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United Airlines: Tricks We Play When You Use Frequent Flyer Miles!

June 4, 2015: Everyone has frequent flyer miles – you fly to earn them or just use a credit card that matches purchases with earned miles—sure seems simple and at one time neat way to earn flights.

Well the airlines have now added so many requirements and mystery rules to their programs, use of miles for flights has become a full time accounting and hands on management project. And these programs are now a huge profit center for airlines with all the use fees as well as miles that can be earned by direct sale. 

What bugs the Travel Curmudgeon is all the fees added on for your “free” ticket—most earned by the airlines’ most coveted and profitable heavy user business traveler—the ones that pay the high last minute fares for travel or for flight changes.

UAL a classic example of what’s gone wrong with the program – fees of more than $80 to use a free earned domestic mileage ticket – as well as their new trick in assigning you the dreaded middle seat when there are plenty of aisle seats available! For another $75 or more you can buy your way into an aisle seat – each way. So now your so-called “free earned ticket” has cost you over a $150 – and more if you want an aisle seat on the return!

Come on now. With airline profits at record levels – UAL can’t you show some respect and drop all the confusing rules and fees?

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Wow—where has United Airlines customer service gone?

June 3, 2015: Recently took a UAL red eye (anyone who’s ever experienced an over night flight knows what that term stands for) from SFO-0 to Houston (IAH)—didn’t expect much and wasn’t disappointed. This “legacy” airline recently invested millions of dollars in passenger boarding area improvements—a few nice additions for business travelers like desk workstations and power outlets—but not much for the regular traveler. Gate boarding space is still over crowded with little room to stand or be comfortable in their maze of confusing boarding line holding areas, machine like boarding agents that want to work quickly without eye contact and not be responsible for a departure delay and general ‘I don’t care attitude just get on the plane and out of the way”! Don’t ask or expect any help, consideration or kindness. One wants to nicely remind them who it is that’s paying their salary and retirement program.

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SFO-UAL TSA: Sorry Closed For The Day?

May 2, 2015: Those of you lucky enough to receive the TSA Pre-check designation on your boarding pass know how easy and convenient that little check makes it to go through airport security. A special line, get to keep most of your clothes and shoes on, electronic gear stays secure in your carry on, painless -easy and quick!

Well that is if you get through the United Airlines TSA contractor staffed security checkpoints before 11:00 pm. After that, the Pre-check section is closed until early am the next day. No matter how long the lines—my experience was on a recent Friday night (and it was crowded with Red Eye travelers heading for a variety of flights)—the section was closed—no matter what it said on the boarding pass. It would seem for their own convenience and passenger flow the TSA contractor staff would keep the line open—moving late night travelers into their crowded gate holding area quicker.

The TSA crews at SFO, and a few other U.S. Airports, aren’t really official U.S. federal Government employees—for various reasons to be explained in a future post—this crew is a private security group—Covenant Aviation Security—a TSA contracted out source to “provide baggage and passenger screening at SFO”.

And with the recent news these days highlighting not only the lack of consistency with TSA operations at many U.S. Airports and substantial security breeches, should the agency be completely privatized or maybe taken over by some like Disney who at least know how to manage crowds and make waiting in lines entertaining?

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A Secret Find on Lake Como?

May 29, 2015: Don’t tell – but if you want a real “undiscovered” experience find your way to Argegno on the west side of Lake Como and the Hotel Villa Belvedere—midway between the city of Como on the south and Menaggio on the north. This charming (somewhat hidden) 20 room boutique hotel sits right on Lake Como and close to an oasis of outdoor activities that range from golfing to hiking or just plain relaxing in the hotels outdoor dining room. Toss in great food served with inexpensive local wines and wonderful service—why would you ever leave? But “don’t tell anyone”!

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