@United vs @USAirways – the grass isn’t always greener

Okay, I’ll admit it, I have been wishy-washy this year when it comes to airline loyalty.  It took only 1 international flight on United a few weeks ago to convince me that the grass isn’t always greener!

blogged earlier about my switch from US Air Chairman status to United Gold Premier w/the hopes of achieving United 1K in 2012.  Well, I’ve ditched that idea and I’m actually sticking with US Air.  For real this time!

My United trip from CHS – ORD – BRU 

On the flight from CHS to ORD, the regional jet had old cloth seats with no first class option.  As of late last year, all US Air flights from CHS have leather seats and first class on RJs.  At least the United flight from CHS to ORD was on time and uneventful.

Once in ORD, I made use of the lounge while I waited for my flight – mind you – when I told them I was Gold Premier traveling coach to BRU, I was denied access to the lounge.  When I showed them my US Airways Chairman Card, miraculously I was granted access.  So United Gold Premiers traveling coach on United International flights have no lounge access.  Star Alliance Gold members flying international on United who show their membership card can have access. That makes no sense…but whatever…I got in.

Since I was given Gold Premier Status by United, I didn’t have any upgrade certificates (that’s fine, I didn’t expect them) but because of United’s computer software upgrade, Star Alliance Mileage Upgrades weren’t being honored by United so I had no way to upgrade other than to pay cash.  They offered an upgrade from ORD to BRU for $859 from coach to business class and there were 4 open seats. Who pays that much to upgrade?

The plane was dirty with a capital D! The flight attendant said it was soda. I”m not so sure….

Dirty United Plane

I was seated two rows behind the bulk head in coach (a huge mistake on an overnight flight – beware of babies in bassinets! ) The child who was seated in front of me spent more than half the flight hanging over my seat and disturbing me.  After several requests to the parents to keep the kid out of my row without any success I asked another flight attendant if she could talk with them.  Her response – no. Apparently it’s not their job to ask parents to keep kids in their seat.  Ironically the seat belt sign was on.  Dear Parents, please control your kids!

Next, after service in coach started I needed to use the restroom.  Since I was two rows behind the bulkhead, that also meant I was two rows behind the bathroom.  I went to use it and a flight attendant had the most unreal reaction.  I told her the aisle was blocked by the cart in the back and she didn’t care.  She said “I’m going to put a sign on the door saying business class only.” And in fact, she did!  She put a hand written sign that said business class only.  Never seen that before.  Furthermore, she made an extra effort throughout the rest of the flight to keep coach passengers out – even a woman who looked like she was about 90 and could barely walk –  a passenger who was in business class actually told her to let the 90 year old use the bathroom.  About 5 people applauded.

LHR – IAD – CHS 

My flight from LHR to IAD was delayed. Why? Because there was an equipment change.  The new plane had a different seating configuration which meant people who paid for Economy Plus exit row seats weren’t in the exit.  People who paid for Economy Plus aisle seats were in the middle .  It was a disaster.  Luckily the crew had a great sense of humor and tried to make the best of things. We sat on the ground for about an hour while people complained and played musical chairs.

The flight was okay – nothing horrible – but the plane was old and needed some TLC!  I did hear a ton of the people in Business Class complain about the equipment change because apparently the new plane had really old business class seats and had a 2-3-3 configuration. The original plane would have had the new business class “pods”.  That’s a bummer of a change!

Summary

There was absolutely nothing good about my flights on United.  The Gold status I was given – yes, given – by United did nothing for me.  The planes were old and dirty.

So what’s the moral of the story?  1 – US Airways isn’t so bad, 2 – United isn’t so great, 3- if you have the top level of status with one airline, don’t switch.

So the next time I get the crazy idea to switch loyalty – someone please stop me!

 

P.S. – now I have 9,378 United Miles and no idea what to do with them!  Any ideas?

 

UPDATE:

After calling United, I learned that my ticket was ticketed before my Gold Premier Status went into effect. That is why I was charged for Economy Plus.   I requested a refund, but was not given one.  However, I was given a free club day-pass for all the confusion in ORD at the club.  They confirmed that Gold Premier does have access to the Lounge on international flights.

I have sent an email to United asking them to reconsider the refund of the Economy Plus fees.  We’ll see what happens.

23 Comments on "@United vs @USAirways – the grass isn’t always greener"

  1. Premier Gold on United has lounge access on same day international flights.

  2. F&*@ United and their upgrades….use up your miles on Star Alliance partner’s flight while you still can. That’s exactly what I am doing!!

  3. The woman in the lounge didn’t seem to think so the day I was there. But good to know that Premier Gold should have access.

  4. did you pay for E+? If not, the United gold did give you something…

  5. @Joe – yes, I paid for Economy Plus. About $210 round-trip.

  6. Each one of those flights sounds worse than any of my 70+ on United in the past few years, I guess I’ve been lucky.

  7. Premier Gold gets free Economy Plus.

  8. @ Kris, Maybe I have terrible luck!

  9. @ Kris – so essentially I got screwed. Wonder if the software upgrade had an impact? They billed my credit card.

  10. If the pickets star Premier Gold or Star Gold, it makes no sense whatsoever, if you booked it before you technically had status it makes sense, otherwise it makes no sense whatsoever. Email or call United and see what they have to say about the charge, but I’ve never had a problem with upgrades or E+ as Gold.

  11. Wow, what happened there? If the ticket says Premier/Star Gold……

  12. @Kris – I’m on w/United now. Looks like the status wasn’t in effect when I bought the tix. That’s why I paid for Economy Plus. She’s going to see if she can refund it. We’ll see what happens!

  13. It looks like my ticket was ticketed before my Gold Premier Status went into effect. That’s why I ended up paying for Economy Plus. No refund, unfortunately.

    She did apologize for my status not being recognized by the woman in the Lounge. She offered me a free day pass to make up for it. So that was very nice!

  14. I don’t think and luck is involved, but good luck in getting that money back.

  15. Your story reminded me so much like my last two summer trips to Zurich on UA (IAD-ZRH) in Economy. Plane was dirty, broken armrest and TV screen trim, etc. But UA was also very nice to us on the return putting us up in a great D.C. hotel due to a mechanical delay in Zurich (making us miss our connection in D.C.).

  16. johnmoorenow | April 26, 2012 at 3:07 am |

    Two ideas for the 9,378 miles. 1) Top your balance off with a transfer from your Chase SP for a one way ticket, or 2) Donate the miles… https://secure.unitedmileageplus.com/CharityMilesSSO.jsp?SID=8DB5E2998135441BA988C9FFDBEB5DF6

    United has some wonderful charities that would welcome the miles with open arms.

    Gold Premier qualifies for Club access on any ticketed class which looks to have been clarified above. If you would like to try for a refund as it was a timing issue on receiving complimentary E+ with your complimentary status match, I would log an email into: [email protected] …I would suggest asking straightaway for 10,000 miles for a $200 travel voucher. Good Luck.

  17. I like the idea of donation!

  18. johnmoorenow | April 26, 2012 at 3:26 am |

    On choosing a loyalty program, I was faced with the same decision a few years back. My strategy was to achieve 1K on United and Senator on Lufthansa. I flew Lufthansa for Europe and India and switched over to United for Asia. The 6 SWU’s covered me well for upgrades on United; whereas, on Lufthansa, complimentary upgrades were my friend. I learned quickly that there were few Senator’s in the Chicago market which was a plus coupled with me reverse flying. On the days when the vast majority of European based Senators went to fly to the US (Sunday), I was flying to Europe. My chances for an upgrade were much improved. With bonuses EQM’s and the occasional business class ticket, it was easy to maintain status on both.

    Thai’s Gold at 50K Qualifying is an attractive offering, but the invitation Platinum would be better yet. How about trying a combo US Airways + Thai for a year? Maybe this could be the best of two worlds. Also, I still have my Diners Club, so topping off my Thai account is a great redemption option too. Am I the only one who still has a DC?

    Safe Travels.

  19. If they won’t refund your e+ fee, I’d file a DOT complaint, watch how quickly you get a refund.

  20. Sounds like you had a terrible experience. I used to be a US CHP, but I switched to UA years ago. What you experienced, IMO, is not typical.

    Regarding the lounge, I’m not sure what your issue was. If you simply tell them you’re International coach, you won’t get in. Nothing special about that. Star Gold for same day international travel gets in. NOt sure what the problem was. US is the same way…Chairman’s on an interntaional coach ticket doesn’t get lounge access, if I remember.

  21. If you reached status after buying a ticket the SOP is to have the Res agent re-enter the number then your status will refresh.

    UA gold gets Access on *Alliance lounges for Intl departures.

    The front Lav’s are typically reserved for Business if they are adjacent to the business class section.

    Never ever seat in or near a bulhead durng an intl flight unless you have a sleep-aid and noise cancelling headphones.

  22. @JohnMooreNow – I think even my mom has gotten rid of her Diners Club card. I like the idea of splitting between Thai and US…that might be an idea for next year if US is still in Star Alliance 🙂

    I have also at times considered Lufthansa. I like your strategy on that one!

  23. Premier Gold members get Star Gold status, which is the same Star Gold status you have with US Airways. It’s that Star Gold status that gets you into domestic lounges on an international journey, not the Premier Gold status. You might have had better luck with using the other term (I’ve seen several UA/CO agents get confused about the new names).

    When did you pay for E+? If you paid for E+ at the time of ticketing before you had Premier Gold, then it sounds like you should have paid for it. I would have waited until after the status match to get it waived.

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