United Airlines – Meh

I haven’t posted much about traveling lately.  In fact, now that I think about it, it has been quite a while.  My work travel ebbs and flows, it always has.  I can go several weeks to a month without traveling to having to travel 3-4 weeks in a row.  I do my best to keep my trips as short as possible.  I know it is cliche, but there is very little about traveling which is glamorous.  In fact there is a lot of it that just plain sucks.

I have been a loyal American Airlines passenger for 20 years but as AA’s service out of RDU has scaled back, I sometimes have to fly other airlines.  Spreading oneself around a bunch of airlines is (IMNSHO) a bad idea as there is nothing worse than traveling a lot and not having and status to show for it.  For a number of years Continental has been my second choice airline.  A few years ago I became a OnePass Gold member on Continental which was nice because their upgrade policy is waaaaaaay better than AA’s is.  Of course, I then didn’t fly enough on Continental to retain my status, in fact, I didn’t fly enough to even keep Silver (big mistake on my part).

I have Lifetime Platinum status with American Airlines so there really isn’t a lot of motivation for me to fly AA.  They treat me well and I like the fact that their planes have more spacing between the seats and most have power in them but I have zero desire to travel enough to qualify for Executive Platinum.  This year I’ve flown on Continental again quite a bit so I am in the ballpark for qualifying for OnePass Gold.  The United-Continental merger is a great unknown so I’ve tried really hard to keep my Continental flying on real Continental flights.

This week I had to fly United (best price, best schedule) to SFO but I booked it as a Continental flight.  I was curious to see how this turned out.  For the most part it was fine although moving my seat worked sometimes and didn’t work other times.  Not real sure what is going on there.  I ended up with an exit row aisle seat from IAD to SFO (yeah) only to find a huge guy in the middle seat when I boarded the plane (ugh).  I spent most of the flight leaning into the aisle (bleh).

The thing which bothered me the most about these United flights (on United equipment) was the lack of seat power on any of them.  Most AA flights have seat power in all rows up to the exit row and then pretty much every other row from the exit row on to back.  The AA seating map on their web site denotes which seats have power so you can move yourself around to get one that does.  I like power.  I like to be able to use my laptop while I am on the plane.  I get lots done.  Many of the CO flights I’ve taken this year have power in the seats.  The four United flights I was on this week had none.  Even in First Class (I was upgraded once).

I was thinking that the UA-CO merger might be ok because it might offer some more options for me but if none of the planes have power, I may have to rethink it.  It may all be a moot point as I am inline to get a new laptop soon (mine is 3+ years old) so whatever I get will likely have plenty of battery for a 6-7 hour flight.

Still, the United equipment was visibly old.  I thought the merger would address some of it but it looks like all they did was paint the planes with the Continental colors.

I’m Liking Continental Airlines

Historically I’ve been a loyal patron of American Airlines.  20 years ago when I started flying a lot American had a hub at Raleigh-Durham International Airport so flying American was easy and made the most sense.  I’ve been a AA Platinum Flyer every year since 1993 and passed the 2M lifetime miles a few years ago which (currently but subject to change as their paperwork points out) means I am Platinum for life.  This is a nice perk as I don’t have to worry about re-qualifying every year.  Even though I haven’t had to re-qualify, I have continued to fly AA primarily with a few flights on other airlines mostly Continental.

This year I have not traveled domestically as much as I normally but I have gone to Europe five times and three of them have been all or partially on Continental so I  have accumulated a fair number of miles this year.  Enough that I became Silver a few months ago.  This was nice because it means I can board in the Elite Access line.  Two weeks ago I went to Europe, again on Continental and with their double qualifying miles program, I have now become Gold and have an outside shot at Platinum.  I never would have expected this flying from Raleigh where Continental flies to three places – Houston, Cleveland, and Newark.

My experience so far with Continental has been very pleasant.  I can’t see making them my preferred carrier, American will always be that but having status on another airline is nice and gives me some more options.

I just love Newark Airport ….

I had to go to New Jersey yesterday for a meeting and had a 6:10 PM flight scheduled to continue on to Orlando for another meeting today.  I was flying Continental and while their planes are newer, the seat pitch just isn’t what American’s is.  That 2-3 inches makes a huge difference.  Anyway – when I got to Newark my flight was showing on time but by the time i got to the gate, it was clear it wouldn’t be.  There was still a flight at my scheduled gate so we were moved one gate down the terminal.  Then we were delayed.  By the time we started boarding it was about 6:40 and since the flight was full, it took a while to board.  After departing the gate we sat on the runway for another hour, maybe more.  The pilot made up some time in the air – and we finally landed about 10:30, about an hour late so he made up at least 30 minutes.  Just a typical Newark experience!