Is it worth upgrading to business class on United’s direct flight between San Francisco and Tahiti?


As a member, you now get better savings when you book direct.

United recently started direct service between San Francisco, California and Tahiti, French Polynesia (airport code: PPT).

Earlier this month, I took advantage of the flight, and was able to snag an incredible deal for both flight and 4 nights in an over-water bungalow.

I was able to fly economy over and business back, so wanted to share my experiences in case you’re considering taking the same flight, and don’t know whether the upgrade to business class is worth it. (Unfortunately, I lost some of the pictures I took, so you’ll have to rely on my account below!).

The verdict: It depends.

As a lawyer, “it depends” or “maybe” is perhaps my favorite response to any question. But it’s especially true here.

Economy service, particularly is you are in Economy Plus, is decent. The flight is roughly 8 hours each way, which can be difficult for a business class flight — practically speaking, it meant that after dinner service, there was about 3.5 hours to sleep before breakfast service started. While United offers you the opportunity to skip breakfast (you can tell them before you fall asleep), I’ve found that even with an eye mask and ear plus, I can’t sleep through the smell of cooked food.

On the flight over, you’ll leave SFO in the early afternoon and arrive in PPT at around 8pm, which means that you’ll be sleeping soon after you land, anyway. I did this leg in economy, and am glad I did.

On the way back, you’ll leave at night and land in SFO early in the morning, which means you may benefit more from a bed (particularly if you want to go into work the next morning).

I was a little nervous about the 2-2-2 business setup on the business flight, but the new Polaris seats were really comfortable, and I love the Saks Fifth Avenue products. While I haven’t confirmed this, I think the new SFO to PPT route is pretty coveted and that the flight attendants working it were assigned to the routes based on seniority, so you can expect some pretty great service on the flight.

If your only (reasonable) option for flying to Tahiti is on economy, don’t let that deter you. But if you have the means or found a great deal in business, it’s definitely a nice way to treat yo’ self.

How to save 25% on almost every Hilton booking

If you’re paying full price for a room in the Hilton portfolio (which includes Waldorf Astoria and Conrad), you’re likely paying too much.

That’s because Hilton has a Price Match Guarantee: if you can find the same room for a lower price than what is listed on Hilton.com, Hilton will not only match the lower price, but will beat it by 25%.

The way it used to work was that you’d first need to book the hotel, and then you’d need to send Hilton proof of the lower-price offering. From there, Hilton would review the proof you submitted and then send you its determination as to whether you qualified for the discounted rate. Because you’d often need to book a non-refundable hotel room first, this system wasn’t ideal.

But earlier this year, Hilton began allowing customers to call in advance and get approval on the spot before booking the hotel room. Since discovering this, I’ve booked a number of Hilton stays (and have looked into dozens more) and have almost always found a room that’s cheaper than Hilton.com.

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to get a your hotel room for 25% off:

Step 1: Go to TripAdvisor.com and look up the Hilton property you’d like to stay at

Most people know that TripAdvisor is a great site for looking up hotel reviews, but it now also wants to be the website you use to book your stay. When looking up hotels on TripAdvisor, you’ll see a list of almost a dozen websites (sometimes all at different prices), and the list almost always will include the price you’d pay at Hilton.com.

Step 2: Find a room that has a lower price than what’s listed for Hilton.com

Remember: all it takes is one website where the price is lower than what’s listed on Hilton.com.

Usually, you’ll find that almost every price will match what’s on Hilton.com, but in my experience the last few months, there’s usually one or two random sites listed through TripAdvisor that have a lower price.

Note that the room you book needs to be the exact same as the room you’d be booking through Hilton.com (as an example, if the lower price you find is for a room with a king bed and the only price listed on Hilton.com is for a twin bed, you wouldn’t be able to qualify for this promotion).

Step 3: Call Hilton and ask for the price match + 25% discount

This step is the hardest — you’ll need to call Hilton at 1-800-445-8667, tell them that you’d like to book a room, and that you’ve found a lower price listed on another site.

My impression is that Hilton doesn’t like giving this discount out, so they take around 30-45 minutes to check the website, get internal approval, and offer you a lower rate, which you need to book right then, on the call.

Also, I’ve had a Hilton representative deny my lower fare + 25% off claim, only to call back and have it approved, so be ready to put in some leg work here.

Step 4: Book and get ready for you trip!

Have you used the Hilton Price Match Guarantee? Let me know in the comments.

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.

Qatar Airways offering up to 4 free nights at The Ritz-Carlton Doha with round-trip purchase

One of the coolest Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales this year is with Qatar Airways, who is offering up to 4 complimentary nights at the Ritz-Carlton Doha for round-trip airfare purchase on their website.

To number of nights you get depends on the class of service:

  • Up to 2 nights for economy tickets
  • Up to 3 nights for business class tickets
  • Up to 4 nights for first class tickets

Depending on the routing, you could parlay this into a chance to try out Qatar’s QSuite product (I recently wrote a blog post about how I scored one of these suites for 36,000 miles).

Tickets must be purchased by December 2, 2018 and travel must be complete by March 31, 2019.

If you can’t make these dates works for you, don’t despair, as hotel prices in Doha are surprisingly reasonable (especially when compared to the UAE). A night at the The Ritz-Carlton Doha typically costs around $200/night which, while not cheap, is a bargain compared to other properties.

Will you be taking advantage of this promotion? If so, 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

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!