SFO is shutting down its main runway for 20 days with significant delays expected

SFO will be shutting down its main runaway for 20 days beginning on September 7th, prompting United to send out a text offering free ticket changes to San Francisco travelers.

According to the text from United, “Delays of 30 to 45 minutes on average are expected for all flights after 9 a.m., with some flights delayed by up to 2 hours.”

I had no idea about this planned construction but I lucked out (*knocks on wood*), having booked a trip leaving SFO on September 6th. However, now I will definitely expect a delay on my flight home on September 11th.

If you have a choice, try to book through Oakland or San Jose while construction is ongoing. Otherwise, be prepared for an average of a 30-45 minute delay (though, of course, you’ll have to be at the airport waiting just in case you’re on one of the few flights that takes off on time!).

United gave me a $2,000 travel voucher to take a later flight

Well, I feel like hit the lottery with United recently.

In the wake of the 2017 “incident” on a United flight when a passenger was left bloody and bruised for failing to give up his seat, United introduced a new policy where they would compensate passengers with up to $10,000 in travel vouchers to take later flights. Their logic is that with offers that high, they’ll never need to forcibly remove a passenger again (and they also changed their policy for allowing that to happen in the first place).

I’m happy to say that a few weeks ago, I was the beneficiary of this policy and was given a $2,000 travel voucher to take a later flight.

I was on the last flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco, having just attended my 10 year (!) law school reunion. I was, as usual, first in line for the Zone 1 boarding group, when I heard a United announcement that they were taking volunteers for a later flight. I asked the person behind me to watch my bags, went up, and found out they were offering $500 plus hotel for the night, but it would require flying out at 7pm the next night. I was also told that my ability to get the voucher wasn’t guaranteed, as I would need to wait for everyone to board to see if they really needed my seat.

I hate checking luggage and knew that if I boarded last, there would be no place for my overhead luggage. Also, flying out at 7pm wasn’t appealing, especially because I had to work (remotely) on Monday and they wouldn’t guarantee a late check-out at the hotel. So, I told the gate agent that I didn’t think I was interested and he offered me $600. I told him I’d think about it.

About 5 minutes later, the offer went up to $1,000 and I decided that was good enough for me, so I grab my bags and ran over. But, to my delight, on my way to the desk, the gate agent announced that it had gone up to $2,000 and I let him know right away that I would take it.

The $2,000 was on the same conditions as before – I had to wait for the plane to board and there were about 6 other people who volunteered. After the plane boarded, the gate agent started calling the 6 of us waiting by our names. First, there was a couple and the gate agent let them know that their seats were needed (they were thrilled). Then they called a single traveler who was told they would not need his seat and that he should board. I was beyond nervous. About a minute later, my name was called and I was told that they needed my seat – I’m pretty sure I let out a gay gasp of excitement.

Although there was a ~6am PHL to SFO flight, I was told it was full and that I would need to be on the 7pm flight (and that the only seat available was middle and in the back). So, throughout the night, I kept checking Google Flights and at around 11pm, I saw there was an opening in Economy Plus (although a middle seat) on the 6am flight. I called United right away, they booked me on it, and instead of landing in SF at 11pm on Sunday night, I got in around 8am on Monday morning.

I was trying to decide how to use my travel voucher – mostly deciding between using it to pay for my flights throughout the next year or to use it on something more extravagant. Ultimately, I decided to treat myself after finding a ~$2,500 business class fare sale between San Francisco and Europe and book a trip to Mallorca via Frankfurt in United’s Polaris business class.

There’s only one other time that I’ve made out better with airline compensation – when Delta paid me $2,400 in cash and three nights hotel to delay my flight to Mexico.

Something to keep in mind with the United vouchers is that you can’t use them for non-United flights, even if you can book them through the United platform. So for my flight to Mallorca, I book the business class flights to and from Frankfurt using the voucher and then booked my flight to Mallorca on Lufthansa separately. But it was a small price to pay for an almost complimentary business class ticket.

What’s the most amount of compensation that you’ve received from an airline? Let me know in the comments!

United Airlines devalues miles, eliminates award charts

United has announced that beginning November 15, 2019, they are eliminating award charts and instead using dynamic pricing, similar to Delta’s mileage program, where the price to book an award ticket changes based on availability, demand, and pricing.

As an example, currently if you wanted to travel one-way in economy from the U.S. to Europe using United MileagePlus points, you know that it would cost you 30,000 miles. However, with the new dynamic system, you have no way of knowing in advance how much it will cost (a Delta award ticket using dynamic pricing for a similar flight can be between 25,000 and 130,000 miles, with most tickets coming in closer to the latter).

This move devalues miles for MileagePlus members and also hurts the value of Chase points, if used to transfer points into this program.

The good news is that you have until November 15th to burn miles currently in your account, which is what I’m hoping to do.

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.

4 reasons why United should allow emotional support peacocks on its flights

Recently, a woman tried to board a United Airlines flight leaving from Newark Liberty International Airport with her emotional support peacock, but the airline denied the bird entry on the flight.

Below are 4 reasons why United should consider revising its policy and allowing emotional support peacocks on board.

They are majestic as hell

In all of the reporting following the recent incident, no one — not even United — has denied how freakin’ majestic these beautiful creatures are.

Nature’s drag queen, the peacock struts about like it’s the cock of the walk and for good reason.

I’m guessing United never even considered that the peacock could use the aisle as a fashion runway, providing free on-board entertainment for its customers (or maybe that’s why they blocked the peacock, since it could take away from their in-flight entertainment revenue).

It would would serve as an emotional support peacock for all passengers

In recorded history, no one has ever seen a peacock and said, “Oh no, a peacock!” Instead, people smile, their hearts warm up, and some even cry tears of joy when looking at this majestic AF (see above) animal.

Allowing such a beautiful creature on a plane would bring joy to otherwise stressed and anxious passengers.

Some already have black eyes, making it easier to conceal typical United customer service policies

We all know how you like to give your passengers black eyes, United, so it might excite you to know that some peacocks come tailored-made with black eyes already in place. This lowers your workload and allows the airline focus on providing other passengers with the type of service we’ve come to expect from United.

What are you, my doctor?

Who is United to say that emotional support dogs are okay but emotional support peacocks are not? Where did they get their medical degree from? Did they examine me?

Maybe I had a dog-related trauma and only feel safe when accompanied by a peacock. Or maybe I was raised by peacocks and need to be around them to find any sense of belonging in the world. Both are sensible and all-too-common reasons why people may need an emotional support peacock, and my reasons for having one should be between me and my doctor.

Do you agree with United’s policy? Let me know in the comments!