United MileagePlus miles will no longer expire

Effective immediately, your United MileagePlus miles will no longer expire (and if your miles were set to expire in July/August 2019, United will be re-instating them).

It’s interesting how United is switching its loyalty program to be more and more like Delta’s – first, by introducing dynamic pricing for award tickets and now by eliminating expiration dates for miles earned.

While it may sound good that your miles will never expire, United miles are now worth less because of the switch to dynamic pricing, so the recent changes are a mixed bag. Aside from that, Delta’s SkyMiles have the worst redemption values of all the miles of the major U.S. carriers, so United’s adopting of Delta’s reward model makes me a little nervous.

What are your thoughts on United making it so that MileagePlus miles never expire? Let me know in the comments!

Los Angeles Trip Deal: $448 direct, round-trip from LAX to Tokyo, Japan on United, ANA

An amazing Black Friday deal from ANA and United Airlines! Unlike many of the Black Friday sales, this deal will earn your full premier qualifying mileage with United. There is currently wide-open avaialibility between January and October 2019.

Sample travel dates include:

  • January 24-31
  • February 6-14
  • March 13-24
  • May 8-15
  • And many more

To support Josh Trips, search for travel on Google Flights and book using this link:

BOOK THIS FLIGHT

United offering limited nonstop service between SFO and Barcelona

As a San Francisco-based travel blogger, I’m always on the lookout for new nonstop flights leaving from the Bay Area.

So it was an awesome surprise when this morning, I saw that United will be offering special nonstop service between SFO and Barcelona (airport code: BCN) in February 2019. United will be offering the following flights:

  • February 23 – San Francisco 1:45 p.m. Barcelona 10:25 a.m.+1
  • February 24 – Barcelona 12:50 p.m. San Francisco 4:20 p.m.
  • February 27 – San Francisco 1:45 p.m. Barcelona 10:25 a.m. +1
  • February 28 – Barcelona 12:45 p.m. San Francisco 4:15 p.m.

These flights are being offered as a result of Barcelona hosting the 2019 Mobile World Congress, and will help the Silicon Valley crowd get to/from the event.

Tickets aren’t cheap (I just did a search and it was $2,589 on United) and there is no saver award availability, meaning you’d be paying at least 70,000 miles. If you are cost-sensitive, Level by Iberia offers the best deals to Barcelona from San Francisco (with round-trip, direct flights as low as $308), but this is still a pretty cool offer from United.

H/T: Live and Let’s Fly

San Francisco Trip Deal: $417 direct, round-trip from SFO to Hong Kong on United and Cathay Pacific

United and Cathay Pacific have some pretty amazing flights from San Francisco to Hong Kong right now. Flights start at $417 direct, round-trip, after taxes with open availability between September and December 2018.

This is a great deal to Hong Kong and my favorite time to visit the city, with less heat and humidity.

To find this deal, use my Expedia link to search for flights between SFO and HKG.

My experience with United’s new test boarding process

A day before a flight from LAX to Honolulu, I received an e-mail from United letting me know that the airline would be testing out a new boarding process for my flight. And a few hours later, they sent a follow-up text.

 

 

 

As a travel blogger, even though I am generally hesitant of change, I was excited to be part of this test. There have been studies in the past that boarding planes starting with window seats, then middle, then aisle creates a quicker, more efficient boarding process, so I had always wondered my more airlines hadn’t implemented this system.

Notably, at least in the test I took part in, for priority passengers (i.e., anyone in first/business, anyone with Premier status, and anyone with a United MileagePlus credit card) the boarding process was the same as it was before.

There were still lanes and signs for boarding zones 1 and 2, and passengers in these groups lined up as usual (although the e-mail explicitly stated that the new boarding process would eliminate the need to stand around, seasoned travelers – particularly on United – are hard-pressed to give up this first-come-first-on-board habit). There were no signs for zones 3 and above, though, and having seen a previous flight board that was also part of this test, it appears that United is considering eliminating these lanes.

I didn’t get to experience what it was like boarding in a later group, which was great for my psyche, though not ideal for this blog post. But I will say that, having taken roughly a dozen United flights between California and Hawaii, the boarding process went much smoother than usual. In fact, we were able to take off around 10 minutes early.

That said, I can’t say if the enhanced boarding experience was caused by the test boarding process or if it was a combination of a great crew and experienced travelers (there are a lot of United employees on this flight who were on standby, leading me to think this may have helped with the boarding process as well).

Overall, I am happy that United is testing out this boarding process, given the studies supporting it and had a pleasant experience myself.

United Airlines offering 2 free checked bags on flights between U.S. and China/Hong Kong

Matching some Asian competitors, including Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, starting today, United Airlines is offering 2 free checked bags for passengers flying between the U.S. and China/Hong Kong.

This policy also matches Delta’s for these destinations (although Delta’s free checked baggage policy applies to all of Asia for flights departing from/arriving in the U.S.).

United’s Basic Economy: Charging $25 one-way to earn miles towards Premier status

I am not a fan of the new “Basic Economy” option being offered by United, Delta, and American Airlines. Though it’s being presented a way for fliers to save money (Delta, for example, advertises it as Basic Economy: Save with a Low Fare) my guess, and experience so far, is that fares for economy will remain the same, but with consumers paying extra for experiences they once took for granted.

This happened to me yesterday when I was booking my flights to Charleston for the Great American Eclipse. I found a relatively good fare from CHS to SFO for around $180 after taxes. I found this fare on Google Flights, but when I went to book it on United, it let me know that it was Basic Economy. With Basic Economy, I’d be without the following options:

  • Possibility to upgrade my seat
  • Selecting a seat before boarding
  • Earning PQM (Premier qualifying miles which go towards United Premier status)
  • Bringing aboard a  full-sized carry-on bag

The full list of what you’re giving up by taking a Basic Economy flight on United can be found HERE.

Although I am not sure how pricing works for other routes, I was given a $25 one-way option ($50 round-trip) to switch my ticket to regular Economy, bringing the total up to $205. Begrudgingly, I accepted this option; by earning miles on this particular flight, I will secure Premier Silver status on United until 2019.

For whatever it’s worth, Delta’s options are not much better – they charged me $20 to go from Basic Economy to Main Cabin for my flight from SFO to CHS, for basically the same benefits. I paid this too, mostly because I wanted to selected a seat before boarding and don’t want to risk being in the middle.

I believe that Basic Economy is a race to the bottom for American airlines, which already lag so far behind many foreign airlines in service. But, unfortunately, I also believe this is a change that will stay, that other airlines (Alaska, Southwest) will follow suit, and also that airlines may begin offering basic fares in business class (which, depending how it’s implemented, I could see myself getting behind).