It’s almost May and I’ve racked up 65,000 miles so far this year on United alone. Yes, I'm that tired looking man by the shoe shine place (by the way, I am now officially the Mayor of the Houston airport shoeshine kiosk on Foursquare). Many people ask me: “What do you think of the merger of United and Continental?” Well, pull up a chair, sit back, relax (without fastening your seat belt) and enjoy the blog.
Pre-merger, I complained that Continental didn’t do enough to recognize and reward its elite group of frequent fliers who typically log 100,000 miles. That has changed with United – sort of. United offers, by invitation only, a highly elite status known under the mysterious, vague moniker of “Global Services”. It is like an American Express Black Card in that you can’t ask to be admitted nor can you buy your way in. You have to fly a minimum of 100,000 miles a year AND spend at least $50,000 a year.
2) When boarding and if the gate agent remembers (two out of ten times), Global Services members are boarded even before First Class but not before our men and women in uniform--- as it should be.
3) Nine out of ten times I am given instant upgrades when booking a ticket.
4) Conceptually, before the plane leaves the gate, the First Class flight attendant finds me and thanks me for being a Global Services member (did I have a choice?) and offers me first choice for the dinner selections. I must admit, it is flattering to be sitting in Seat 4F and watch the entire First Class sector look curiously at me (Who is this guy?) as I place my order for lasagna 20 minutes before anyone else. But like with all mergers, there are kinks to be worked out. Come meal time, I am served a chicken wrap. “Where is my lasagna, I ask?” “Oh, I am sorry,” the flight attendant says, “We ran out.” “But, I ordered first.” The flight attendant just shrugs his shoulders and attends to 5F.
I am not going to dwell on the negatives of the United merger. Too many other people have done that and I’m a glass half full kind of guy, however, permit me to get on my soap box regarding the continued ban of PDA’s while in flight. This is not just a United issue (although they are one of the few who do not offer Wi-Fi inflight) and most passengers are indeed “united” in their desire to see this silly rule knocked off the books.
Well, perhaps not all passengers. On a recent flight from Houston to Salt Lake City as the plane descended through 8,000 feet, from Row 4B, I furtively flipped on my IPhone to check email. All of a sudden I heard (as did the entire plane) a loud voice coming from Seat 5C saying “I hope it is important!” I turned around and replied “Why yes, as a matter of fact it is and thank you for reading over my shoulder,” to which he responded: “Cell phones need to be turned off during landing; it’s my landing too!!” It is a well-known secret that almost anyone who carries a cell phone forgets or intentionally leaves it on during flights. Look around …you can see passengers furtively checking their email from under their topcoat or behind a newspaper. My unpleasant interchange with “Nosy Ned” would have ended quickly if not for the passenger in Seat 6C who also piped in saying: “Yeah, it’s my landing also.” to which I replied “Well you better brace yourself then – this baby is going down!”
Ah, the life of the road warrior!
January 22, 2013 AT 3:37 PM CST
They have a line for Global Services in Houston.
January 22, 2013 AT 3:38 PM CST
I've got a little under 60k so far this year with USAirways, and their Chairman's Preferred Program, while nice, doesn't hold a candle to GS with United...Let me count the ways:
1) Preferred Screening exists in select airports, but ALL preferred members have access..it's shorter than the non-preferred process, but definitely not a dedicated line, even in CLT and PHX hubs.
2) Upgrades occur 90+% of the time, but usually not immediately, so on really long-haul flights you're still left playing games with the system trying to figure out odds, and are heavily incented to buy tickets early (which is counter-productive for the airline).
3) I've been thanked by a rep exactly ONCE for being CP.
4) As an aside, I can't believe I actually know the meal service order for first class and sometimes choose a seat based on it, so I don't get stuck with the cheese ravioli.
5) USAirways has "boarding zone" inflation...nearly half of some flights are now Zone 1, and all you need in order to be Zone 2 is a branded credit card...yet, somehow, USAir thinks they can mimic United's clean lane boarding process without fixing the zone issue first...UGH...can you say gate lice?
6) I gave up on secretive phone use a long time ago...leaving it on "accidentally" is just a recipe for a dead battery as the phone works hard trying to find signal...and if you're up front on USAirways, there's no need to be so secretive generally (see below)
On the positive side, it's hard to get upgrades on USAir without some status, and that means relatively few incidents wrt electronics in FC...I rarely see unseasoned travellers up front, and virutally all attendants let FC passengers keep working, watching, etc. during takeoff/landing...I've only had 1 FC attendant ask me to turn off NC headset...in the back, it's a totally diff story.
As for the Nosy Neds, I've found most are well-intentioned, but completely ignorant as to why the bans were put in place...and they generally do believe (wrongly) that you're somehow putting them at risk...countless pilots and flight attendants have shared their knowledge on the subject with me and I have no problem clicking the "on" button for my NC headset (best money ever spent for a frequent traveler)...in fact, the only "remotely reasonable" explanation I've heard for continuing the ban is that taxi/take-off are times when all passengers should be more alert and ready for potential emergencies...but even that one is a stretch...yet I still turn it off when asked by those attendants who know less/take the whole thing a little too seriously, as I generally don't care to debate the fine while in handcuffs!
January 22, 2013 AT 3:37 PM CST
Agreed. Have missed special Global Services security at both SFO and ORD, although regular priority lines weren't too bad. Will look next time, thanks for the info!
January 22, 2013 AT 3:37 PM CST
I would not want to fly (or sit near) any passenger who would use a cell phone when not permitted. To do so is both dangerous and rude. Global Services means absolutely nothing, this should not be done.