Et tu, United?

On Friday, like many of you, I got an email from United telling me about upcoming changes to their MileagePlus® program. Since they released this information on a Friday afternoon, you may be thinking this is not good news. You would be right, for the most part.

The Bad News

Just in time for the holiday season, United is removing their award chart. For flights on November 15, 2019 or later, the current rules for how much an award flight costs will be flexible. That is, an award flight will cost whatever they say it costs for that date on that route. So for popular routes for holiday travel you can expect higher prices – in some cases much higher.

The Good News

Award flights within the US and Canada that currently price at 10K to 12.5K miles may price lower sometimes. This pricing is already available for some routes.

Effective November 15 the close-in booking fee of $75 will be eliminated if you book a flight within 21 days of departure. Previously this fee was waived only for certain elite members.

If you are an elite member or hold one of the Chase United credit cards there are still no blackout dates for award travel – though of course you might not like the price that is charged.

For now, the Star Alliance award chart is not changing. For now.

In the end

It’s very disappointing to see United following Delta’s lead with this dynamic pricing. I would bet that American is not far behind. While it’s nice that the close-in fee is being eliminated, it’s not something I’ve ever had to pay as I typically book many months in advance. This is going to make award trip planning more challenging as you may see an award price for X-miles one day, save up enough for that, only to find it now costs Y-miles when you’re ready to book.

I’m just a lowly Silver elite this year and unless I take a business trip this year am unlikely to requalify. I chose United because it’s more reliable than American and I could do more with my miles than I could with Delta miles. Yet they’ve taken that advantage away.

The United website has a page with more detail.

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Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

We arrived in Reykjavik from the airport on a gloomy Sunday afternoon. After temperatures in the 70s (F) in Amsterdam, it was no surprise to find the weather a good bit colder in Iceland. Our driver dropped us off at the back door of the Radisson Blu 1919. As there was road construction on one corner we couldn’t tell the building was as pretty as some other photos of it that I’ve found online. In 1919 the first steamship company in Iceland was formed and its headquarters were in this building – thus the 1919 in the hotel’s name.

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Categories: Europe, Hotel, Iceland, Lodging Review, Radisson | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

We took the (crowded) train from Centraal Station to the airport. The escalator that comes up from the train station to the main part of the terminal is parallel to the one that takes you up to the next level where the hotel is. There is plenty of signage and you can also follow the signs out to the parking lot and garages and you’ll head the right direction.

Entrance from the terminal

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Categories: Europe, Hotel, Lodging Review, Marriott, Netherlands, Starwood | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A Brief Tour of Amsterdam

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

We had two days in Amsterdam. There’s a lot to see and it’s a popular city so I’m just going to hit the highlights of what we saw.

Basilica of St. Nicholas

While we were up and at ’em fairly early on the Friday, it seemed most of the tourist things were not. This church was near our hotel and as it was almost opening time we took the opportunity to stop in and see it. It’s the primary Catholic church for the city and dates to about 1887.

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Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

When IHG acquired Kimpton, that added a number of desirable properties to the IHG portfolio. One of those was the Kimpton DeWitt which has a great location near Centraal Station, the canal cruises and lots of restaurants and shops. Yet this area was quiet in the evenings and we did not have to deal with noise either inside or outside the hotel.

Hotel Exterior. The entrance is at the lighted portion halfway down the block.

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Categories: Europe, Hotel, IHG, Lodging Review, Netherlands | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

Flights between Memphis and Chicago were on American Airlines, then Chicago-Madrid-Amsterdam and Munich-Madrid-Chicago on Iberia

Outbound: Chicago – Madrid

I’d flown from Memphis to Chicago on Tuesday evening and spent the night at my friend’s house. Then we spent a leisurely morning doing a few last-minute things before driving to the airport garage where she’d park while we were gone. Mid-day, mid-week it’s about a 45 minute drive from her house to the airport. We had left in plenty of time but were over halfway to the airport when I realized I’d left both my charging cords at her house. Well, we’d stop and I could get another one at Walmart. Then I realized I’d left my tablet there too. Oh boy was the trip off to a great start or what?! I still had my phone so we did stop and get a charging cord – I’d needed one to keep at work anyway – and we were able to get a family member to stop by her house and turn off the tablet so it all ended well but it was quite a bummer to start things off like that. Continue reading

Categories: Iberia, OneWorld | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich

Trip Report: Amsterdam, Iceland and Munich
Review: Iberia A340-600 Business Class
Review: Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam
A Brief Tour of Amsterdam
Review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel and Conference Center
Review: Radisson Blu 1919, Reykjavik
Review: Center Hotel Plaza, Reykjavik
A Week in Iceland
Review: aloft Munich
Visiting Dachau
A Brief Tour of Munich
Review: Hilton Munich Airport

The genesis of this trip was a friend telling me about a group tour of Iceland that several friends were going on and asking if I wanted to go or not. Of course the tour wanted to sell us airfare and options using points and miles aren’t all that plentiful, especially if fixed dates are involved.

The group tour was only a week and since October is when we we usually take a two-week vacation anyway, my travel companion and I decided to use our miles to get to Europe, enjoy a few days there, then buy tickets to Iceland, do the tour and then fly to another city in Europe where our miles could get us back to the US in business class. Continue reading

Categories: Award Travel, Europe, Germany, Hilton, Hotel, Iberia, Iceland, Icelandair, IHG, Marriott, Netherlands, OneWorld, Radisson, Starwood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

United 777-200ER Old Style vs. Polaris Business Class

Introduction
Lodging Review: Novotel Torino Corso Giulio Cesare
Attraction Review: Museo Egizio
Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn
Lounge Review: Lufthansa Lounge, Cologne-Bonn Airport
United 777-200ER Old Style vs. Polaris Business Class

Though I usually do these trip reports in sequential order as to the activities, I skipped over the flight from Chicago to Munich as it was on a B777 configured in the old 2-4-2 layout that we experienced on our flight from Chicago to Brussels a few years ago. So I’ve included the food options below but am not providing a detailed review. Since my reservations were made only 10 days before, I was not surprised to find that the only available BusinessFirst seats were middle seats in the middle section. However, when I checked in 24 hours in advance I was thrilled to see it was the new 1-2-1 layout. But I was unable to select a seat. I was fine with that since now it no longer mattered where I sat. Later in the day, however, the seat map later reverted to the old 2-4-2 as I assume they had changed which aircraft would be servicing this flight. The good news was that now I had been assigned an aisle seat though it was still in the center section.

On the return, we did indeed finally get the 1-2-1 layout with the new Polaris amenities so I’ve included photos of that seat below. I did not include a review of one of the Lufthansa business class lounges in Munich as it was quite busy and there really wasn’t a way to take photos without people in it.

UA 952 ORD-MUC
Aircraft: B777-200ER
Seat: 8D (BusinessFirst, aisle of center section)
Depart: 1900 CDT
Arrive 0930+1 CET

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Categories: Star Alliance, United | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Lounge Review: Lufthansa Lounge, Cologne-Bonn Airport

Introduction
Lodging Review: Novotel Torino Corso Giulio Cesare
Attraction Review: Museo Egizio
Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn
Lounge Review: Lufthansa Lounge, Cologne-Bonn Airport
United 777-200ER Old Style vs. Polaris Business Class

I had a very early start to the day for my return trip. My flight from Munich to Chicago departed at 11:25 AM so I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to connect – and even to catch a backup flight should my original flight get canceled. So I was booked on a 6:20 AM flight from the Cologne/Bonn airport to Munich. I booked a ride with Suntransfers and my only complaint was that they were non-negotiable as to pickup time and that was at 3:55 AM. At that time of day, with no traffic and it’s a short drive anyway, I was at the airport around 4:30 AM and the Lufthansa ticket counter didn’t even open until 5 AM so I had to stand there for half an hour with my bags. Ah well, certainly better than being late.

CGN airport is quite small. In fact, on their website, the motto is: so simple. There are two terminals. Terminal 1 handles Lufthansa, Germanwings, Austrian and Star Alliance partners and Terminal 2 handles all other airlines. Each Terminal has a lounge. In T2 it’s a generic business lounge for all the airlines while in T1 it’s a Lufthansa-branded lounge.

As the airport is small, so is the lounge. However with Lufthansa being the dominant carrier I can see that it might get crowded with elite travelers gaining access even if they’re on an economy ticket. It opens at 5:30 AM so I had to wait a bit for entry.

The lounge is circular in shape and one side of the room has the comfortable lounging chairs while the other side has tables and chairs for dining.

Lufthansa Lounge CGN Casual Seating

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Categories: Europe, Germany, Lufthansa, Star Alliance | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn

Introduction
Lodging Review: Novotel Torino Corso Giulio Cesare
Attraction Review: Museo Egizio
Lodging Review: Hilton Bonn
Lounge Review: Lufthansa Lounge, Cologne-Bonn Airport
United 777-200ER Old Style vs. Polaris Business Class

One of my co-workers and I took a taxi from the Cologne/Bonn airport to the Hilton Bonn. It’s a lovely yellow building located right on the Rhine River. The Viking River Cruise we took on the Rhine a few years ago would have sailed right by this hotel after we spent the day in Cologne, just a few miles away. It’s in an area very convenient to a pedestrian-only section of shops and even the train station is not a far walk away. I liked the hotel itself, with one GIANT caveat about my stay.

Hilton Bonn

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Categories: Europe, Germany, Hilton, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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