United announces new non-stop flights from San Francisco to New Delhi, Melbourne, and Toronto

This morning, United announced new service from San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The new flights are:

  • San Francisco to New Delhi, India (flight times are difficult though, with arrival in New Delhi at 12:45am and the return leaving New Delhi at 4am).
  • San Francisco to Melbourne, Australia
  • San Francisco to Toronto, Canada

United also announced additional flights and/or year-round service for their Seoul, Auckland, Tahiti, and Amsterdam routes.

United hypes this big announcement and I was hoping for direct flights to Guam, South America, and Africa, as Toronto is already well-serviced by Air Canada, there are currently direct flights between LAX and Melbourne, and there’s already non-stop service from SFO to Mumbai.

That said, will likely try out at least one of these new routes! Will you?

United is kicking customers out of its new Premium Plus cabin without telling them

Recently, I wrote about United’s new Premium Plus cabin which has, to this point, only been available on a limited basis (i.e., you get the fancy seat, but not the increase in service, meals, or products that typically accompanies Premium Economy).

As mentioned in that blog post, if you were a Gold premier member, you could book into the Premium Plus cabin directly at purchase. The caveat was that no one knew when United would start charging for these seats and what would happen if you booked into that cabin.

Well, that question has been answered.

As of December 3rd, United is now charging for Premium Plus for flights that take place after March 30, 2019. On my end, I had 2 flights that I booked in this Premium Plus class without paying: one between SF/LA and Auckland, New Zealand in February 2019 and another between SF and Hong Kong in September 2019.

Today, I checked my reservations and found that for my February flight to New Zealand, I’ll still be in Premium Plus, but for my trip to Hong Kong, I was moved to Economy Plus.

I don’t agree with United’s move here. On my end, when I booked my flight to Hong Kong, I booked it in a 2-4-2 setup, and they allowed me to secure this reservation. They then switched my seat to the 3-4-3 setup, which I did not agree to pay for.

I reached out to United on Twitter, asking them to move me back to my originally selected seat for the Hong Kong flights, but was told that they wouldn’t. United also initially would not give me a refund, but they eventually budged “as a goodwill gesture.”

I still love the product, though, and am excited to fly it again in February.

Review of United’s new Premium Plus seat on the 777-300ER

A few weeks ago, I was flying United direct from San Francisco to Hong Kong. At the time, I was a United Silver premier member (that flight bumped me up to Gold, though!). As a Silver member, I was able to move to Economy Plus for free within 24 hours of my flight, and I considered myself lucky enough when an Economy Plus aisle seat opened up.

But I didn’t realize how lucky I really was.

When I was asked to select a seat, I was a bit confused as the setup was 2-4-2, rather than the typical 3-4-3 setup on this route. I actually thought it was a glitch, but didn’t let that stop me from changing my seat.

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When I got on the plane, I was shocked. It turns out that United is slowly rolling out its Premium Plus product (which is basically the same as Premium Economy). Premium Plus is a class of service between Economy and Business.

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There was a welcome screen telling me the basics — mainly, that one day (soon) United is going to charge extra for these seats, and that they will come with separate pillow/blankets, meals, and service that will make it stand out even more than regular economy.

The seats are new and very comfortable. There is a foot rest in front of you and the recline is much better than economy or Economy Plus. The screen is massive (I’m used to having no screen at all on this route), and there is a really handy storage area that’s perfect for your cell phone, charger, and headphones. Speaking of headphones, the headphones provided by United in Premium Plus were very sharp and comfortable.

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The little touches were nice, too. This included a table extension (pictured below) that made it easy to watch your iPhone/iPad/tablet without needing to hold it up yourself.

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Even though the flight took off at around 1:05pm, I was able to nap comfortably, which I attribute to the recline and comfortable seat. There was plenty of leg room, which I also really enjoyed.

These Premium Plus seats are available on a few routes from San Francisco, including Hong Kong, Auckland, and Taipei.

Overall, I had a great experience. Right now, as a United Gold member, I’m able to move into Premium Plus seats at booking, so I’m taking advantage of it for as long as the seats remain free. I’m not sure if I’ll continue to book these seats once United starts charging a premium for them (it will depend on how much they’re charging), but I’d definitely be temped.

Supreme Court of Spain strikes down Iberia’s “No Show Policy”

Airlines often hate when you don’t board a pre-booked flight, particularly when you use that as a way to get lower fares.

Recently, United Airlines has been sending bills out to customers who have “skipped” flights. As an example, let’s say you want to booked a flight from LA to Houston and the direct flight cost $300. But let’s say you also found a fare that was from LA to Denver with a layover in Houston for $200 (sometimes, airlines will discount fares like this to compete with other airlines). If you booked the LA to Denver flight but got off of the plane in Denver, there’s a chance you could receive a bill from United for additional $100 (the price difference between the LA to Houston fare versus the LA to Denver fare).

According to a ruling issues by the Supreme Court of Spain on November 20, 2018, this practice is now outlawed in the country.

Also outlawed is the ability for an airline to cancel your ticket for failure to get on a specific flight. So, let’s say you booked Barcelona to Madrid to Tokyo. The way Iberia (and other airlines) had it set up, if you missed your Barcelona to Madrid flight, your Madrid to Tokyo flight would be cancelled… but no more. Now, you can miss your first flight and still be ticketed to go from Madrid to Tokyo.

The Supreme Court of Spain argued that it’s simple contract law — the customer performed its side of the contract by paying and Spanish airlines (read: Iberia) needs to perform its part of the contract by letting you fly.

On one hand, I love this. It’s rare that a court will rule in favor of passengers like this, and I think it’s great from a consumer-rights aspect. But on the other hand, I fear this will lead to much higher prices.

Have you ever strategically no show-ed for a flight? Let me know in the comments!

American Airlines keeps getting worse and worse

Less than 2 years ago, I held Gold elite status on American Airlines, despite being based in a non-American hub (San Francisco).

Flash-forward to today, where I’ve not only gotten rid of my American status, but I’ve also canceled two of my American Airlines co-branded credit cards and where I’m actively avoiding the airline.

Why? Well, a few reasons.

The first was American Airlines eliminating its partnership with Alaska Airlines. While I totally understand that this happens, my issue here was that American Airlines announced the change in July 2017, which was a big deal to me, since I had already spent 7 months earning miles on Alaska Airlines (I was going for status on Alaska with my American flights because, up until American cutting the partnership, status on Alaska was basically the same as having as status on American, and vice versa).

Another reason is that customer service on American Airlines has gone completely downhill. One of my favorite travel bloggers, Lucky at One Mile at a Time, has written a ton of blog posts about this (and so have many others in the travel blogging community). If you don’t have status and end up needing to call American, except to speak to someone who is completely unfriendly, unhelpful, and trying to get you off the phone completely.

Third, American Airlines award available has quite recently turned to crap. I had 140,000 miles to use and couldn’t find reasonable routing to Europe or South America over the last 2 years (which I know is such an awesome problem to have, but it’s still an issue). If you want to book something using miles with American, particularly if it’s a “Saver” route, expect to be routed to 2-3 different airports, even if there are more direct flights generally available. Also, when you try to book business class, you’ll often get a mixed cabin award, with the longest flight actually being in economy (so, for instance, I wanted to book a business class flight between SFO and Sydney, and while the rate they wanted to charge me was full-fare business class, only the flight between LAX and SFO was in business, and the flight from LAX to Sydney was in coach).

Finally, American Airlines has completely slashed its credit card benefits and has made it almost impossible for travelers like myself (who find awesome deals) to get anything above Gold status. They even eliminated the ability to earn EQD through their famous Red Aviator card.

Just 2 years ago, I would have ranked American Airlines as the 3rd best in the U.S. (below Alaska/Virgin and Delta). Now, I rank it 6th, below Alaska, Delta, United, JetBlue, and Southwest.

United announces San Francisco to Tahiti flight will be offered year-round

Earlier this year, in an attempt to compete with budget carrier French Bee, United Airlines announced a direct San Francisco (SFO) to Tahiti (PPT) flight, operating from October 2018 through March 2019.

The fares are actually quite decent (as far as trips to Tahiti go), and you can find direct flights on this route from United for as low as $618 round-trip.

According to the United Airlines California President Janet Lamkin:

“We are thrilled to extend this exciting flight to a year-round schedule… For Californians and our customers connecting through San Francisco, this route offers an escape to a little corner of paradise.”

While I’m personally excited for this route (and will be taking it in January!), the initial offer wasn’t ideal, as the hot, rainy season in Tahiti runs from December through March.

Because of this, I was thrilled when United announced this week that the route will now be offered year-round!

There’s no telling if this will be a permanent route yet, so my advice would be to take advantage of the flight while you can. For instance, when I lived on Guam, United announced yearly service to Fiji, and I was lucky enough to be able to take advantage of it before United eliminated it.

From Papeete (PPT), you can easily transfer to Moorea or, for around $400, fly to Bora Bora.

Singapore Airlines announces 4th non-stop U.S. flight

Singapore Airlines has announced that it will have direct flights between Seattle and Singapore. This in addition to non-stop flights between Singapore and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York (Newark).

The direct Seattle to Singapore flight is schedule to start in September 2019 with the following schedule:

  • Seattle – Singapore, 10:40 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.+1, SQ27 Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
  • Singapore – Seattle, 9:25 a.m. – 9:05 a.m., SQ28 Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

The route will be operated by an Airbus A350-900 aircraft with 42 business, 24 premium economy, and 187 economy seats.