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United Mileage Plus

India Trip Report – “I Can’t Go Back To Coach” – Introduction

India Trip Report – “I Can’t Go Back To Coach”

And now for the main attraction…

After weeks of procrastinating being busy, I am finally ready to start the Trip Report for my India Trip.

As you can see it is going to be a massive 12 Part Report, however I have been working feverishly to try and get it all done. I am hoping that I can post 1 part of it everyday but that might be a little too ambitious.

The title of this Trip Report comes from the Seinfeld clip below and basically sums up my feelings going forward, that I am too good to sit in Economy ever again!

Just kidding…I wish that was the case but I have a nice 12 hour Alitalia $287 Mistake Fare to Madrid in February!

India Itinerary

  • Lufthansa 747-8 First Class – Washington D.C (IAD) -> Frankfurt (FRA)
  • Lufthansa First Class Terminal – Frankfurt (FRA)
  • Lufthansa A380 First Class – Frankfurt (FRA) -> Tokyo (NRT)
  • Thai 747 First Class – Tokyo (NRT) -> Bangkok (BKK)
  • Thai First Class Lounge & Royal Orchard Spa – Bangkok (BKK)
  • Thai 747 Business Class – Bangkok (BKK) -> Bombay (BOM)

———————————————————————————————————————

  • Air India Economy – Bombay (BOM) -> Udaipur (UDI)
  • Sheraton Udaipur
  • Site Seeing – Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur
  • IndiGO Economy – Jaipur (JAI) -> Bombay (BOM)

———————————————————————————————————————

  • Bombay Airport Clusterf$#%
  • United BusinessFirst – Bombay (BOM) -> Newark (EWR)

Cost

This entire trip was paid for with 140,000 United Miles earned over the last year by signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred (55,000), Chase INK Bold (60,000), and United MileagePlus Explorer (55,000). I paid around $200 in taxes, which isn’t bad considering just on the flight to India, I stopped at 5 Airports…

I talked about booking the trip in detail here but basically I upgraded to First Class on the leg going to India for 80,000 United Miles and then did Business Class coming back for 60,000 United Miles.

If this Ticket was paid for out of pocket, due to the insane First Class routing, it would easily be over $30,000+. I paid $200 in taxes…

All in all, this entire routing clocked in at 23,734 Miles and had me spending around 65 hours either flying or at Airports (45 Hours going to India, and 20 Hours coming back). 

United Global First – Chicago (ORD) -> Washington (IAD)

As most of you know, this trip was my FIRST EVER trip in International First Class. For years now I have been reading Trip Reports from Lucky and just salivating at all his First Class Trips. I had enough Miles to fly Business Class (120,000) and since it was only an additional 20,000 Miles for First Class One Way, I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it.

Similar to my Parent’s issue with their United Tickets, before I could even start my trip, when I checked in at the United Counter at O’Hare, they once again were having issues pulling up my Itinerary. This was due to the fact that my ticket included 3 Star Alliance Carriers (United, Lufthansa, and Thai) and the fact that some of my flights weren’t going to start until a full 2 days in the future.

I got the old run around saying to go try and Check In with Lufthansa (which didn’t work), followed by “Meh just get your Boarding Pass for the Lufthansa and Thai flights at the Lufthansa Desk at IAD, it will be fine…”. To make matters worse, United couldn’t even check my bags thru to Bombay! They told me to just collect them in Bangkok and re-check them to Bombay.

Luckily in the end, it all got fixed but was mostly just annoying and not an ideal start to the trip.

I was so anticipating the Lufthansa and Thai First Class flights, that I basically wrote off my United positioning flight to get from Chicago to Washington Dulles to “start” my journey.

Flight Stats

United Airlines – Flight 242

Chicago (ORD) – Washington D.C (IAD)

Monday, December 10

Depart: 1:10PM

Arrive: 4:01PM

Duration: 1hr 45min

Aircraft: Boeing 767-300

Seat: 1K (First Class)

Typically if United is flying a 2 Cabin Plane, then their “First Class” is basically just Economy Plus Seating with a Snack Box and free Alcoholic Drinks. Nothing really special.

Since ORD to IAD is a relatively short flight, I didn’t even bother checking what Plane it was and basically would have been happy in Economy. Honestly I wasn’t even planning on including this flight in this Trip Report…

So you can imagine my surprise when I walked into the Cabin of the Boeing 767-300 and was greeted with this.

                     “Not A Bad Way Start To My 45 Hour Journey”

Service: B+

Immediately upon being seated in Seat 1K, I was offered some “Pre-Departure” Water and Hot Nuts.

                          “Pre-Departure Water > Regular Water” 

United Crews are very hit or miss, but this Crew was definitely a hit.

They seemed genuinely nice and as I was snapping pictures of the Seat like a Japanese Tourist, one of the Flight Attendents asked me “Are you building a Private Plane?”. I explained no and that it was for a blog, and she was so interested that she asked for my Card which I thought was cool.

Seat: A-

Although my overall expectations were extremely low prior to getting onto the Flight, I was definitely impressed by the Seat.

                                         “The One Thing United Doesn’t Suck At”

United Service might not be up to par with Lufthansa or any of the Asian Carriers, but I find United has some of the best Premium Class Seats in terms of design. The only downside is that the cloth seats can seem kind of cheap in comparison to the leather seats most other Airlines use in their First Class Cabins.

Not only was the seat a full Lie-Flat seat, it also had tons of storage. It is had to tell from the photo, but that bin located in the side of the seat was probably 2 feet deep and probably could have fit an entire carry on suitcase.

                                         “A Great Place To Store A Crying Enfant”

Also another great feature of the Seat was the fairly large television, with some awesome programming like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Californication, Entourage, Anthony Bourdain, and my new favorite show which I started watching on the Plane, “Downton Abbey” (or as my Brother likes to mockingly call it in his fake British Aristocrat accent, “Downtown Abbey”)

“After Watching Downton Abbey, I Wondered Why I Didn’t Wear A Tuxedo Onto The Plane”

Food: A+

Since the Flight was only 1:45 Hours, there wasn’t time for a full meal, so we were offered snacks. A Flight Attendant came around with a basket of Pop Chips, Toblerone Bars, and Nature Valley Granola Bars.

                                                   “Delicious & Nutritious”

Although most of you are going to laugh at this, I genuinely enjoyed these snacks as they are normal snacks, that normal people eat. Not to mention they were delicious.

Why more Airlines don’t serve food like this, I am not sure.

Overall: A

My expectations were so low for this flight, that I am sure it strongly influenced how I perceived this flight, but overall I really enjoyed the flight.

It was the absolute perfect set up for the rest of my flights on my 45 hour journey to India.

Although the flight experience was not fancy and did not have the luxury or elegance of the upcoming Lufthansa and Thai flights, the United Crew was great, the Seat was great, and the Food was great.

So for a United Flight, I really could not have asked for anything more.

The next installment is when the real fun begins: Lufthansa 747-8 First Class – Washington D.C (IAD) –> Frankfurt (FRA)

-Parag

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United 55,000 Mile Credit Card Offer Still Alive

UPDATE – 12/23/2012

Yesterday, I logged into my Dad’s United account to check if the 7,000 United Miles that were issued as compensation for the India screw up had posted. They had posted and to my surprise I also saw that the targeted 55,000 Mile United MileagePlus Explorer Card offer is back!

Chase and United had pulled the 55,000 Mile offer towads the end of October.

If you are targeted for the offer, you get 50,000 United Miles after spending $1,000 in 3 months and then an additional 5,000 Miles if you add an Authorized User (Can be anyone since they don’t verify the name or ask for SSN).

This offer is definitely targeted because I logged into my Mom’s United account, which only has 913 United Miles, and she was only offered the publicly available offer of 30,000 United Mile.

I am not sure what the mileage cut off is to get the higher targeted offer, but as a data point my Dad’s account only has 7,000 United Miles in it.

To access the targeted offer, simply log into your United.com Account, and if you are targeted, you will see the offer as an ad on the top (as seen in the above image).

If you are targeted for the 55,000 Mile offer, this is a phenomenal deal and I would definitely suggest getting in on it. 55,000 Miles puts you only a mere 5,000 more United Miles away from a free Economy ticket to Europe!

I already got this Card last May and got my 55,000 Miles, so I don’t think I am eligible again but for everyone else, I suggest getting this Card!

United 55,000 Mile Credit Card Offer Still Alive – 10/2/2012

A few months ago, I posted a way to get a 55,000 United Mile Sign Up Bonus for getting the United MileagePlus Explorer Card.

The public offer that was available only offered 25,000 miles, so Chase got mad and emailed me to take it down.

Long story short, a lot of people got in on that deal and earned 55,000 United Miles for doing nothing.

The best part is that there was no Minimum Spend Requirement or anything like that.

Well it seems a similar offer is once again available to the public.

The offer is targeted, so log into your United.com account to see if you have been targeted.

Why You Should Get This Card

While this is an amazing deal, just remember that this Card is issued by Chase, so if you recently signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Hyatt Visa, then I’d wait a month or so before applying just to be safe.

While earlier there was no Minimum Spend Requirement, it seems Chase has caught on and now requires $1,000 Minimum Spend in 3 months.

While it isn’t as good as the last offer, $1,000 in 3 months is extremely easy to achieve.

Also if you add an Authorized User (Can be anyone. No Social Security Number required), you can get an additional 5,000 United Miles!

What Does 55,000 United Miles Get You

It takes 25,000 Miles for a Free United Economy Saver Ticket in the Continental United States, so with this Card you can get at least 2 Domestic Free Flights.

If you are a Husband / Wife and you each got the Card, then that is 2 Free Flights Each (or 4 Free Flights in total).

If you would like to go to Europe for free, that costs 60,000 Miles, so this 55,000 Mile offer would get you literally 91% of the way there. You have to spend $1,000 to get the Miles, so that would be 1,000 more miles. Then the other 4,000 Miles you could earn via Vanilla Reload Cards.

So for 1 Credit Card sign up + $40 in fees on Vanilla Reload Cards, you have a FREE TRIP TO EUROPE!

That is pretty insane!

I had my Parents sign up for this Card a while ago, and combining the 55,000 United Miles from this Card and the 55,000 United Miles from their Chase Sapphire Preferred, along with a couple $8 Netflix offers, they were both able to fly in Business Class to India for free in December.

Normally this would cost upwards of $10,000 a seat, but they are both flying for free thanks to the 120,000 United Miles they earned by signing up for 2 Credit Cards!

Recap

This 55,000 United Miles offer is pretty awesome and I highly suggest everyone take advantage of it.

United Miles are one of the best because they don’t add fuel surcharges (cough British Airways), and they have some great Star Alliance Partners (Lufthansa, Singapore, Swiss, Air Canada), that allow you to use your free miles to literally go anywhere in the World.

As always if you have any questions, I am here to answer them!

-Parag

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UPDATE: The Clusterf%&# That Is United

Update:

After I posted the original post below, people on Twitter sent me messages that the same thing happened to them and that they emailed United 3+ months ago but never heard anything back.

In an effort to make sure that doesn’t happen to me and to help those Twitter Followers get their United issues sorted, we ended up forming a huge chain of Tweets addressing our complaints for @United. Surprisingly it worked and ended up getting @United’s attention. They asked for all of us to send them our case numbers and they said they would look into it.

Well a couple of days ago, I received an email from United informing me that they would be crediting my Dad with 7,000 United Miles and refund the ridiculous $50 Service Fee that I was charged to get his ticket issued.

Does 7,000 United Miles make up for the huge hassle United put us through? Not at all, but it is better than nothing so I am not complaining.

People on Twitter said I should have asked for more compensation and that 7,000 Miles was ridiculously low, but to me it isn’t even about the Miles.

I’d much rather have United save the cost of giving me those 7,000 Miles and instead invest that money in their IT systems so this kind of ridiculous glitch doesn’t happen again to anyone else.

Anyways, I am glad that this whole mess has been settled in a timely manner, and as I talked about below, always call to make sure your Award Ticket has actually been ticketed. This is especially true if you are redeeming your United Miles on a Star Alliance Partner!

Parag


The Clusterf%&# That Is United

My Parents left for India yesterday Afternoon flying on Lufthansa Business Class using 120,000 United Miles each.

Due to lack of availability in Business, I had them originally booked them on some in-direct flights just so they had something locked down. As space opened up this month, I made changes over the phone and got them both booked on the same Chicago – Frankfurt – Bombay flight.

Earlier this week, I went ahead and logged into United.com and checked them in. United.com shows the Lufthansa Confirmation Numbers, so I went ahead and also picked their seats on Lufthansa.

Their tickets on United.com showed the updated Chicago – Frankfurt – Bombay routing, and since I was able to check-in and pick their seats, I thought everything was fine.

I dropped my Parents off at O’Hare Airport yesterday afternoon and drove back into the City. Well about 1 hour after I dropped them off (and about 1 hour until their Departure), my Mom calls me saying that the Lufthansa Check-in Agent is showing that my Dad’s ticket was never updated and was still showing the old routing.

I told my Mom that it doesn’t make any sense since United.com showed the new ticket and confirmation number, plus I was able to check them in without issue.

Well the Lufthansa Agent got on the phone and said there was nothing she could do since the ticket was booked by United, so I had to call United and get this sorted out in the next 45 minutes before their flight was scheduled to leave.

Well unbenounced to me, for my Dad’s ticket, even though I had called and made all the changes over the Phone, the United Agent apparently never issued his ticket and left in place the old routing on the ticket even though United.com showed the new routing.

Anyways, for anyone who has called United without Status, you know that you are almost guaranteed to get your call routed to Asia. Unfortunately I didn’t have a choice, so I quickly got off the highway, ducked into a Starbucks, booted up my Laptop, and phoned United.

Not surprisingly my call got routed to India (which is ironic because that is exactly where I needed to get my Dad…), and I explained what happened and that my Dad’s flight was set to depart in 45 Minutes, so if he could please hurry and re-issue the ticket.

Of course that simple request turned into the Agent putting me on hold for 15 minutes while he looked at all the old information on the reservation.

Finally he said he could reissue the ticket, but IT WOULD BE A $50 CHANGE FEE…

I asked what was the change fee was for since nothing had changed.

He said since the ticket was changed from what was originally booked, there was a fee to re-issue it.

I explained that $50 is not even a real fee, the change fee is actually $75 and that fee had been waived earlier when I made the changes.

The Agent absolutely refused to waive the fee, so I ended up paying the $50 just to not have to argue with him and get the ticket re-issued.

The ticket was re-issued with about 20 minute left to my Dad’s flight, so I called my Dad and told him it should be good to go. The Lufthansa Agent processed it for him, escorted him through security, and held the plane for him so he made it on the flight.

In the process of being on the phone with United, I was tweeting my utter frustration with United on Twitter and United surprisingly picked up my tweet, so they messaged me to help but by that time, the ticket was already re-issued.

How Does This Happen?

As I am digesting the absolute clusterF$%& that transpired yesterday afternoon, I am really trying to figure out how this mess happened in the first place.

While on the phone with United yesterday, I logged in to my Dad’s United account and checked his confirmation, and noticed the following message:

The message reads “ ! A modification has been made to your itinerary. Please contact United Reservations to have your ticket reissued. This reservation was ticketed and confirmed on Mon., Jul. 30, 2012 at 4:07 p.m. Central Time.”

While I suppose it is my fault for not seeing that, it just amazes me that United thinks that this small message suffices as a proper warning that you might go to the Airport and not have a ticket.

I am a fairly proficient with Award Bookings and Tickets, and if I missed this, I can’t imagine normal people who travel on miles once in a blue moon, would see this “warning”.

The worst part is that all the changes that I made to my Dad’s tickets were originally made on the phone, so I don’t know why the ticket wasn’t re-issued then instead of having to call back in again at a later time.

However the most mind boggling part to this whole saga is that even if the ticket wasn’t actually issued, how on earth does United.com show the correct itinerary, allow you to check-in for the flight, pick your seats, and allow you to make it as far as the Airport Check-in Desk, where you then casually find out that you don’t actually have a ticket…

Luckily for my Parents, they had me on call and I conveniently had my laptop in hand, but if this were just normal people, they would have been absolutely screwed.

Just imagine if they were flying United to Frankfurt, and then connecting onto a Lufthansa flight and found out in Frankfurt that Lufthansa didn’t have their ticket!. There is no way they would have been able to contact me and get it sorted out.

Not As Rare As You Think

Although this may sound like some random shitty one time experience, this is far more common than you think especially if you make any changes to your flight.

It happened to The Points Guy when he was going to France in Swiss First Class booked on United Miles. He didn’t even bother with trying to have United fix it, and booked a British Airways First Class Ticket while standing at the United counter at the Airport.

The comments section on his post has 59 comments from people with similar tales…

Similarly on Twitter, a Follower said it has happened to his Parents too.

How To Prevent This

To be honest, I am not really sure how to prevent this because I am still not sure what caused this mess.

My best suggestion is to check your confirmation online and then to be safe, just call United and confirm over the phone that it has been actually ticketed. I’m sure 99% of the time, it will be ticketed and everything will be fine, but you don’t ever want to deal with going to the Airport and finding out you don’t have a ticket.

Recap 

Although United tweeted me, I am going to write them a strongly worded letter this Afternoon. Although I am extremely annoyed that the first United Agent never issued the ticket in the first place, I am FURIOUS that when I called United in an emergency and explained the situation and time constraint, that the Agent casually took their time and then charged me a “$50 Change Fee” when the changes were already confirmed by the last Agent and the fee was waived.

Ridiculous!

I guess if there is a silver lining to this story, it is that other people hopefully will learn from this fiasco and triple check their tickets to make sure they are actually ticketed.

I will keep you updated on what remedies United offers for this situation. At a minimum I would like my $50 back.

Parag