I used to fly 110 times/year for work, internationally. I had gold status with several airlines at once. I did this for about 8 years (although the last two years I went down to about 80 flights/year).
I live in SF and, of course, I have to fly United if I don't want to make one connection every time I fly somewhere in the US. And I am a Premier 1k member.
I can confirm that the perks are almost useless; that this absurd race loses any meaning when everybody else is racing with you.
How can Premier 1k be good, if I'm not among the top 1% (the only case in which automatic upgrades and such would actually be useful)?
All in all, I hate United. And I'm not the only one .
By the way, why does Google NOT provide this link when I search for "Untied"? 
OK, so that was the one perk. That and the red carpet clubs used to actually be nice. I remember spending some miles on my wife's membership so she could enjoy a drink while waiting for me at the airport... then a month later the security lines being moved in front of the club so she couldn't get in.
All my miles were spent on other people. It's surprising how many people will hit you up when they need to fly somewhere but can't afford it. For the longest time I was saving up for a trip to Asia on one of those lay-flat seats in a private suite. I was close when my wife mentioned to me that she sent her brother, his wife, and their kids to Kansas. Freaking Kansas... oy. They might have said thank you.
In all the years I did it, I had one proper "free" vacation. It included a suite at a crazy nice hotel in Manhattan well above anything I could afford.
All that flying and being a 1k made me bitter. I hate traveling now because of the way they treat the no-ks. I'm bitter with the casual travelers who don't understand how to get through security with any efficiency at all. I'm bitter with security for it's intrusiveness that provides no security at all. I'm bitter with the airlines for putting their most jaded and customer service averse flight attendants on the planes that go wherever you want to vacation. I'm bitter with the guy who puts his bag in the overhead 3 seats back and has to swim upstream when we're departing the plane. The list goes on. Don't even get me started on the "$25 extra for a bag or a seat upgrade" I'm an angry old man in airports.
For anybody still putting in the time in the air - look into surfair. Chartered flights out of private airports for a monthly membership fee. No TSA, No lines. No last minute $2500 tickets. It's awesome. Limited range of cities though.
Mishaps happen (I forgot I had bottled water with me in security on my return flight last time). But simple things like pulling out your belt early, having your electronic devices at hand, having your boarding pass at hand and so on go a very long way in making sure, that everybody will be through security faster.
I also am amazed about how lots of people treat these security persons.
I learned being a decent human being will get you a very long way in most cases. For example my mishap from above. Security allowed me to drink from the bottle, while I went through (not in the scanner though). So I only had to dump a nearly empty bottle in the end, not a totally new one.
I just was friendly, made clear, that it was my mistake and apologized for the inconvenience to the sec person. he rest ist the story told above.
When I call the 800 number, a real human being picks up right away and helps me.
If I'd like to catch an earlier or later flight, if it's within 24 hours, I can usually make the change with no charge. I use this perk dozens of times a year, and it even enables me to book cheaper flights because I'll usually be able to make adjustments on the day of travel.
If I end up on the standby list, I'm put at the top (because it goes in order of highest status before first come first served).
If I use miles to book a flight, I can cancel or change the flight at any time. This lets me speculatively book a vacation flight to Maui months ahead of time when availability is good, even if I'm not sure I'll be free then.
My entire family gets free bags and free extra legroom seats when they travel with me.
I get to sit in fancy lounges when traveling overseas.
And the first class upgrades are a nice bonus.
You can't make free changes anymore, their new point redeem costs are too high, I only got an INVOL upgrade once and honestly haven't had one single flight experience with them that warranted handing my golden ticket to a crew member in the last year.
In fact, just a few months ago we were neglected pretty badly in their flagship A380 LHR-MIA in club world (business).
The lounges are still pretty good, plus I get to go to the Japan Airlines lounges in some airports, those toilets are a palace.
Because Google has (reasonably) understood that it was likely a incorrectly spelled request for united.com, which is clearly evident from just looking at Google Trends. Note that they do offer a "did you really mean" link which will force the search for untied.com and then it's the number 1 hit.
 - https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=untied.com%2C%20unit...
I don't know anything about United. But my status on SouthWest and Delta is absurdly useful. On SouthWest they gave me a companion pass, so any time I fly somewhere, my wife comes with me for free. For a consultant, usually flying every week Monday-Thursday, this let me skip a couple weekends from the rat race, since if my wife is there, why go home anyway.
On Delta, I can fly standby on any flight the same day. It's so handy I got in the habit of just booking the last flight of the day and just come to the airport whenever I feel like it. Even when I don't do that, I often land at airports early enough to hop an earlier connection than my official one, and I end up getting home half a day earlier than expected since I can standby on normally not permitted connections (airline regulations require a certain amount of time to make your connection, but if you can walk up to any gate and ask to standby, a lot more connections are available).
And of course there are the free upgrades to first and free extra legroom seats people normally have to pay for and the free flights using earned miles.
Last year I flew to Japan on an United flight, and for the first time in my life I felt more like livestock being handled than an actual human being.
AA similarly has a "secret" invite-only level above that -- Concierge Key -- and rumors about how they decide who to invite into it (not so secretive: people who spend lots of money, and probably people who have influence over the travel contracts of large companies). Never been a CK, likely never will be. The game was interesting for a while, but now I just have a harder time caring.
Personally I look at it as a cyclic thing. When the economy's in the tubes, airlines lavish benefits on frequent business travelers because the rest of the country isn't flying. When the economy picks up again and people start buying flights to Disney for their vacations again, the benefits get slashed.
Right now we're in a slash/devalue period. Last year I "only" put a bit over 50k miles to AA, which will drop me to Platinum with them at the end of the month when 2015 status expires, picked up Platinum on Delta as a hedge, and went on a spending spree using up my system-wide upgrades. Flew myself in business class to Europe and back multiple times, flew myself and someone else to Hawaii in first, gave a co-worker a business-class upgrade on JFK-SFO, etc.
Irony is, of course, that last month I moved and now work in SF, and UA is the only one of the big three I don't have some kind of useful status with. But living near where I work also means less need to travel, so I'll probably just buy tickets by schedule/price from here on out. DL in particular is nice about cheap first-class fares since they want to fill the front cabin with people who paid rather than people using frequent-flyer perks.
> By the way, why does Google NOT provide this link when I
> search for "Untied"? 
Also, anecdote: I have a friend who works for an organization that employs many frequent flyers, and they have an organization policy of all flying the same airline for all flights because the benefits in terms of better rebooking in the event of flight problems for their frequent fliers are worth the added cost of not shopping around. They actually all switched, collectively, from United to American last year or the year before in response to changes to United's program.
The miles themselves, yeah, I think they just see as a minor compensation to employees for travel, since they don't pay them overtime or anything. Plus in some cases it's not precisely a kickback. Sometimes it is, but other times it's intended to incentivize the traveler to stick with their main airline even when the airline has worse routes to some cities. For example, you usually fly United, but today you want to fly to a city where American has a nonstop and United has only a 1-stop, for similar prices. Absent any kind of loyalty program, you'd pick American's nonstop for convenience. United's perks are supposed to encourage you to take the United 1-stop, even though it's a bit less convenient. This isn't precisely a kickback in the normal sense, because they aren't incentivizing you to buy a higher fare, and it's basically a wash from the employer's perspective. Instead they're incentivizing you to accept being personally inconvenienced with a worse flight, in return for receiving some personal perks.
That generally doesn't work anymore. Almost all airlines now use a revenue model for milage awards, not distance.
For instance, I flew LHR-CDG-DOH-KUL-PEN last year, business class, for less money that I would have spent in a more direct flight, but I got a lot of tier points for it.
Then I realised I was addicted to my BA gold status, and that I wasn't getting that many perks anyway. This year I'm opening myself up to other airlines.
But, to the extent that it's a way to circumvent taxes, it's not so legitimate -- it's a way of providing a private gain  that works as compensation but which isn't taxed. When you have marginal tax rates on high income workers hitting ~50% , that's a pretty big incentive for tax-free compensation! (And, IMHO is also an argument for reducing them, since they cause such distortionary collateral damage.)
 Don't know the specific jargon the tax code uses for "something that really ought to be taxed if we want to be consistent"
This is a legal, administrative and tax-payment mess so most employers simply assign the beneficial ownership back to the employee. Doubly so since they're not transferrable in almost every case.
Of course the details have changed, things vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, I last studied this more than a decade ago, I'm not a lawyer and by god this is not legal advice.
I'm pretty sure my entire firm would rise up and put management's heads on pikes if our frequent flier miles were taken away. Points are one of the few joys in life that we consultants are afforded.
The business model behind high WiFi prices and $9 bottles of water is more that they're opportunities to sell high-margin add-ons to price insensitive customers. Thus business-oriented hotels charge for these things while they're free at the Holiday Inn down the road.
(With respect to WiFi, this does seem to be changing as WiFi is increasingly viewed as more or less essential by those traveling for pleasure as well as business. The trend I see increasingly is free WiFi being used as a perk to encourage behaviors that the hotel chain wants to encourage--such as booking directly online.)
Go out at night.
Spend the weekend.
Neither are hard to do.
Thats the problem. You don't "get to see the world" in most cases. You're shuttled back & forth between some hotel and some office block. e.g. I was in Paris the other day & the only sightseeing I got to do is seeing the (far away) tip of the Eiffel tower from a fkin boardroom window. That kind of "seeing the world" gets old fast.
Now travel for work to an office in a suburban business park in greater Oklahoma City & report back on the experience.
Where are you getting Oklahoma City from? You're moving the goalposts.
Don't know why you think I'm arguing with you, just having a conversation. I'm not moving any goalposts, I'm talking about my own experience from work travel to less exciting places, that are sometimes not easily explorable in a couple free evenings without a car.
In places like Paris & London it should be easier to have some fun. Although still you might not always be able to - sometimes you only travel for a few days & want to get the most of that work session, or e.g. want to go back home as soon as you can so you can spend the weekend with your spouse/kids.
For example I had a colleague visiting here in Berlin for one week, that required 16h of travel either way. When he came on Sunday (flight took off on Saturday morning in his original time zone) he was tired from the long flight and his flight back home was the Sunday afterwards. During the week we worked like mad in order to get the most value from the visit, so he had some evenings and one Saturday, in which I think he got to see some of Berlin, but not much (simply due to not really having a lot of time + being tired).
In a city less accessible he would have seen next to nothing. When I did the reverse trip to a small Canadian town with a metropolitan population of less than 100k people & no transit, I've not managed to do much sight seeing.
(Also helps that I'm not in a relationship - business travel is way harder on those with spouses or partners.)
LOL I once went to Nairobi, Kenya for work... Didn't see one god damn animal. No time. Who goes to Kenya and doesn't see ANY animals? This guy on a work trip.
I've not done a milage run, nor will I do multiple hops just to get a few hundred (or a thousand) extra miles. The only exception to that is if the alliance I prefer (Star Alliance) doesn't have as direct as say One World, I'll still take the Star Alliance route for the miles.
About the only airline I travel with more than UA/other star alliance partners is Alaska because I head up to the Pacific Northwest frequently.
In terms of time/distance, some hops at Frankfurt are just as bad or worse than Heathrow (US -> FRA -> Tel Aviv being a really really nice not walk).
Given a choice, I prefer Zurich or Munich first, Frankfurt second, and surprisingly my experience with CDG hasn't been bad compared to horror stories I have heard.
LHR is down to what you are flying. If you are flying BA, you land and take off in T5 and it will be quick and painless, leaving you time for a nice meal at Plane Food. In one instance, I turned left out of the aircraft, went through empty security (as the only transferring passenger) and had a quick chat with the immigration officer about whether Plane Food was open yet (no :( ), and literally 3 minutes after deplaning, I was next to my gate. Make that 20 minutes if you have to go back to A gates (or whatever the ones with the restaurants are). Last time I got bored and decided to walk between A and C gates, which was a fun if eery experience down an empty tunnel several km long; sort of beats the crowded gate train.
If you are flying not-BA, then, you're not LHR's priority and it might suck, especially with a terminal change. I haven't done this in years for precisely that reason, but I remember cramped terminals, impossibly complicated options to get between them, and generally bad service throughout. Somehow there are always works at LHR, just like with the tube in London, where you check not to see which lines are down but which are up today. Last Christmas, the inter-terminal transfers were done via a free shuttle bus that used the motorway...
I hear you on the FRA walks. But Lufthansa reliably flies A380s internationally, even if the food sucks. And that's a guaranteed quiet flight vs the 50% chance of a crummy old 747 on BA... still, it must be at least 1-2km! And this time you have no time for the much better food options, and a lot of people are walking with you.
ZRH is reliably halfway between those two - the big plane and small plane buildings are separated by a medium length walkway which is always the same. However food is so damn expensive!
I would fly AF if I could just for the better food (and free flow champagne, even if it's bottom shelf) and guaranteed A380 again. But every single of my CDG experiences has indeed been a horror story. The place is like a study on how to screw up an airport. In one case, the only airside toilet was blocked for cleaning, which wasn't ongoing because the cleaning lady felt like taking an extended break, reading her paper and insulting those like me enquiring about whether we could possibly use the toilet before immigration queues...
For Americans living in New York or Washington, I'd recommend having a look at GVA. It's a small, very efficient airport with a lot of connections all over Europe and the Middle East (including cheap ones as an EasyJet hub) and has decent lounges. I think both United and Delta fly direct from these cities. Plus, if your layover is long, you can always get out and take the (free) 6 minute train to the city.
What airport depends on what airline alliance you fly with though. I'm StarAlliance so not much CDG or AMS unless it is O/D.
For * A I personally love FRA, but I've been through it 40+ times and know it like the back of my hand. I don't mind the A-B-C pier walks really, and most of the time landing in B and going over to the Schengen gates at A is not that big of a deal. MUC is much nicer to navigate than FRA but the connectivity is not as good.
If you are sticking to * A the new terminal at LHR is not bad, but most of the good connectivity in on BA and taking a bus to T5 and re-clearing security is terrible.
Instead of GVA or ZRH, whose connectivity is pretty mediocre on Swiss, someone flying * A should really look at IST. The Turkish lounge is excellent and the connectivity to EMEA is far superior, and lots of NA airports have a direct connection.
All this just reminds me I have to fly to EWR tomorrow :(
Most airlines flying into SIN have old IFE on the older aircraft which means 1 in 2 seats has a massive metal box taking away half your foot space, and my knees and the sides of my legs really do not appreciate this. Next generation (e.g. new BA 773s) is a flat thin black box, or nothing visible. For some reason, a 3-4-3 777 is also a guaranteed trolley-shoulder bash every time they serve food, another good reason to avoid airlines that like to fly it (including SQ); my shoulder doesn't stick out as much from a newer aircraft seat but this could be psychological. Also, the A380 upper deck window seat has massive amounts of space on the window side which feels somewhat more private (you can practically stash your bag there).
One side effect of how quiet the 787 and A380 are is that you can hear babies from much further - perhaps 10 rows vs 2. So, it can be harder to sleep if you're seated too close to a baby cluster in Y.
I don't mind taking ages to deplane or board. It's a fraction of the flight anyway, and the actual walking is quick and the rest seated. I used to care about the crowd/volume when flying to SYD because SYD customs used to be highly inefficient, with LHR level of queues for foreigners. They made recent changes and now it's faster than for Australians using e-gates, so I'm not as bothered by a slow deplaning for that either.
I do mind less noise in my ears for the 22h of flying from Australia to Europe on 3 legs. I'll fly budget over SQ if the budget airline has a 787... sandwiches are cheaper than lost sleep!
Speaking of LHR, I was amused when I flew there 6 weeks after September 11 2001 (remember, air travel took quite a hit), on a BA 747, and they offloaded us with a stair car and a shuttle bus. I couldn't believe they couldn't even find enough terminals for their own national airline.
Upcoming trip to Dublin, I opted for going via Frankfurt instead of Heathrow. Silly, yes, but experiences and preferences play into planning.
I never understood why LHR had to have such long immigration queues. The solution is pretty simple: add more officers. Those booths were never fully staffed. I suspect some kind of labour dispute is involved.
A good airport for transiting into Europe, and in my view usually more pleasant than London, Frankfurt or Paris, is Amsterdam Schiphol.
I spent 7.5 years in a full-time travel job. The perks (other than occasional upgrades on redeyes) did very little for me. I wound up using miles just for last minute flights.
I did used to get a big laugh out of people (usually junior consultants) who confused airline status with real social status.
I see this a lot among consultants - they love to talk about airports, airport lounges, "horrifying" delays, rude customs agents, free upgrades, and seat pitches. Bizarre.
I was one of these people years ago. I was doing a lot of international business class flights on behalf of a public software company, and had 1k and global services status. Then I burned out and quit, and spent the next several years barely making premier silver. It's no big deal once you get over your sense of entitlement. And United has put all the perks up for sale anyway, so you can now buy whatever perk that you can't live without.
A couple of months ago, I finally made million miler status, which is a kind of "emeritus" status: you (and a designated companion) get star alliance gold status for life. This is actually kind of awesome since now I don't have to worry about getting miles every year to make premier. I still accumulate points so that I can get free tickets, but being retired from the elite status rat race is very relaxing.
Benefits supposedly include delaying an entire airliner by up to half an hour if you are running late, and it's so rare many lounge staff will deny you entry, not understanding what the card is.
Why not? Lots of big corps allow their staff to keep stuff like loyalty points so its not too big of a jump. Plus big corps run on policies...and there is rarely a policy in place to cover 1 head honcho.
Obviously if there is a direct link between say a contract given and an airline upgrade that would just be fraud. Thats not the scenario I meant.
As I don't ever get de luxe accommodation, I simply have no basis for imagining plus luxe.
FWIW, stretch limos are really only appropriate for larger parties of more than 2, for conducting business.
Not that anybody today should care, and I can't remember where I learned this, but effectively, a limo used to just mean "car". Business people and big execs would use limos so that they could continue working while in transit, and not have to deal with the distraction of having to talk to cabbies and whatnot.
Stretch limos were employed to conduct business on the go with larger parties, again, so that business would not be interrupted despite the need for travel.
It wasn't until hollywood and prom-goers decided that limousine effectively equated to stretch limousine and started using them 'inappropriately' that the connotation became what it is today.
Edit: I'm curious as to what was downvote-worthy about this comment?
This way people paid extra to avoid the weather and cow shit
There is a hard upper limit to how good flying in a tin can at 35,000 feet can be made (1)
If airlines could strap economy class passengers to the wings they would
(1) actually an ad exec made an excellent point in a ted talk - instead of spending 4bn on reducing the time the high speed train went from London to Paris, spend 2bn on half naked super models handing out free champagne and no one will care how long the journey is. This is of course what airline stewardesses were supposed to be before all those pesky lawsuits.
It's like credit cards. There are entire websites dedicated to min-maxing the hell out of credit card points, sign-up bonuses, etc. But you don't have to do that. You can just spend an hour getting a good credit card (assuming you can :/) and then reap massive benefits compared to the amount of time invested.
Why would this make sense? Surely there wouldn't be a benefit worth more than $560?
If you're flying 50 times a year for business, lounge access may be worth substantially more to you than if you only flew a few times a year. Not to mention if you're going to be flying 50 times a year, that $560 means ~$10 per flight to make your experience substantially less awful.
I don't fly internationally much, so most of my flights are direct. Is it mostly for layovers?
Peace and quiet is a second benefit. If you're waiting a couple of hours whilst sleep deprived (often the case for business travel or when booking budget flights that leave at 1:30am), those loud, constant announcements are very annoying. Bonus points if the airport has terrible seating and the lounge has comfortable sofas. If you need to work for a bit, it's a great place to do so, especially in airports that don't have free WiFi (increasingly rare these days).
The food is rarely good in Asia (at least at those lounges I have access to). Reheated noodles and some meat if you're lucky and flying at the right time. It's convenient, at most, saving you the trouble.
It really varies by city. HNL and NRT have terrible lounges for PP card holders - basically a room where you can sit for a while, sometimes with a free beer (but there is a great sushi-ya just opposite the NRT lounge). GVA has my favorite ones - nice view on mountains, usually empty (except if Aeroflot is flying soon...) and a decent breakfast with muesli and fresh bread and pastries. SIN lounges often have free massage chairs. Which are available for free in T3 as well, but it saves having to take the monorail there.
On timing, if you are flying long haul you can face serious delays (like a huge queue at check-in and security) and need to pad it by a couple hours. Most of the time, you don't face these delays and have a spare hour to kill, and in most airports the lounge is a better place to do so. Sort of applies to short haul too; I once missed LHR-GVA check-in on BA by a single minute and they were very annoying about it despite the empty airport (had to book another flight).
I scored a mid-level membership once. I didn't go out of my way to do it. Nothing super good about it.
Oh, your luggage gets a priority tag and comes out first. In certain airports that can save an hour of your life.
But mostly its about accumulating miles on trips I'd be taking anyway. Essentially free upgrades, or entirely free flights. Just for joining their silly program. Why not?
I do the same with hotels.
The next time, it won't work so well.
And down the path you go. Up the dose, etc, etc.
Don't use valium unless you have a real and only very occasional use for it. And try to keep that in mind: it's a use case. Not a need. You never need valium. You need food, and shelter from weather. But you don't need valium.
At the higher I didn't notice any effect, until the plane started bouncing, and then I realized I didn't care, which was perfect. I didn't notice any drowsiness at that level, which may have been due to adrenaline.
Over the course of 6 years, my regular dosage approached 50mg as I kept upping it whenever I started to get nervous flying. If taking it while I got on a plane, I didn't feel drowsy. It became not always effective.
About a year ago I made a conscious effort to wean myself off it over the course of 12 weeks, by flying a return business long-haul flight every week, and taking a little less each time, practicing the principles in Dr Claire Weekes "Freedom from Nervous Suffering" (essentially breathing exercises, although it's a little more nuanced), which is in fact a book for agoraphobics which someone had suggested to me. I got down to zero, but found under 10mg then turbulence still had fairly heavy emotional and physical effects on me.
Now I take 0-10mg when I fly. I don't notice any effects, other than I am less sensitive to turbluence. However, I exclusively fly business class rather than economy, which I suspect helps a massive amount.
During this time I also tried Propanalol at some high doses. I found it ineffective for fear of flying, but very very effective for giving presentations. However it started to make me short of breath, so I ditched it.
In terms of intoxicating yourself for flying, I have found Ambien to be highly effective. However, it seems many many people have bad side-effects from it - sleep-walking, etc - so unless you're totally certain you can handle it well, I don't know that I would recommend it. These days I'll settle for 10mg of valium and some alcohol.
Maybe the idea was to help with the culture shock in the same way "getting jumped in" helps you adapt to gang-life.
I have resigned myself to never taking a first class reward flight because I can get at least two economy trips with the same amount of miles. I just can't justify that to myself, despite the (more than 2x) dollar amounts attached.
With security this meant getting up at 4 to catch a 7:30 flight, to get to the meetings by 9:30, all day in a conference room, leave at 5 to get to the airport for a 7:30pm flight to get home by 9:30 or 10:00pm.
Flying business class changed the whole dynamic. I was fed a real breakfast in the morning instead of getting the shakes from a relatively empty stomach and too much coffee. I got a hot towel to wipe my face with and feel human when I showed up at the meeting.
On the way back a light dinner and a glass of wine with a little elbow room.
The extra 30% for business class was well worth it.
If I was staying overnight, perhaps not.
(am also nearly 2m tall.)
It won't get you a elite status, just a status slightly better than the normal flyer -- and free tickets too.
It will prevent you from reaching the extremes of this mile madness, like spending money just to maintain your status.
Bonus: when airlines merge, you get a really nice status. It may not be that interesting now with so little airlines in competition, but around year 2000 that was something regular
I'd argue that most of those who reach the extremes of mile madness actually love it, even if they sometimes might seem to be irrationally stressed due to pressure to maintain their status.
It's a hobby, and one that can get you to unexpected places of the world - even if the initial motivation might have been to chase some miles.
For $1067, you can get a year of TSA Precheck, Economy Plus and United Club lounge access, which is about how much you might save by comparison shopping on just half a dozen flights. And if you are a "frequent flier" you are probably flying more than that.
TSA Precheck is rapidly becoming worth less and less, if it continues at this rate it will be the regular lines in a year or two. When grandma who flies once every 2 years can get it, it ruins the entire point. I've switched back to regular priority lines at some airports these days as they are faster.
The #1 perk any frequent flier will tell you matters the most is having competent people who pick up the phone instantly during IRROPS (e.g. weather/flight problems). Simply using this once a year trivially pays for itself by putting you so far ahead of the regular queue I still get amazed sometimes. Plus having them available for wonky changes/etc. due to rapidly changing schedules is great - 90% of the time they simply waive change fees for me.
I agree that the programs are becoming pretty gutted, but still barely hold enough value for me to keep "loyal" to my main airline. The experience flying Elite with them vs. plebe on other domestic carriers is night and day.
At some airports pre check is fantastic. At others they have a bad habit of sending "normal" travelers over to the pre check lane which just slows everything down. Infrequent travelers don't understand what's going on and start dumping their bags and stripping down then get all confused when they're told to put everything back in the bag.
I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but I get better service than you even when I don't have status. I can and do rebook my flights on my phone, with my preferred routing and timing before the rush for seats begin as other people go try and call someone or god forbid, walk up to a desk and stand in line to do it in person.
No status needed. Delta's app will definitely automatically recognize a delayed or diverted flight and allow you to rebook. It even allows you to browse flights to alternate destinations, so I have totally switched from a plane going arriving at OAK to one arriving at SFO while taxing at SLC.
Oh, I also regularly switch to better seats in the days before my flight. I switched from middle to window on my flight leaving tomorrow this morning and moved up seven rows on the return flight, all without needing to make a phone call.
The difference is that when you have status, you get priority. When you call the Diamond reservation line, someone picks up _immediately_. When you're not, you can wait in a queue for hours. They do the thing where they take your number and then call you back, but still.
And while this may not always matter, other times, it can. One time, weather meant that my flight from Newark got canceled. There was still one flight out of JFK. They immediately put me in a cab they paid for, drove me over there, and put me in the front of the line so I could make the flight. It was the difference between making my appointment and not.
What you describe only works during regular operations, and it's spotty at best. 50% of the time the Android app fails at loading the seat map, for example. While Delta is considered the best IT in the business, it's still pretty atrocious - I use it multiple times per week.
You will never beat a Plat/Diamond for a confirmed seat during irrops. The problem isn't "can I rebook myself onto a plane with tons of open seats available" it's "can I bump the regular fliers from standby and get a seat on that entirely full aircraft".
Even when the app functions - it's still slower than calling the elite desk many times.
What you're describing is just normal access everyone gets. The elite fliers get even more options in the app (block the seats next to you, switch to economy comfort for free, etc.), but I guarantee you it's worthless when it all goes to shit :)
And you're right. I am describing the normal access anyone can get. That's the point, elite status offerings just don't do as much as most people seem to think.
I don't know why every flier with status on this thread wants to insist to me that "it's worthless when it all goes to shit" when it clearly isn't. But I'm not surprised, 90% of fliers I know with elite status are incentivized to think they're getting something out of it that regular people can't access, even though they're saying things like how awesome it is to be able to call a phone number. Gag me with a stick, I'd rather use an app.
Y'all got it pretty bad.
(I have status sometimes too. It's nice when I have it, but I don't and won't do anything extra to get it, for me, flying without status is not that much different. It's certainly not worth being loyal to a domestic airline. The airlines we have in this country just suck. If I lived in SG or JP or even ID I'd totally go ahead and give some loyalty to an airline, SQ, ANA and Garuda are all great.)
Flight is cancelled and there's one more nonstop that night? The platinums and 1Ks are getting that. Everyone else gets scraps.
I agree without status I'm totally not gonna successfully standby anything, but I successfully rebook seats all the time when the whole timetable becomes a disaster because an airport like ATL closes and incoming flights land at completely different airports. (I watched the seats fill in realtime on the app, it was nuts.)
Also while I fly in and out of some small airports now and again, for most of my destinations there's just usually gonna be a spare seat for me to hop into, especially since I'm happy to go to either SFO or OAK, never check luggage and if I ever had to, would book to either SJC or SMF in a pinch.
tl;dr: For the most part I do about as well without status as with it. Maybe you regularly encounter more problematic weather delays than I do?
Funny, this reminds me of when they tried the 3-tier security lines, for business, regular, and families, IIRC. I usually travel by myself, and have my stuff together enough to go through the security lines fast. I found the families one was actually the fastest, since everybody thinks they're fast/business and skips that one.
Their points are becoming worthless (Chase has done well in this regard, partnering with United and Southwest), travel booked directly with Amex is usually simple more expensive than other travel aggregators, Costco is dropping taking Amex, etc.
I signed up for a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and its far superior. Its rental car insurance is first tier/full coverage; I have no need to file a claim with my own insurance ever if I use the card. The rewards are much better, and the yearly fee is only $100.
However, for me the $450 fee is easily worth it. The airline fee credit drops it down to $250. And $250 for lounge access + precheck + Boingo + SPG/HHonors Gold is worth it to me. Without those benefits, I'd be tempted to pursue loyalty to an airline and I save well over $250 a year by price shopping.
I guess that's the crux. Its becoming a very niche card. You have to fit a very specific profile for the fee to be worth it.
One could argue it's immoral, but lots of people (including many airlines) seem to think these things are just a part of the game.
The lowest tier on the major US carriers is 25k qualifying miles/year. So to maintain the lowest-level status on two of them requires 50k miles/year, and to maintain that on all three requires 75k/year (and remember these are qualifying miles -- you can't get them from pudding cups or other promotions, and while there are ways to get more qualifying miles than you've flown, you either have to actually put your butt on a plane or spend a lot of money on a credit card).
Coincidentally, 50k is the next tier up on all three airlines, and 75k is the third tier up on two of the three (American is the odd one out, with only three tiers instead of the four at Delta and United). And to be frank, the "benefits" of the lowest tiers on all three are garbage. You might, if you're lucky, score an extra-legroom seat a few times a year on Delta, for example, or maybe once or twice get an upgrade on a domestic flight (but only if it's not on a busy route).
So if you're going to fly enough, you really should aim to get worthwhile status on one airline before spreading miles around to others.
(I'm currently Executive Platinum on AA and Platinum on DL, and know whereof I speak on the worthlessness of the lower tiers, since I've had to put up with them in the past)
Line 1 is 3 times longer than any other line at SFO, EWR, LAX, ORD, etc.
You still need to fly quite a lot to get even first level status if you are flying economy and spreading around in multiple airlines. That won't get you much, not even lounge access which is a big benefit. Also on some airlines miles expire.
This worked out for me twice so far, one airline bumped me to business on my first ever flight with them.
The fact that he actually tried to redeem his points for a free flight probably made him a target for infection with GS-MAD :)
In the mid-90's I was travelling about once a month between the midwest and the coasts. That was enough for a couple round trips in "air" miles.
These days it's barely worth it to be part of the programs (I am, but the "perks" are way less than they used to be).
After a year and getting all the nice lounge access and international long-haul upgrades, I think it's worth it!
Take my girlfriend and family around the world using a combination of miles / money and everything things I'm rich, when really I'm just a wannabe travel hacker.
Obscene surcharges on awards are really only an issue for a handful of airlines like BA. I've redeemed over two million miles and the highest surcharge I've ever paid on an award was $350 for Singapore first class from Singapore to Tokyo to Los Angeles. I was fine with that.
Seems like the Senior Manager who just joined the firm should be bumped up to first class in front of the Junior Consultant that's been flying out weekly for a year.
It'd be possible to design a loyalty program aimed at entire companies, and there's a little bit of movement in that direction, especially targeting small and medium-sized businesses (e.g. United PerksPlus). The goal of those would be to encourage the whole company to standardize on one airline. Big companies tend not to want to do that, because their travel needs are too varied for it to make sense to require all their employees to use one airline. So the main target of the programs is the corporate traveler who is being reimbursed for travel: they have a choice in their travel arrangements (within reason), and since they're spending someone else's money, they're also relatively price-insensitive, which makes them especially lucrative. Hotel loyalty programs work similarly.
"... whenever I get on an airplane and walk past first class, I inevitably go through a familiar mental process. First, I’m envious ... then, I register who is sitting in those seats. It’s usually almost all predominantly unhealthy looking ... men, who it is clear from a glance have spent literally hundreds of hours of their lives over the past year in these airplanes ... the bulk of the first class passengers resemble each other, just as there’s a reason prison guards tend to act the same. I know that by making choices designed to land me in the first class cabin, it would be difficult to avoid also inheriting the dreariness associated with its current occupants."
Amazon Prime has "free" shipping, costs $100/year. Your cellphone plan has "free" text messaging, costs $79/month. Your postage has "free" tracking, costs $11.
Why, in particular in American, has the word "included" seemingly been vanished from the popular vocabulary to be replaced with "free?" Now what word do we use when something is ACTUALLY free?
Return flights are usually something like:
* economy 900USD
* premium 2000USD
* business 6,000USD
* first 10,000USD
So, I always go economy.
Not sure it's ever worth a month's wages (after tax) to have a bit of free champagne.
For example, I fly Singapore to Tokyo about once or twice a year, sometimes more often, always on Scoot, a budget airline run by Singapore Airlines. Upgrading from economy to ScootBiz costs as little as $80 with their "bid for biz" program. I always "bid for biz" and it's absolutely worth it: early boarding, free food, much more space (for yourself and your carry on), etc. So the marginal utility of the upgrade for me is worth more than $80.
At some level of net worth, flying First on a legacy airline to Tokyo, maybe Japan Airlines which I had to take in economy once for $1,500 vs the $200 or so Scoot can go down to, would have more utility to me than the $10,000 extra I'd have to fork out. I don't know what that net worth would be (probably north of 50 million), but I know that past perhaps a few million dollars in liquid assets, I would always fly business even at 3x the cost, and I know plenty of people in that situation doing exactly that. And there's people for whom flying SQ Suites  for $30,000 one way is a "discount" from flying the same route privately.
 reposting because such a fun read: http://dereklow.co/what-its-like-to-fly-the-23000-singapore-...
When I woke up at my destination, significantly less jetlagged and actually rested, I said "now I understand."
I still don't pay for it, but it's certainly worth something.
Even using American's post-devaluation chart (one-way):
* economy 35,000
* business 70,000
* first 90,000
So, buy miles when on sale, fly first at a significant discount subject to availability.
Sometimes you get lucky. I booked 1st class for my xmas trip home last year, and it was only $100 more than the comfort seat upgrade and 1 checked bag that I was going to spend anyway.
This is only my experience on long flights. In 2007 I had a $600 coach seat from NYC to Ireland (may have been a connection I do not recall). The first-class seats were in the upper $4k range.
My wife and I fly from the northern east coast of the US to the southern east coast once a year, the tickets are roughly $650 total for coach (including $50/person for the "Comfort +" seats). First class has never risen past ~$950.
I'd fly business every single flight I ever took if it was only 2x. IMO the airlines are missing a huge business opportunity to provide all-business-class travel.
Transatlantic flights are downright luxorious. They also give free everything, I assume it's a law somewhere.
The one thing being short is a superpower for :D
And he's not even factually incorrect. You do not have to pay for drinks in first class, whether you're paying for your ticket or not.
Also noteworthy that on some airlines you can easily consume $1k+ worth of alcohol on a first class flight.
On some airlines the food/drinks assortment is identical between economy and economy+. Just get more legroom/width, sometimes an included checked bag (of $25-50 value), sometimes earlier boarding, and sometimes included access to entertainment/WiFi (a couple of airlines charge for seat-back entertainment).
I am 1.88m tall, long legs and all, and have absolutely no issue travelling in tourist class around the world. true happiness and lifelong experiences come from different places
I too am 6'2 and find travelling any distance extremely uncomfortable, and if the person in front reclines they're literally laying on my knees, bouncing up and down. International travel in economy is extremely uncomfortable as a result, and I routinely take painkillers before flying economy.
I pay (often 50% more) where I can to upgrade to "Premium Economy" (or exit rows, or anything to provide more legroom without bankrupting me).
I might be reading this wrong, but it sounds like you find not worrying about spending money somewhat deplorable. Why?
>I am 1.88m tall, long legs and all, and have absolutely no issue travelling in tourist class around the world.
I'm 197cm, I can't sit in most economy seats without my knees getting killed by the seat in front of me.
One of the small pleasures in life was watching other first-class passengers give me a "WTF" look. One time, when a gate was crowded, I had to tap this guy in a blazer on the shoulder and say "excuse me, I need to board" and he said "They're only boarding first class," to which I replied "yeah, I know. That's me."
The look on his face? Priceless.
See now there you go. I say "back in the day this would be called..." and automatically I get downvoted as if that is what I call it (either now or back in the day). And yes I purposely said it in a way knowing that this might be the reaction (as an experiment).
In typical fashion, pitchforks for free speech. Walking on HN eggshells.
Phrases like 'pussy whipped' have absolutely no place in a civilized society or on a civilized message board. They never have and they never will.
Once again wrong. Not what I meant. By not padding it in an apologetic way,  I knew it would get a certain reaction. In my book, nothing wrong with that. I am tired of people always having to apologize when no apology is necessary. Also consider that people of different age groups who were raised differently might see things differently as well and that is ok.
 Meaning "I apologize deeply if anyone finds this offensive but.."
Your book applies to what you do alone on your property.
When you act in a social context, other people's books also matter. That your philosophy treats other people's opinions as somehow irrelevant to your interactions with them is definitely of a piece with your "pussy whipped" framing.
Note also that you're creating a false choice between a disingenuous "apology" and speaking the truth. A fake apology isn't actually respectful of other people; it's just a way to camouflage your disrespect. The choice you're eliding is for you to actually understand why people object to that phrase and respect their views, whether or not you agree with them.
The reason you don't, of course, is because you'd sound ridiculous if you actually expanded your implicit views. E.g.: "I understand that most people today see men and women as equals, and I respect their right to believe it. But personally I disagree, and I think their mistake is not seeing that things were better back in the day when men had both legal and social dominance such that wives had neither control over family assets nor even the expectation that they might have a voice in the decision. I hope everyone comes to see the merit in my views, and that we together return to the legal and social structures that held prior to the adoption of the 19th amendment."
In a civilized society, we have respect for our significant others and run all major decisions by them. Basic human respect does not deserve to be disparaged.
And do you really think that $560 is "a large amount of money" and needs to be talked over?
This indicates you have your family's assets set up so you separate categories of money that you can exclusively spend from. Many people don't do that and, if you don't do that, it makes sense to ask before spending a significant amount of money from the join category.
> Do you really think that $560 is a "large amount of money"
That is more than half what we pay for rent, so yes.
"Well then that depends on the relationship that you have as well as who you are married to, doesn't it? "
I don't need to ask either, but I find the idea that someone would be considered "pussy whipped" if they have a different arrangement to be, well, moronic.
You are not considering the downside of all of this. (Since I get paid for negotiation let me give you my thoughts.) By "giving the other person a chance" you are giving them power over you. Which they could use to extract something from you in exchange for your agreement. Now this may or may not matter depending on the person you are with, but I will point it out so you know that in some cases there could be a downside by "running something by the other party". And yes, there is negotiation in relationships as there is in business.
It's largely been this way from the start, and has only become more so with time. I couldn't fathom wanting to spend my life with someone I was in a constant power struggle against, or who felt she was in such a struggle against me.
I really don't understand why someone would publicly admit that they don't have control of their own money. I see people admitting to it regularly as if it's something that can't be helped, but it just makes them look weak. Like they are lowering their social standing on purpose.
This arrangement seems extremely sensible to me. I know it's not for everybody, but in our case we trust each other completely and share a similar outlook on financial things, so it makes perfect sense to just share.
Since we're in it together, we run big purchases by each other just as an additional check. This helps soften irrational impulses, lets us suggest alternatives to each other, and just keeps us up to date with what's going on.
Please tell me, how does this mean that I "don't have control of [my] own money"? In what way does it make me "look weak"? Why should I keep this a secret? And why should I care about my "social standing" in the eyes of people who think this means anything important?
As mentioned in my other comment I was relating a phrase that was quite common "back in the day" for editorial purposes. This is what I don't like about the current world. There is no difference between saying someone yourself and relating either history or what someone else might say.
The other way of looking at it (and the way your comment came across) is that you're using 'back in the day' as a means to say what you feel, under the veneer of not actually saying it yourself. After all, if it didn't reflect what you thought, why would the phrase come to mind - and why take the trouble to call it out?
Underscoring this is that it's not actually "back in the day" at all. It's still a term that's commonly used.
I see. How much non-human cargo are these cars carrying? More to the point: how else do you propose one go from SF to Europe?
Reading between the lines, you're either suggesting people stay home or that they take a boat, both of which are absolute crazy talk.
EDIT: moreover, wikipedia's numbers suggest jetliners get roughly 70 to 110 passenger-miles/gallon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_efficiency_in_transport...). I have yet to come across a car that gets that kind of mileage period, let alone per passenger.
Besides, gas turbine engines are pretty much the model of efficiency when it comes to hydrocarbon-consuming engines. I don't know where you people are getting your numbers but my BS detector is off the charts.
(That's for shaft engines, which a turbojet isn't, but the turboprop examples are jet engines with a gearbox and propellor mounted.) Jet engines are incredibly powerful (per unit of mass) and reliable, but I don't think they're incredibly efficient.
Either way, this is an auxiliary point: the per-passenger fuel economy of airplanes is significantly higher than that of cars.
Staying in California.
I have not read the report itself and I don't know how credible ThinkProgress is. The Yale Climate Connection article  points out similar issues. Bottom line seems to be that flying is better than driving alone, but as soon as you have more than one passenger, the car looks more attractive (still depending on the efficiency of the car).
Interesting though that the train is not looking so good in the statistics in these articles. My hunch here is that the numbers would look very different in Europe.
Cars in the US do about .4 kg of CO2 per mile on average and flights 0.2. There's 2x.
In addition, air travel has a much more damaging effect than the same amount of CO2 emitted on the ground. 
There's another 2x-4x.
So you end up getting a 4x-8x bigger warming effect contribution per passenger mile. And since you are going about 10x faster in an aircraft, an hour of air travel is 40x-80x more harmful to the atmosphere than an hour of car travel.
The per hour figure is much more relevant because these people would not get around to emitting nearly as much travel co2 in cars even if they drove them every day for 10 hours. Their 2-day trips would turn into 2 week trips. IOW the vast majority of the trips of "elite flyers" would just not get taken.
 "The IPCC, for example, has estimated that the climate impact of aircraft is two to four times greater than the effect of their carbon dioxide emissions alone."