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You know how we feel about United airlines here on this blog. They squeezed every single iota of loyalty out of us during the ill-fated Smisek years. Our 1.6 MILLION miles meant nothing to United. So we stopped flying United three years ago.

Is it time to forget and forgive? Well, not exactly. But sometimes we just fly whatever airline will get us where we need to be when we need to be there.

The world colluded to put us in United Polaris across the pond to Frankfurt.

The United pods on a 777-200 are nice. They are easier to manage than the Virgin Atlantic pods and don’t require shenanigans to get into bed mode. In practice, that means with expedited meal service you can get right to pretending to sleep.

Saks Fifth Avenue? Ha ha ha. United and dime stores.

Pod view with a large screen entertainment system running linux

Mimosa and propaganda

On this trip the crew was great, the wine was passable, the flight was bumpy and we arrived early. Well, what you gonna do.

Then there was the indignity of the bus at Frankfurt. No no no no.

Anyway, you get what you overpay for on United Polaris!

No Fly Noël 2016: Kinda

December 3, 2016

Regular NPS readers and lurkers know all about “no fly July” and “no fly Noël.” The idea is simple. Stop. Rest. Think. Read. Get out of the hubbub of everyday modern life, sit by the fire, and exist.

This year’s No Fly Noël is much needed as 2016 was about the most stressful year on record for NPS in 17 years. It was a great year in the end, but boy are we glad it is over.

So, how did the year look? Kinda like this (according to the tripometer).

The 2016 NPS tripometer

The 2016 NPS tripometer

Travel according to the new regimen is trending nicely low. The goal for 2016 was 20 trips and we came in 15% high at 23. Well, almost. Looks like we have to throw off the chains of No Fly Noël and hit the road one more time in December to strategize with the corporate overlords. Or maybe that is overlord with the corporate strategists? Something like that anyway. Stay tuned for those data. (And make that 24 trips and a 20% overrun.)

In other news this year, the Elevate Gold status on Virgin America is a good thing. We switched the firehose from United to Virgin America in 2014 and there is no looking back. NPS likes main cabin select. NPS also likes using points to upgrade to Europe. How that will work going forward is a good question!

Fly too much?  Try Virgin America.

Fly too much? Try Virgin America.

Of course since NPS is based at Dulles, there is no avoiding United. Honestly, they did better this year. Flying United was not great, but it did not completely suck. So maybe the Smisek effect is finally washing out.

And then there is Kimpton which remains the NPS go to hotel chain of choice even after the disaster that is the San Francisco Kimpton property crater. Years ago we helped to start the Kimpton Intouch program (which is now the Kimpton Karma program). We do what we can to stay qualified without calling in air support from Mike Defrino. You go Kimpton!

Inner Circle?  Why yes, we'll have some

Inner Circle? Why yes, we’ll have some

Today’s flight from Dulles to Boston was on time. The wifi worked. The crew was not surly.

Good job United! You should have ditched Jeff Smisek years ago.

Sadly the chaotic united boarding scrum had people out in the hallway as usual to board. Somebody should invent a civilized boarding system.

Then there was Hertz. Not on the board (not enough employees to ready cars). A 25 minute, 40 car line of cars to exit the facility. No process. no adult supervision. Whoever manages the Boston Hertz at the airport should be fired.

Under the black cloud of a corruption allegation (federal case), Jeff Smisek resigns from United.

NY Times article.

Good. United has nowhere to go but up.

United-Smisek

storm_mini1

After a salubrious summer respite from travel, it’s back on the road in a serious way come mid-September. This is good and it’s bad. Let me explain:

1. Washington, DC = GOOD because Kimpton (The Donovan)

2. Boston = BAD because United; GOOD because Kimpton (Hotel Marlowe)

3. Bloomington, Indiana = BAD because United; GOOD because Grant Street Inn

4. NY = BAD because United; GOOD because Kimpton (The Muse)

5. Chicago = BAD because United; GOOD because Kimpton (Palomar)

6. Palo Alto = GOOD because Virgin America; ??? because new hotel

7. Seattle = GOOD because Virgin America; GOOD because Kimpton (Alexis)

8. Pittsburgh = BAD because United; GOOD because Kimpton (Monaco)

9. Denver = BAD because United; ??? because new hotel

10. Las Vegas = BAD because United; BAD because Las Vegas just sucks

11. Hartford = BAD because United; ??? because new hotel

Anyway, we can conclude that flying United is unavoidable when you are stuck flying out of Dulles. Too bad United just sucks. At least the cross country flights are mostly with Virgin America!

We can further conclude that Kimpton is a fantastic hotel chain.

And finally we can conclude that Las Vegas is a living hell, equal parts Disney, porn, and Walmart shoppers.

At each destination, we’ll seek out great cocktails and fantastic food.

Follow along as we blog up the 11 trips. Should be fun.

No fly July had to end sometime, and August 6th was it! Back in the air, I was forced to fly United today. Argh.

First some good news. Checkin was smooth, efficient and had no massive line for the first time in memory. Wow! TSApre worked as advertised. And Dulles Terminal C has had a major facelift and looks way better than it used to. The United Red Carpet club people were nice too.

Then it was off to the gate for some bad news. Ridiculous boarding process angst incited by gate agents in a bad mood (boo). And get this, even though the FAA says you can carry on instruments, the awful gate agent woman would not let me. “You must check one,” she demanded. (I have a violin and mandolin with me.) “We could be fined $2000,” said another. Just unhelpful, unfriendly people. Why the hell are they in customer service? I mean really.

Fortunately, the flight attendants told me to just bring my instrument on and ignore the gate agents. They were actually friendly and helped me sneak it on. (I did have visions of the gate agent getting on the plane and making a scene, but fortunately that did not happen. I only relaxed after we pushed back.)

HEY UNITED GATE AGENTS, READ THIS.

The rest of the flight was fine.

So as usual, United can’t win for losing. They need to clean house of the employees who do not belong in customer service.

Here at NPS we have done what we can to avoid flying United airlines since they have such terrible operations. After loyally flying 1.6 million miles and over a decade as a 100K, we’re done.

Today, both flights we were forced to take to get some business done had bugs.

On the flight out, the highly advertised wifi did not work. Ever.

The venerable, um, I mean nonexistent wifi.

The venerable, um, I mean nonexistent wifi.

It’s 2015. Wifi works everywhere else.

On the flight back, we started with the classic drip delay, supposedly caused by weather. A drip delay is what happens when United (and only United as far as we can tell) delays the flight by just a few minutes…multiple times. The first three drips were: 14, 11, and 9 minutes each. We would really just rather learn this all at once.

But the best was yet to come. The inbound aircraft landed, so they called us to the gate to line up. But there was no pilot. The last drip was a hefty one hour! (That is, assuming this was actually the last delay…we’re not on the plane yet.)

United airlines sucks at operations

United airlines sucks at operations

United airlines sucks. Fly any other airline.

It is unbelievable that Jeff Smisek is still the CEO.