We are the parents of Frequently Flying author, Darren Booth. We are so saddened and grief-stricken to let you know that he passed away on January 4th. We know he would like to thank Boarding Area, of which he felt so honored to be part of the blogging “family”, and especially to all his readers for your support and comments, both pro and con. Flight and travel were his absolute passion. We take comfort in knowing that his final trip at the end of November into December was to his beloved Australia. And so we wish our dear son much “love and light” on his final “flight”.

Sharon & Larry Booth

P.S. FrequentlyFlying will be discontinued. Please know all of you are in our hearts, and we thank BoardingArea for helping us with this final blog. Darren would be so pleased.

Posted by BoardingArea admin | 135 Comments

Today, United Airlines introduced limited-edition collectible Amenity Kits for passengers traveling in BusinessFirst through March 1, 2014. Each tin highlights one of United’s domestic hubs, and will reportedly contain the same Philosophy amenity items that are currently found in the BusinessFirst amenity kit. They also promote the “flyer friendly” campaign.

New collectible United Airlines amenity tins

New collectible United Airlines amenity tins

The blurb on the United Hub website says that they’ll be both for BusinessFirst and Global First passengers, but the presser simply highlights BusinsessFirst. Whichever is correct, I do actually hope they keep the currently stellar Global First Amenity Kit. In any case, you can be sure that I’ll be collecting them all, and will offer a proper review here on the blog.

Turkish Airlines also has a similar unique collection of amenity tins, I wonder if Formia designed United’s?

I’ve been offline for more than a week and I (and Frequently Flying), will be back next week in full-force. For those who have emailed and left comments awaiting moderation, I’ll get to them ASAP. Also, a special thanks goes out to @bta7 for bringing these kits to my attention via Twitter.

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.

Related:

Amenity Kit Reviews

Forbes Lists World’s 7 Best Amenity Kits

The Cost and Allure of Airline Amenity Kits

TravelPlus Amenity Bag Award Winners

Posted by Darren | One Comment

I was hunting for a certain picture in my iPhoto album earlier and paused several times when I passed by each of my trips on United’s Premium Service (p.s.) Boeing 757s flying between New York’s JFK Airport and Los Angeles or San Francisco.

As you’re probably aware, United completed the redesign of the p.s. fleet earlier this month, and all aircraft are now configured with lie-flat seats in the BusinessFirst cabin. It’s certainly an upgrade, but if there’s one cradle seat and cabin I’m going to miss, it’s definitely the old p.s. business class offering.

Seat 9A on United's "old" p.s.

Seat 9A on United’s “old” p.s.

United p.s. row 9

United p.s. row 9

The exit row (row 9) as pictured above was, of course, the most sought after seat location when flying in business class. And while there was a first class section on these aircraft, I’ve heard about several folks who declined an upgrade since they preferred the space and overall comfort of row 9.

Row 9 legroom

Row 9 legroom

It was pretty much a one-of-a-kind exit row, and I doubt that we’ll ever see anything like it again.

United's old p.s. business class cabin

United’s old p.s. business class cabin

My selfie with a p.s. bird

My selfie with a p.s. bird

R.I.P. old p.s. (2004-2013). You’re probably the only cradle seat that I’ll fondly miss.

I’ll likely be offline for most of the next few days enjoying Christmas with my family, and I hope your holidays are festive and enjoyable, too.

Merry Christmas!

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.

Related:

Premium Transcon Bonus Mile Offers from American and United

American’s 3-Cabin Premium Transcon A321s Now Appearing Online

First United Reconfigured Premium Service 757 Takes to the Skies

JetBlue Intros ‘Mint’ Premium Service with Amazing Fares

Posted by Darren | 10 Comments

It’s still quite the workhorse for Delta Air Lines today, and appearing below in this installment of Vintage Airline Seat Maps is the original seating layout for the airline’s “Super 80” MD-88s first delivered in 1987.

Besides the amount of cabin real estate the rear galley occupied, there’s not too much to note about this bird.

You’d find me in row 3 in first class, and definitely in the forward section of coach since I love how quiet this aircraft was (is) during takeoff being so far forward of the engines.

Where would you sit?

Delta's Super 80 seating

Delta’s Super 80 seating

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.

Related:

Delta Air Lines DC-8-60 Seat Map

Delta Air Lines DC-10 Seat Map

Delta Air Lines L-1011-250 TriStar Seat Map

Delta Air Lines L-1011-500 Seat Map

More Vintage Airline Seat Maps

Posted by Darren | 5 Comments

As you’re undoubtedly aware, it’s nearing the end of the qualifying year for 2014 airline and hotel elite status with December 31 quickly approaching. And for the first time in, well, forever, I’m either dropping tier levels or losing status completely in all of my travel loyalty programs.

MileagePlus cards pre-2012

MileagePlus cards pre-2012

If I were reading this post, say, two or more years ago, and knew it was from the “future me,” I’d be in an absolute panic about not requalifying for my beloved status. But today I’m not, and I don’t care that in my four primary airline and hotel programs I’m falling from:

  • United Premier 1K to Premier Platinum
  • American Platinum to General Member
  • Hilton Gold to Silver
  • Club Carlson Gold to General Member

Platinum on United is still above average, especially for my travel needs, and Summer (aka Mommy Points) posted a great piece yesterday about her thoughts and experiences as a Platinum this year. Plus, Scott over at Hack My Trip offers up individual posts by airline titled, “Is Status Worth It?” Here’s his case for United.

After next year, I’m sure I’ll fall back on my lifetime Premier Gold status, for which I’m thankful and happy to have, but it isn’t an absolute need.

But let me get back to why I don’t care so much about losing status with airlines and hotels. In addition to the reasons for snapping out of my upgrade phobia, elite status junkie phase, and for more recent things that have me questioning taking a booked trip, it’s because of the changing landscape of the industry itself.

It’s the introduction of an annual spend requirement on Delta and United (tick tock, American fliers), the abundance of loyalty program devaluations (too many to list), the ease of getting similar elite perks by holding the right credit card, being able to pay for elite services individually, and so forth and so on.

If you’ve attended the Chicago Seminars or Frequent Traveler University (any location) the past couple of years, both Randy Petersen and Steve Belkin often discuss many of these changes and their impact to those of us in the “hobby” of collecting miles and points.

I’m bowing out of the mileage/mattress running game for elite status as a result of this travel loyalty program evolution. It’s absolutely wonderful to have the upgrades and other perks, and I’ve enjoyed them for a couple of decades, but I’m done now.

I’ll certainly still be collecting and redeeming miles and points, but I’m going to play the game by my rules, not those of the airlines and hotels.

Are you throwing in the towel?

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.

Related:

Confessions of an Elite Status Junkie

Buh-Bye Upgrade Phobia: Rediscovering the Joy of Coach Travel

Pondering United Premier Platinum over Gold for 2014

United Premier Gold Elite Status Wins over Platinum, Unless…

Posted by Darren | 19 Comments

Both American Airlines and United are offering up to 15,000 bonus award miles for each paid roundtrip on premium transcontinental nonstop flights between New York’s JFK airport and Los Angeles (AA and UA) or San Francisco (UA only).

Besides American excluding San Francisco, both offers are effectively the same where tickets purchased for travel January 7, 2014 through March 31, 2014 will earn bonus miles based on the fare class purchased.

United premium transcon offer

United’s bonus offer (click to register)

American premium transcon offer

American’s bonus offer (click to register)

The cheapest economy fare classes on each airline aren’t eligible for the bonus (O and Q on American;  T, L, K, G, N on United), but definitely register even if you don’t think you’ll have any qualifying flights. You never know when irregular operations might have you rebooked into a higher fare class.

American is tying the promotion to the introduction of their new Airbus A321s entering the JFK-LAX market in January. Seth over at The Wandering Aramean got a tour of this pretty new bird yesterday at JFK. It’ll be at LAX tomorrow and American sent me an invite to attend, but I can’t make it down sadly. American is now the only airline flying the premium transcon routes with a true first class section separate from business, though JetBlue has a swanky new “Mint” offering starting in June 2014.

AA's A321T (Source: American Airlines)

AA’s A321T (Source: American Airlines)

On United, all premium service (p.s.) Boeing 757s have completed their cabin reconfigurations as of earlier this month. Each aircraft has 28 lie-flat BusinessFirst seats, 42 Economy Plus seats and 72 in regular economy.

Registration is required before travel with each airline, and the bonus can be earned an unlimited amount of times during the promotion. To sign up for the offer on American (promo code TR15K), click here. And for United (promo code 59062), click here.

I don’t believe Delta has matched this offer, but they are offering double miles and MQMs on certain flights out of Seattle. United has sort of matched, though the date range is a bit different and PQMs aren’t doubled.

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.

Related:

American’s 3-Cabin Premium Transcon A321s Now Appearing Online

First United Reconfigured Premium Service 757 Takes to the Skies

JetBlue Intros ‘Mint’ Premium Service with Amazing Fares

Posted by Darren | 2 Comments

[This is the final installment of my Million-Mile Trip Report. I’ve included links to the other posts below:]

United Airlines Million-Mile Trip Report: Introduction and Background

Flight Review: United Airlines BusinessFirst, San Francisco to Seoul

Hotel Review: Conrad Seoul, Executive Floor King Room

Lounge Review: Asiana Business Class, Seoul Incheon Midfield Concourse

Whenever possible, I try to head to the gate early to watch the inbound flight arrive. Mostly because I’m an #avgeek and like to get several pictures of every aircraft I fly on, and this particular United 747 would be the one to carry me over one million lifetime miles in MileagePlus.

N104UA pulling into the gate

N104UA pulling into the gate

It arrived on-time from San Francisco and after watching it block in at the gate, I walked around the concourse a bit more since it was still a couple of hours before my departure.

Gate 123 at Seoul Incheon

Gate 123 at Seoul Incheon

When boarding time came around, I was rather shocked to see empty lanes for each group number.

Zero gate lice here

Zero gate lice here

No “gate lice” for this flight, and it wasn’t until they opened the jetway and made a start-of-boarding announcement that people (myself included) began lining up.

Once onboard, I headed up the stairs, stowed my rollaboard in the closet and took my BusinessFirst window seat, 15A.

Seat 15A on a United 747

Seat 15A on a United 747

Amenity kits and noise cancelling headphones were already at each passenger’s seat, and a flight attendant later brought around the menu (posted below). A selection of newspapers was also available on the credenza near the stairs.

The American flight to Dallas was parked one gate over and it pushed back about 20 minutes before we did.

American's flight to Dallas

American’s flight to Dallas

After takeoff, service began immediately with hot towels, a beverage and the usual ramekin of heated nuts.

Departing Seoul

Departing Seoul

Water & nuts to begin

Water & nuts to begin

Here’s the beverage list from the menu – it’s identical to the one from my outbound flight review.

UA-Drinks-1-702x1024UA-Drinks-2-541x1024The purser later came around to take main course selections and I was pleased to see a Korean dish offered.

UA Menu1UA Menu2I selected the lemon aioli dressing on my salad, and a choice of bread was offered. I opted for garlic, which was a mistake as it was barely heated and the butter was a solid lop in the middle.

Chilled appetizer

Chilled appetizer

Salad with lemon aioli dressing

Salad with lemon aioli dressing

As I mentioned above, I was pleased to see a Korean dish offered and I ordered the Sam Gye Jjim, but oh my was I disappointed.

Sam Gye Jjim entree

Sam Gye Jjim entree

Disregarding the terrible plating and presentation, the chicken was dry and the sauce was noticeably cooler (almost cold). A little container of hot pepper paste was provided, which added a bit more flavor. One positive note: the second round of garlic bread was much better.

After the main course, I was rather tired and I passed on dessert and cheese.

Dessert and mid-flight menu

Dessert and mid-flight menu

I slept solidly and woke up only about 15 minutes before the pre-arrival service began. It’s incredible how fast some of my long-haul flights seem to go in the comfort of a lie-flat seat. ;-) And I love upper-deck window seats on United’s 747s since you can let an arm and/or knee dangle on top of the side storage console after lowering the armrest.

Pre-arrival menu

Pre-arrival menu

Even though it was breakfast time, the Asian-style noodles appealed to me most.

Asian-style noodles

Asian-style noodles

It was quite good, actually, though I’m sure it contained two days’ worth of sodium. My seatmate had the quiche, which also looked pretty decent.

Service was professional and mostly attentive, so that’s above average for United. If you had this crew on a foreign carrier, though, they would be largely forgettable. The purser helped out with service upstairs from time to time and he thanked me for “taking your headphones off when I’m speaking to you.” A bit strange, but he went on to say that so few of his passengers ever do that.

I absolutely love arriving from the north into San Francisco. The views are incredible as you head down the coast before turning back around for final approach.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco

San Francisco

And with that, my one million-mile flight was complete. As I mentioned in the introduction to this trip report, I wanted to make it a special one by flying on my favorite airplane, as well as in style. I selfishly tweeted out my milestone when I landed and received a fantastic reply of congrats from United’s social media team.

United has historically been my preferred carrier, though I’m happy to have finally locked in lifetime status. It frees me from my former logic that I HAVE to fly United every time being so close to the million. So now, especially with the new revenue requirements for elite status, I feel a bit freer to select an airline for any particular trip that suits me best.

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.

Related:

United Airlines Million-Mile Trip Report: Introduction and Background

Flight Review: United Airlines BusinessFirst, San Francisco to Seoul

Hotel Review: Conrad Seoul, Executive Floor King Room

Lounge Review: Asiana Business Class, Seoul Incheon Midfield Concourse

Posted by Darren | One Comment

This past Friday, a new update for the United Airlines iOS 7 app became available with a few enhancements and improvements. I was a bit critical of the app when the first version was released about a month ago (and I still have dislikes), but I’m happy to see United make some rather quick and helpful updates based on user feedback.

Here’s specifically what has changed, as described by United:

Enhanced flight status:

-       “Where is this aircraft coming from?,” “Notify me for updates,” “Amenities” and “Share my flight” moved to the main Flight Status Details page (directly below the aircraft image)

-       Improved flight status search with departure and arrival times now prominently displayed

Improvements to the home screen travel cards:

-       Cards automatically created for all reservations associated with your MileagePlus account

-       Million Miler and updated badges added to the digital MileagePlus card

Eliminated additional taps or swipes to view:

-       Aircraft, meal and fare class details (Choose “Expanded View” when booking a flight and reviewing reservations)

-       Cabin headers and seat letters on the seat map

2014 MileagePlus program updates:

-       Starting January 1, 2014, you’ll be able to track Premier qualifying dollar (PQD) activity

Various bug fixes and other performance improvements, with more on the way.

I’m glad United added more flight status details to the main results page (you previously had to click beyond the results page to get them).  And while I still don’t care so much for the various travel cards, at least they’ll automatically be created for each of your reservations with the new version.

A Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) tracker wasn’t in this release, so I assume United will have a new update in a couple of weeks adding that feature since they mentioned it above as being available January 1. Also, I hope they add in Regional Premier and Global Premier Upgrade balances to the summary page on the app. Why didn’t they do that in the first release?

Bizarre Bugs Fixed?

Last week before the new version was released, I experienced some rather unusual errors/bugs when viewing my MileagePlus summary within the app. I know of at least one other person who had similar issues.

I’ve been a Premier 1K for years and just crossed over one million lifetime miles earlier this year (which bestows lifetime Gold status), but here’s how my account summary looked:

Erroneous MileagePlus summary

Erroneous MileagePlus summary

Literally everything on that screen is incorrect with the exception of my account number. And there was absolutely nothing populated under the “Activity,” “Statement” or “Flights” tabs. Before panicking and calling United, I logged into my account on the website and saw that everything was showing up correctly there, at least.

The next day, my elite status was correct in the app, but my mileage balances were again way off. I also apparently time traveled to the future to take a couple of flights in September 2014:

Erroneous MileagePlus activity

Erroneous MileagePlus activity

Those flights were taken on September 7 this year, anyway. ;-)

Since I’ve updated the app to the new version, I haven’t experienced any more weirdness in my summary. Have you? Or did you prior to the update?

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.

Related:

United Airlines Launches ‘Meh’ New iPhone App for iOS 7

United Adds Spend Requirement for Elite Status in 2014

Massive Changes to United MileagePlus Award Charts in 2014

Posted by Darren | 3 Comments

It’s time for another Vintage Airline Seat Map and I’ve selected a United Airlines Boeing 747-200 seen flying the skies in the mid to late 1990s.

This configuration, classified as “YR,” seated 369 passengers in the typical three- class international layout and featured a spiral staircase to the upper deck. Having two lavatories upstairs is impressive given the limited real estate of the short-hump 747s (the -100s flying at the same time only had one).

You’d find me in 2A in first class, 10A or 11A in business, and I’d probably opt for 29G in coach even though that mini-cabin from rows 20-23 might be quieter.

Where would you sit?

United Airlines 747-200 YR seat map

United Airlines 747-200 YR seat map

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.

Related:

United Airlines Boeing 747SP Seat Map

United Airlines Boeing 747-100 Seat Map

United Airlines Boeing 747-100 with First Class Lounge Upstairs

More Vintage Airline Seat Maps

Posted by Darren | 7 Comments

UA Insider this afternoon announced on the forums that both United And Singapore Airlines have “agreed” to remove award inventory from online searches on the web or a mobile device… beginning tomorrow December 13. Regular revenue availability will still appear, where appropriate, is my assumption.

From the announcement:

Hi everyone,

I wanted to give you an early heads up about an upcoming change to the Star partner award availability you see displayed online. Singapore Airlines and United have agreed to remove Singapore Airlines inventory from our award flight search results on united.com and on the United Mobile App. This will take effect starting tomorrow, December 13, You will still to be able to book and change award reservations involving Singapore Airlines by calling our reservations lines.

Please let me know if you have any clarifying questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

So, as one forum member asked, will phone service fees be waived for those who get charged them now that they won’t be able to book SQ awards online? [Updated to add:] UA Insider recently posted that NO, phone service fees will not be waived, explaining:

The simple reason–and this is a consistent policy across all airlines which are not yet online–is that there is substantial additional work required to price and ticket these awards in our contact centers.

Ugh… another change no one is going to like. I’ll update this post as UA Insider reveals more/answers questions.

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.

Related:

Flyer Unfriendly: United Pulls Upgrade, Elite Award Availability From ExpertFlyer

Recap of United’s Downgrades: Award Charts, ExpertFlyer and Meals

The New United Airlines Upgrade and Award Fare Buckets

Singapore Airlines Trip Report: JFK-FRA-JFK in Business Class

Posted by Darren | 7 Comments

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