley, rather than from carts in the aisle which makes it harder for the crew, but felt more like First Class than the usual UA service.
There were four choices of entree, including, Beef, Chicken, Salmon/Shrimp and Four-Cheese Ravioli. I chose the beef.
It was pretty tasty. United produced a cheese plate and Ice-cream sundae:
After watching a couple of movies, I napped and woke up as they were serving the second meal. Chicken Flat Bread Wrap which was fairly tasty.
We arrived so late in to IAD, that all the circa. 3pm arrivals had cleared immigration and customs. Global Entry got me through in two minutes and I was first at the TSA line. Unfortunately there is no TSAPre at the midfield terminal, so I had to rummage through the luggage to find the things the TSA wanted removed. Checking the United App on my iPhone, I found that I had been rebooked on the 10pm departure to San Francisco (arrival 1am) and then an early morning connection to Seattle the next day. As it happened my inbound aircraft had been chosen as the plane for my connection to Houston, meaning that I did not need to run to the length of the airport. In addition, cleaning the plane meant that it operated about 40 minutes late.
Not bad flight, although stressful because of the cascade of delays.